Did I hallucinate this eggplant recipe?
Back in the late 1970s I used to make a stuffed eggplant dish called Iman Biyaldi (the spelling varies). The cookbook I originally got it from called for making a stuffing of onions, tomatoes and various spices, then making vertical slits in the eggplant and cramming the stuffing in (which is harder and messier than it sounds). It made a very good cold salad after baking, since when it was sliced the eggplant pieces with the filling made nice rounds on the plate. I still have most of my cookbooks from that time, and while some of them have the recipe not a one calls for the stuffing-filled slits: they all have the eggplant cut in half, partially hollowed, then stuffed.
Has anyone else heard of making slits in a vegetable to stuff it?
This rang a bell with me immediately. I'm not an eggplant eater, but I have an original copy of Claudia Roden's "A Book of Middle Eastern Food" in which that recipe is described. It uses the slashes, and is found here:
Correction: the link above references Roden's recipe but deviates from it slightly.
You didn't hallucinate it, but the eggplant halves are topped with the filling *and* rubbed into the slashes as well.
In her book, Claudia describes four different methods of eggplant preparation, any of which can be used for Imam Bayildi and seven different fillings for vegetables; only one of these is specified for this dish.
Outside of this preparation, I would never slash vegetables to stuff them, nor have I seen it anywhere else.
About a week ago, I made the stuffed eggplant dish from the Turkish section of Claudia Roden's cookbook Arabesque. I actually changed several things in the stuffing recipe, but as far as her technique, I followed the directions, which use the slit method you describe. I used Chinese eggplants, which were on the soft/ripe side, and I peeled off strips of skin so that the eggplant had vertical stripes. I gently pan-fried the whole eggplants to brown them on all sides, and only then did I slit them and stuff them. Because the eggplants had become softer due to the pre-frying, they were easier to slit and stuff, and the resulting shapes were canoe-like. I was impressed by how much stuffing actually fit—way more than if I had tried to do it while they were still raw.
This recipe involved stuffing the eggplants with meat, but I imagine a similar technique could work with imam biyaldi.
Many indian recipes call for this. The most common would be with okra/ladyfingers aka "bhindi" or with bittermelon aka "karela". With okra, you slit each one and then stuff in a spice mix, then pan fry over low heat until roasted. With karela, it tends to be easier to boil the karela first until soft, then slit and remove the seeds, and then stuff with your onion/spice mix, and pan fry.
This weekend, I got inspired to try the Iman Biyaldi recipe that mcsheridan posted. I followed it almost exactly in terms of ingredients and proportions, except I put some tomato juice at the bottom of the baking pan instead of just water.
In terms of prep, I decided to use the stuffing technique I described in my other post here. I peeled the sides of the eggplants in stripes, then pan fried them to soften them a bit, then slit them down the middle and did my best to stuff them with the stuffing. I used four eggplants, all of which were small Italian variety. I actually think this didn't work quite as well for stuffing as the Chinese eggplants did, but it was still fine. I also used some really good tomatoes from the market...nice and ripe and sweet. I think this mattered a lot.
Final results were delicious. It takes some patience to cook the onions without getting them too brown, but it paid off.