Baked Eggplant Boats loaded with fresh tomatoes, plenty of onion and lots of garlic. This traditional Greek dish has its roots in Constantinople today’s Istanbul. Just like Moussaka and Soutzoukakia, Melitzanes Imam, are modern additives to Greek Cuisine (modern meaning dating back a few centuries and not back to Ancient times like this lentil soup for example). These types of dishes are usually a bit heavier but loaded with flavor (and spices most of the times) as well.
Traditionally, in this recipe, the eggplants are deep-fried. But I’ve skipped this and roasted the eggplants in the oven instead. Because eggplants are a heavy and fulfilling vegetable (their skin is what some people may find hard to digest) that tends to absorb oil like a sponge. That’s why in this recipe I find it better to simply roast the eggplants with just the 1/3 of oil you would be getting if you fried the eggplants. Also, this recipe calls for lots of garlic and onion, which is what makes this dish a bit heavy, but also very very flavorful!
How To Make Baked Eggplants With Tomatoes
First, prepare the eggplants by cutting off the tops and bottoms. Then slice in half to create the eggplant boats. To remove most of the bitterness that eggplants have, you need to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before cooking them. And this is another thing you wouldn’t be able to do if you were to fry the eggplants. Since water in hot frying oil is not a very good idea.
After you soak the eggplants you let them drain a bit in a strainer and then place in a deep casserole dish or baking pan. Score each eggplant boat creating criss-cross lines that are deep enough. This is to help the oil penetrate deep into the eggplant and roast them properly on the inside.
Drizzle the eggplants with extra virgin olive oil all over on top, season with salt and pepper, and bake in preheated oven for about half an hour until they get nicely roasted on top.
While you roast the eggplants, you prepare the saucy, fresh tomato topping. Caramelize plenty of onion and then add lots of chunky bits of garlic, and the tomatoes that you’ve diced into large 2cm / 1-inch pieces. Once the tomatoes have drained and become mushy, and stir in the ground nutmeg. Add spoonfuls of the sauce on top of the roasted eggplants and then cover the pan with aluminum foil and cook them for 30 minutes more. You may remove the aluminum foil and roast the eggplants for another 10 minutes.
Baked Eggplant With Tomatoes – Melitzanes Imam
- 2 large eggplants
- 1 cup olive oil (for the eggplants)
- + a splash of olive oil (for the sauce)
- 1 large red onion cut into slices
- 8 garlic cloves cut into chunky bits
- 3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes cut into 2cm / 1-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- a handful fresh parsley chopped
- 1/3 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- kosher salt + freshly ground pepper
- Remove the tops and bottoms of the eggplants. Cut them in half lengthwise to create eggplant boats.
- Place the eggplants in a big bowl with cold water and soak them for 30 minutes. You may place a plate on top to weigh them down. The soaking helps remove the bitter flavor from eggplants skin.
- Preheat oven to 230°C / 446°F.
- Drain the eggplants and place in a casserole dish. Score them with a knife creating deep criss-cross lines to help the eggplants bake well in the center. Take the 1 cup of olive oil and using a spoon, add spoonfuls of the oil on each eggplant.
- Season the eggplants with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Bake for 30 minutes until nicely roasted on top. Meanwhile, start preparing the tomato sauce.
- Heat the splash of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and the onion slices and cook until completely softened.
- Stir in the tomatoes and season with some kosher salt, ground pepper, and ground nutmeg. Cook for about 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally, until tomatoes start to drain and become mushy. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes more stirring occasionally.
- Using a fork press the eggplants a bit to make some space for the sauce to sit on. Add spoonfuls of the sauce on the eggplant boats. Reduce heat to 160°C / 320°F and slow-cook the eggplants for about 35 minutes. Then raise the temperature again to 200°C / 392°F and roast the eggplants for about 10-15 minutes more.
- Serve with chopped fresh parsley on top.
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