Feed on

Before summer gets here for those of us above the equator, I wanted to get out one recipe I picked up while living in Armenia.

Armenia is situated high atop the Armenian Plateau in the South Caucasus, with less than 15% arable land throughout the entire tiny country.  What few forests remain are quickly disappearing due mainly to illegal logging.  So the available produce is not nearly as plentiful as that in, say, the Mediterranean.  But in this case, less is more.  With only a handful of ingredients, they make some kickass foods.

The stew is wildly popular there, although the name remains in Turkish, and literally means “[It was so good] the Imam fainted.”  Well, I have to agree, this is some seriously delicious vegetable stew.  The easiest thing ever to make.  Completely vegan.

Armenian/Turkish Imam Bayildi (Stewed vegetables, usually served with bread)

Skill Level:  EASY

Preparation time:  About 20-25 minutes.

Cooking time:  About 20 minutes.

Servings: 8 as a side dish or appetizer; 4 as a meal.

8 medium tomatoes, chopped into quarters

4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

1 medium yellow onion, chopped into thin strings

2-3 Japanese eggplants (alternative: 1 American eggplant), chopped into small squares for more even cooking

1 pale green bell pepper (alternative: 1 mild-flavored orange, yellow or red bell pepper–NOT American dark green bell pepper), chopped into thick strings

Olive oil


In a 2 qt. pot or pan, heat up a thick layer of olive oil with a few teaspoons of salt.  Once heated, add the onions, stirring frequently so as not to singe them.  Once the onions begin to soften when stirred, add the garlic.  After 5-10 minutes, after the onions and garlic have caramelized (or turned clear and soft), add the tomatoes.  The water from the tomatoes should begin to make a broth of sorts for the rest of the vegetables to cook in.  Add the eggplants and the bell pepper.  Cover and stir occasionally.  Add oil as needed to achieve a stew-like consistency.  Add salt to taste.  Let cook for about 10 minutes or until all the vegetables have “melted” into the tomato juice and become soft.  Serve hot.  In Armenia the dish is served with a large piece of bread to sop up the juices; when in the U.S. I usually use a baguette from the supermarket.

Even if you don’t have 3 other people to feed, this dish makes a fantastic leftover snack.  I usually live alone and I have found that one pot usually goes pretty fast, even when it’s just me.  (Perhaps especially because it’s just me.)

Imam bayildi is extremely satisfying, especially on a cold day.  It can be served as a side dish or appetizer, or as a full meal.  When I’ve brought this dish over neighbors’ houses and forgot the bread, we found it was quite tasty with spiral pasta as well.  Experiment and have fun with it!

Leave a Reply