It’s been some time since I made this wonderful vegetable, which I learned with my first Chef Jean-Michel Gammarielo. My first real French restaurant where without having a clue of what or how to cook anything except what I had learned most recently as a soldier working for a General!
This particular dish is known as Tian Provençale, but is also known as Bayaldi at least at this restaurant; it consists of eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, and cloves of garlic, orange peel, thyme, coriander seed and olive oil.
This bayaldi was the heart of Jean-Michel’s plate, I can recall they would use the remaining juices to make a sauce or it was served with omelets or fish. What I loved most of all was the beautiful colors and floral smell from the coriander seeds. The simplicity of turning the vegetable into a circular rose shape which Jean-Michel would so carefully make, each vegetable would be cut like so, layering tomato between the eggplant and zucchini. I never made the connection with the Turkish vegetable Imam Bayildi and it’s ingredients aren’t exactly the same, but I think its romantic name somehow translated and enhanced Provençale tian to the Ottoman table.
Imam Bayildi: the legend
The dish was tasted by a certain Imam who after observing a holy day was served this dish and fainted when he tasted this dish so liberally dressed in expensive olive oil.
A Turkish proverb casts light on another interpretation: Imam evinden ash, olu gozunden yash cikmaz (No food is likely to come out of the imam’s house and no tears from a corpse). A reference perhaps to the stingy Imam, tasting such a rich dish it overwhelmed his senses and fainted with delight!