Veggie Stuffed Eggplant – Imam Bayeldi

Veggie Stuffed Eggplant - Imam Bayeldi

Stuffed EggplantCatching the tail end of eggplant the season, this eye-pleasing dish showcases the juicy late summer (or fall) vegan favorite. I previously posted a couple of my grandmother’s vegetarian dishes. Paula Peck was not known for cooking vegetables and when she did, there were often whole sticks of butter or cups of olive oil involved. As a veggie lover though, I’ve managed to revise some of these dishes so that the flavor is maintained, but with less fat. In this case, the eggplant is stuffed with a fragrant mixture of garlic, onion, celery, tomato puree and herbs. These flavors soak into the eggplant as it roasts with just enough olive oil to keep it moist. The resulting succulent meaty flesh will make you forget that you’re eating an almost guilt-free and healthy dish.

So what does this strange recipe title “Imam Byaldi” have to do with eggplant? Well according to my grandmother’s introduction to this recipe in “The Art of Good Cooking,” the old Armenian title means “’the Holy Man fainted’- of shock because the eggplant tasted so good!” Ok so nobody is going to faint when they eat this stuffed eggplant, but it is pretty tasty.


4 small eggplants
1/3 cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon crumbled bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Cut eggplant lengthwise into halves. Salt cut sides generously and let stand for about a 1/2 hour (this draws out the bitterness from the eggplant).

Preheat oven. Rinse eggplants and dry with paper towels. Brush cut sides with some olive oil. Place eggplants on a baking sheet, cut side up. Bake until centers are soft and lightly browned.

While the eggplants are baking, prepare the following stuffing: sauté onions, green pepper, celery, and garlic in remaining olive oil until vegetables are soft but not brown. Add chopped celery leaves and parsley. Stir until leaves are wilted, then add tomato puree and herbs. Add sugar then salt and pepper to taste. Cook a few more minutes. Set stuffing aside until needed.

When eggplants are tender, allow them to cool so they can be easily handled. Raise oven heat to 350 degrees.

With a small knife, make an incision lengthwise, down the center of the cut side, being careful not to cut all the way through the eggplant. With your fingers, press soft pulp away from the incision on the 2 long sides so that a good-sized hollow is formed. Fill the hollows with the prepared filling, using a spoon.

Arrange stuffed eggplants on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with additional olive oil if filling looks dry. Bake for 45 minutes, basting with olive oil as necessary.

Note: To speed up this recipe, cut eggplant 1/2 inch thick and after it has been baked until tender, place slices of eggplant in a casserole. Arrange them alternately with the stuffing. Bake 30-40 minutes.


Fresh Tomato Soup

Fresh Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup with EggGiven that I just did a post on Gazpacho a few weeks ago, a tomato soup recipe may seem redundant. Besides the tomatoes though, this soup couldn’t be more different. Those hot and humid evenings may have only been a couple of weeks ago, but fall seems to have arrived without hesitation here in New York. It’s as if Mother Nature looked at a calendar and scheduled the cooler weather immediately as August ended. These chilly evenings call for soup, and this unpublished fresh tomato soup recipe struck me as the perfect way to use up some of the delicious ripe tomatoes leftover from summer.

The most intriguing part of this recipe is the addition of a raw egg. Cracked directly into the serving bowls, the hot soup cooks the egg just enough so the yolk remains runny. This of course requires the soup to be very hot when served and the serving bowls to be warmed (throw them in the oven for a minute restaurant style or cheat and use the microwave). The runny part of the egg can then be enjoyed with not just the soup, but a large parmesan crouton – the other jewel of this dish. Slices of crusty bread are sautéed in butter until toasted and crunchy, then topped with grated parmesan cheese, and briefly browned under the broiler. Each bowl of soup is then topped with a slice..or two.

It seems my grandmother had yet to name this recipe because the faded typewriter written version just reads, “Another Tomato Soup, But Very Good” – the “another” referring to an unpublished recipe for a non-vegetarian or beef tomato soup that she also wrote. I considered coming up with a fancier name that would hint at the unique addition of an egg and the large crusty parmesan croutons. However, those can always be excluded and the basic soup is perfectly satisfying on its own or with good old grilled cheese.


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
5-6 large fresh tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 stick butter
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
6 very fresh eggs

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and saute for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, salt, sugar, basil, pepper and stock and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender.

While the soup simmers, prepare the parmesan croutons. Preheat broiler. Heat butter in a large skillet over low heat. Add baguette slices. Saute a few minutes on each side until lightly browned. Remove croutons from heat and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle croutons with cheese. Place under broiler just until cheese melts.

When tomatoes in soup are tender, remove from heat. Blend by using an immersion blender or by transferring soup to a blender, a few cups at a time. Return to pot, check seasoning, and bring to a boil. Return to a simmer until ready to serve.

Heat serving bowls. Crack an egg in each bowl. Ladle soup into bowls, allowing it to “cook” the egg. Top with parmesan crouton.

Serves 6 small bowls or 4 large.

Tomato Soup with Egg






There are few soups that can get away with being cold. As a favorite of this small group, Gazpacho often outshines the others as the most typical cold soup. However, I believe it’s really just an excuse to eat soup on a hot summer day. Since tomato is the star of this famous Spanish specialty, August is the perfect time for a homemade batch. Garden fresh bold red tomatoes are juicy and flavorful, making them the ideal candidate for this simple soup.

This is a combination of two recipes: the Gazpacho recipe from “The Art of Good Cooking” and an unpublished recipe I found titled “Ann Thayer’s Gazpacho.” Each recipe is perfectly fine on its own but I wanted to combine the two as a tribute to the friendship between my grandmother and the late Ann Thayer. Ann was one of the few friends of my grandmother that I knew as a child and consistently visited on trips to NYC before I lived here. She met my grandmother in one of James Beard’s cooking classes and in her words “saw that Paula could cook circles around everyone else in the class” and immediately paired up with her. Although Ann was never apart of the famous “cooking world” of journalists and chefs like Beard, Craig Claiborne, and Andre Soltner that my grandmother often entertained, she was one my grandmother’s closest friends and stood by her side through her sickness and eventual death.

The main difference between the two recipes is the amount of liquid and bread used. The unpublished recipe blends pieces of bread into the base along with the tomatoes and vegetables. I decided to skip the bread because I just don’t think it’s necessary. If your tomatoes are ripe and your vegetables fresh and crisp, they should easily be the focus of this classic farm fresh chilled soup.


1 small cucumber, seeded and diced
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
6 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced – see note
2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons tarragon wine vinegar
1 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper, and a pinch of dried marjoram

peeled, seeded, diced cucumber
finely chopped onion
seeded , diced green pepper
garlic seasoned croutons

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into blender and blend until smooth (this may need to be done in batches). Taste for seasoning and correct. Place in refrigerator and chill. Serve as cold as possible with toppings.

Serves 6



Best Ceviche Ever


Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Those of us that like ceviche, usually love it. We recognize fresh fish as a special treat that requires so little cooking that the acid of lime juice can be used without any heat at all. This traditional Mexican dish is not only appropriate for this Cinco de Mayo holiday but also for spring – to get in the mood for summer.

I’ve written previously about my grandmothers exceptional Mexican recipes, many of which she learned while cooking in Mexico. This ceviche recipe definitely falls into that exceptional category. However, there are two very important aspects of this dish that can make or break it. The fish, which is marinated in lime juice for 3-4 hours, must be extremely fresh. Do not use frozen or anything that smells even the slightest bit fishy (ironically fresh fish should always have a clean smell, never fishy). Otherwise, you will be able to taste that fishiness all throughout the finished dish.

The other important aspect is the hot pepper. I recommend Serrano or even Jalapeño but as many of you may know, the heat of each pepper can vary. For this reason, stay away from using the seeds and add the pepper last, a little at a time, while combining and tasting.

My grandmother served this ceviche (while it was a work in progress) at one of her many dinner parties with James Beard and Craig Claiborne. My father was the designated dishwasher for these parties and he could always tell if a particular dish was well-liked by the leftovers on the plates that came back in the kitchen. Despite the lovely plating (in red cabbage cups), the ceviche came back virtually untouched on every plate. It turns out the hot pepper she used was so spicy that it made the dish inedible. Needless to say, my grandmother was mortified. However, this happens to the best of us and she definitely perfected the ceviche after that incident (and before it was published in “The Art of Good Cooking”). It is now by far the best ceviche I’ve ever had.

Note: Any combination of fish maybe used. I prefer to use just scallops and fish and skip the shrimp but I’ve listed the fish proportions as noted in the cookbook.


1/3 lb fresh bay scallops or sea scallops
2/3 lb shelled, cleaned shrimp
1/3 lb striped bass, halibut or other firm white fish
1 cup lime juice
1 onion, sliced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 small hot pepper, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans pimentos, minced (optional)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 cornichons or small dill pickles
salt and pepper to tast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 large avocado

Cut all seafood into tiny pieces. Combine in a bowl. Pour lime juice over seafood. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator for 3-4 hours or until seafood has changed color and looks cooked. Drain the lime juice from the seafood.

Combine all the remaining ingredients-except avocado- in a separate bowl. Taste. The mixture should be quite well seasoned-slightly sweet and spicy. Pour over drained seafood and toss well. Place in refrigerator till serving time. Before serving, peel and dice avocado. Combine with fish mixture.

Serves 6

Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking.”

Ceviche Avocado Shell


Chicken Saltimbocca

Saltimbocca has become somewhat of a classic. Originally Mediterranean, the name Saltimbocca is Italian for “jump in mouth” – a reference to the flavor explosion that takes place while eating this dish. There are varying ways to make saltimbocca. Veal, sage, capers, and sometimes provolone cheese are common ingredients. However, in each scenario the basics remain the same: the chicken or veal is sautéed and prosciutto is always involved (though I see no reason why you couldn’t use ham for a less expensive version). This recipe for Chicken Saltimbocca from “The Art of Good Cooking” happens to include black olives, which is somewhat rare but the beauty of this dish is its flexibility. Though I didn’t add it here, I think roasted red pepper could also make a nice addition to the center filling. The mozzarella is a natural match with the prosciutto and the crunchiness of the breading that soaks up some of the garlic butter is a combination that’s worth it alone – the other ingredients are just a bonus!

Note: the original recipe did not include toothpicks. I find that it’s easier to ensure the filling stays between the two cutlets by securing each package with a couple of toothpicks. Just make sure to take them out after cooking!

Chicken Saltimbocca


6 chicken breasts, boned, skinned, and cut in half (or 12 thin chicken cutlets)
6 thin slices of prosciutto, cut in half
12 pieces of mozzarella cheese, about ½ inch thick rectangles
12 pitted black olives, halved
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup flour
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
2 cups bread crumbs of your choice
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
toothpicks (optional)
¼ cup butter and ¼ cup olive oil (or enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet to a ¼ inch depth, equal parts)


On one side of each breast or cutlet, place a piece of prosciutto, a piece of mozzarella, and two olive halves. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Fold unfilled side over to cover filling, and press edges firmly together to enclose filling or secure with toothpicks.

Flour each package so it is dusted on all sides. Beat egg slightly, adding milk. Dip chicken packages into mixture on both sides. Then dip into bread crumbs. Chill for at least a ½ hour or longer.

Melt ¼ cup butter in a small saucepan. Add half the chopped garlic and parsley. Keep warm until chicken is cooked.

Heat butter and olive oil in skillet with remaining garlic and parsley until fats are hot but not smoking. Place breaded chicken in skillet and turn heat to medium high. Saute chicken quickly, only until golden. Turn once to cook the other side.

Remove to heated serving dish. Remove toothpicks, if using. Pour warm garlic parsley butter on top.

Serves 8-10.

Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking,” by Paula Peck.


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