Did you know that summer leeks are traditional on Sephardic tables on Rosh Hashanah? I did not. Here’s how it goes:
The Aramaic word for leeks is “karti”, which is very similar to the Hebrew, “yikartu”, meaning to “cut off”. We pray that our enemies will be “cut off”, allowing for safety and security of the Jewish people and all of our friends.
Long, layered stalks of Leeks are neatly lined up in your local markets now along with the long-awaited abundance of perfectly ripe tomatoes and gorgeous eggplants.
This is how we connect seasonal ingredients to holiday dishes. Yup, it goes beyond apples and pomegranates, for sure.
This deeply delicious side dish is called Imam Bayeldi. The story goes that when the Imam (substitute Rabbi, Guru, Minister, Priest, Deacon) tasted it, he fainted from pleasure.
Ok then. You may want to consider making this and providing smelling salts for your guests.
Imam Bayeldi may be made 2-3 days in advance and served at room temperature. It highlights end of summer tomatoes and eggplant and is savory with than an abundance of leeks.
If you like to make your side dishes ahead of the holidays, you’ll love this one. It only gets better as it rests and patiently waits to be devoured.
I found the connection between Leeks and Rosh Hashanah in the brilliant and indispensable Encyclopedia of Jewish Foods by Gil Marks. This remarkably thorough and scholarly work is a guide to ingredients, recipes and world-wide Jewish culinary traditions. I keep this volume very close to my laptop and refer to it all the time.
This recipe was shared by Ronnie Fein.
- 1 medium eggplant
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced
- 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 large tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup water
- Cut the eggplant into slices about 3/8-inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Wipe the eggplant slices dry with paper towels. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Cook the eggplant slices a few at a time for 2-3 minutes per side or until slightly wilted. Add more olive oil to the pan as needed to prevent scorching (use 4-5 tablespoons more if needed).
- Place the cooked eggplant into a baking dish (cut it into smaller pieces if you wish).
- Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan. Add the leeks and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, parsley, sugar, salt and lemon juice. Cook for one minute, stirring frequently. Spoon the vegetables on top of the eggplant.
- Drizzle with any remaining olive oil and the water.
- Cover the pan and bake for 45 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
I made this recipe in a shallow pan and wanted to see a little crust along the surface and around the edges after it cooked. You may want to uncover the dish and give it another 15-20 minutes to brown up.
I also reserved the tomato juice from the fruit as I was chopping and seeding. I used all of that juice in place of the water, just before baking.