When these vegetables are carefully layered and cooked slowly, they become a complex, fragrant and visually beautiful dish called byaldi. Byaldi is a French cooking term corrupted from a Turkish dish: imam bayildi, which means "the imam fainted". In this version, sliced onions and bell peppers are cooked until they are limp and translucent then layered with paper-thin slices disks of yellow squash, green zucchini, purple eggplant and red tomato. Finally, the dish is sprinkled with olive oil, garlic and thyme and slowly roasted. The slow cooking process intensifies the flavors to produce what some have coined, "A heavenly vegetable dish".
1/4 cup plus 2-teaspoons olive oil
1 cup sliced onion
1 red bell pepper, cut in 1/4-inch strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut in 1/4-inch strips
Herb sachet (see below)
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
1 to 1-1/2 cup thinly sliced zucchini rounds
1-1/4 cup thinly sliced Japanese eggplant
1-1/4 cup thinly sliced yellow squash rounds
6 small tomatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon minced thyme
Heat oven to 275-degrees. Heat vegetable oil in large skillet over medium-low to medium-heat. Add onion, red, yellow and green peppers and herb sachet, season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are softened but not browned, 15 minutes. Remove sachet and spread mixture in even layer in 12-inch oven-safe skillet; or round baking dish. Arrange sliced zucchini, eggplant, squash and tomatoes over onion and peppers, beginning at the outside of pan and working toward the center, alternating and overlapping them. Mix garlic, olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle over vegetables. Cover with foil, crimping the edges to seal, or with a tight-fitting lid, and bake for 2-1/2 hours.
Remove lid and check vegetables (the eggplant will take the longest to cook). They should have softened and be almost cooked. Return to the oven, uncovered and cook until very tender, an additional 30 minutes. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until ready to use, preferably within a day or two.
Two sprigs thyme, two sprigs parsley and one bay leaf, tied together in a cheesecloth bundle.
Wrap this dish up and put it in a dish over night as it is even better the next day. This dish is good by itself, but if you make a quick vinaigrete with olive oil, wine vinegar and capers -- offsetting the sweetness with acid and salt -- you have elevated it. Or, you can layer byaldi between two slices of bread and slather it with aioli for a perfect southern French sandwich.
Recipe makes 8 servings.
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Drink fortified soy milk, rice milk or almond milk in place of cow's milk.