I adapted this recipe from a Turkish cooking class I took a few months ago when I was in Istanbul. It was one of five sublime dishes we made (I featured another recipe in an earlier post). This versatile vegetarian course is equally good served warm as an entrée or at room temperature for a meze or appetizer. The recipe calls for braising the eggplants in a deep skillet (which I did), but I don’t see why you couldn’t bake them. The filling ingredients are so simple, you may wonder just how exciting it could possibly be. Well don't you worry. Those wallflowers will perk right up the minute they cozy up to Mr. Aubergine. Trust me. This savory, full-bodied dish will make your cooking expedition worthy of any trophy.*
*Vegetable hunting license not required
2 medium-sized eggplants or 4 small ones
1-2 onions, very finely sliced
2 tomatoes, skinned and chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
Bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
Bunch of fresh dill, chopped
Bunch of fresh mint, chopped
1-2 TBSP tomato paste
½ TBSP salt
Pinch of sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
Freshly ground pepper
In a bowl, sprinkle the onions with a royal amount of salt and knead/massage them forcefully with your hands until they start to weep and soften. This facilitates the cooking process and ensures all onion pieces separate. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, ground pepper, sugar and lemon juice. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
Make sure to find eggplants that fit on a plate. Place a little knife on the spot where the stem starts above the leaves and cut all around, not cutting all the way through to the hard part inside. Twist, don’t pull, the stem off so that only the hard core is left. Tear off the leaves and trim the remainders away to smoothen the top (from up to down is better). Halve the eggplants lengthways, careful to keep a piece of stem on each side. Cut off a tiny piece of the outside to make the eggplant sit without wobbling. With the knife, hollow out the inside, making sure not to cut all the way to the end of the eggplant.
Pile the mixture high on top of each eggplant and press it in, making sure it’s full, tight and heaped up and that all of the flesh is covered. Put a few tablespoons of water in a wide skillet or Dutch over. Put eggplants in, side by side, and pour some olive oil over them. Cover the pan, and cook gently for about 1 hour. Leave to cool in the pan, preferably covered and overnight. Put each eggplant on a plate and decorate with herb sprigs.
Makes 4 servings