Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I think the Turks know how to cook eggplant more than 100 different ways.

This popular, mor vegetable is used in salads, in mezes, soups and main dishes. Surprisingly, I haven’t seen eggplant used in desserts yet. I’m sure every Turkish cook has a special eggplant recipe or two hidden in his/her apron.
Beautiful, baby eggplants! Each one was about 4 to 6 inches long.
In America, I never enjoyed eating eggplant except for eggplant parmigiana, which is really an excuse to cover this bland vegetable with tomato sauce and cheese.

Here in Turkey, my favorite way to enjoy eggplant is part of the meze course known as patlıcan salatası (eggplant salad). This dish is like a puree of roasted eggplant, mixed with lemon juice and olive oil, and sometimes garnished with tomatoes or roasted peppers.

But my new favorite way to cook eggplant at home is karnıyarık, which literally translates to split belly. The “belly” of the eggplant is split down the center,  stuffed with a spicy meat and tomato filling and then roasted a second time in the oven.

I learned how to make karnıyarık thanks to a cooking class I took in May with Selin Rozanes, an Istanbul native and owner of Turkish Flavours. The eggplant has a wonderful roasted flavor and a nice blend of spices from the meat filling. Garnish with yogurt and you are good to go.

Summer is a perfect time to make this dish as piles of beautiful purple eggplant are available at your local farmers’ market or at the pazars here in Turkey.

Now, I only have 99 more ways to learn how to cook patlıcan!

Afiyet Olsun!

Karnıyarık (Turkish Split-Belly Eggplant)
Adapted from Selin Rozanes of Turkish Flavours

4 medium long and skinny eggplant or several small ones (I roasted both sizes in two separate glass baking dishes.)

1 T. sunflower oil
200 g. lean ground beef (kontrafile yağsız kıyma)
1 med. onion, finely chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 T. tomato paste diluted with ½ cup of water
1 T. cumin
1 T. Ottoman spice or paprika
1 ½ tsp. sugar
TT salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ c. or a bit more of chopped parsley (I added a bit of chopped dill too.)
Garnish: sliced tomatoes and strips of sweet green peppers

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F/200C.
2. Wash and peel eggplants lengthwise with strips. Brush each eggplant with sunflower oil. Make a slit down the middle of each one, but do not pierce it all the way through. This where you stuff the meat filling later. Place the eggplant in a glass baking dish in a single layer.
3. Cook the eggplant until tender, about 15 to 20+ minutes, depending on the size of your eggplant. Rotate the eggplant while cooking so it cooks evenly.
4. While the eggplant is baking, make the filling. Using a medium-sized sauce pan, heat the sunflower oil. Sauté the onion until tender; add the garlic and cook a few more minutes.
5. Then add the ground beef and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste mixture, cumin, Ottoman spice or paprika, sugar, salt, freshly ground black pepper, parsley and dill. Continue stirring until most of the water is absorbed and remove from heat.
A spoonful of Ottoman spice, which kind of looks and tastes like pul biber.
6. Slightly shape the eggplant with your fingers or a spoon to open the “bellies” so you can stuff them with the meat mixture. Place a tomato slice and two strips of green peppers (as seen in my photos) on top of the eggplant.
7. Pour the tomato sauce into baking dish around the eggplant.
**For tomato sauce, whisk together 1 T. tomato paste and 1 T. pepper paste (or acı biber salçası) with 1 cup of hot water.
8. Continue roasting the eggplants for about 10-15 more minutes until you see that the tomatoes and green peppers are baked through.
9. Garnish the eggplant with a dollop of yogurt. Serve hot with rice pilaf or simply a salad like we did.
Here's what the baby eggplants looked like when they were done roasting.
For serving, two eggplants were a perfect portion for me.

Tagged: , ,


Sippy Cup Central said...

I am not a huge eggplant fan, but that looks wonderful. Karen

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely recipe, but I'm not sure what you mean by, "peel eggplants lengthwise with strips." The picture of the finished dish looks like the eggplant peals are all still there. Thank you for your help. Confused lover of Turkish food

Joy said...

@Karen, I'm sure you would love this recipe!

@Anonymous, So sorry for the confusion! My Turkish friend taught me that the eggplant should look like it has "pajama stripes" once it's peeled. SO I peel a strip, leave a strip, peel a strip, etc. Then your eggplant looks like it has the stripes! :-) Afiyet olsun!

Liz said...

I lOVE eggplant and split belly was recommended to me by a Turkish friend. Thanks for the delicious recipe!

Liz said...

I lOVE eggplant and split belly was recommended to me by a Turkish friend. Thanks for the delicious recipe!

Joy said...

@Liz, you're welcome! Afiyet olsun! One of my fav Turkish recipes! :)