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Aubergin, Patlican, Badinjan… Eggplant August 15, 2008

Posted by Paula Erbay in Uncategorized.
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an Eggplant by any of it’s names is still tasty 

While we think of them as a vegetable, they are a fruit – the same as tomatoes, avocados, bananas and even chili peppers. And, they are good for you too. They contain: dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, copper and thiamin (vitamin B1), vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and niacin. They can block the formation of free radicals, and help control cholesterol levels. 

In addition to it’s many names, eggplants have had a sorted past. It’s Sanskrit name (ancient Indian), referred to the belief that it cured flatulence. Others thought them to be poisonous – only good for decoration. Depending on the century, Europeans have thought them to be an aphrodisiac or to cause insanity… kind of the same thing isn’t it?

Eggplants are native to India and China, then spread to the rest of the world. Thomas Jefferson is credited with introducing them in the United States in 1806 (and growing them), though they have only become popular here in the past 50 years or so. Turkey prides itself on the variety of native eggplant (patlıcan) recipes, rumored to be over 1,000 (I’ve not tasted them all….yet). 

When choosing eggplants look for glossy skins with no soft spots or bruises. The cap should be green and fresh looking. Look at the bottoms, some are smooth, others dimpled; the smooth ones have fewer seeds. If you need to, store them in a cool, dry place – but do not refrigerate. They should be used as soon as possible. They are in season from July to October, but with today’s global shipping are available are year long. Farmer’s Markets and Ethnic Grocers have more varieties, and generally better quality, than your local Super Market. 

There are different theories as to why eggplants are soaked, or salted prior to cooking. Often “to drain the bitter juices”. I find they soak up less oil following this process, be sure to rinse, and pat or squeeze dry before continuing with your recipe.



Ìmam Bayıldı – California Style August 14, 2008

Posted by Paula Erbay in Main Dishes, Sides.
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The Turkish dictionary defines bayılmak (root verb) as: to faint, to be enraptured (by). 

I’ve read many versions of how this Turkish dish got it’s name. The Imam fainted because… the dish was so rich (oil content); he learned the amount of olive oil his wife used to make the dish (rich in cost); or, it just tasted soooooo good. 

What makes the Imam faint in California? Grilling, of course. 

When the Google search string is Imam Bayildi Recipe, it will return over 22,000 hits. So, I decided to create a variation on a very classic Turkish recipe. Don’t worry, it still has all the ingredients required: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Eggplants, Onions, Garlic, Tomatoes and Parsley. I just took the eggplant outdoors to add a bit of smokiness.


4 Eggplants, long, thin
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Chili pepper, long hot
4 Tomatoes, just under 1 ½ pounds
1 Onion, Sweet (Vidalia, Oso Sweet, or similar)
5 Garlic cloves
2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 T Pine Nuts
1 C Parsley leaves, flat
2 tsp Dill, fresh or dried
1 tsp Aleppo Pepper – plus more at table
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Lemon Juice, plus wedges at table

Trim the cap end of the eggplants, but do not cut off. Peel the skin in a “zebra” stripe. Heavily salt and leave in a colander while preparing the other ingredients, about 20 minutes. 

Peel, seed, and chop the tomatoes. Thinly slice the onion and garlic cloves. Chop the parsley leaves. 

Rinse the eggplants and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a baking pan (Pyrex 9×13 is good). Coat with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, be generous – reserve all that drips in the baking pan. Grill the eggplants and chili pepper until eggplants are soft and browned, the pepper should blister. About 15 – 20 minutes total, turn often. Return the grilled eggplants and chili pepper to the baking pan (with leftover oil). 

Heat 2 tablespoons Olive Oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onions and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until onion is soft and translucent. Add the cooked onions and garlic to the chopped tomatoes. Brown the pine nuts in the same pan, until just starting to color. Add them to the tomato-onion mixture. Add the remaining ingredients: parsley, dill, Aleppo pepper, salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. 

Slit the grilled eggplants lengthwise down the middle – be careful not to cut all the way through Larger eggplants can be cut in half, then slit each half lengthwise. Gently pry open the slit in each eggplant and fill with the tomato-onion mixture, heaping on top. 

Mix some lemon juice, water, and olive oil, pour into the baking pan (about 6 tablespoons of liquid). Cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. 

Traditional Imam Bayildi is served room temperature (as all “Olive Oil” dishes are), I like this one hot as a vegetarian main course. Serve with lemon wedges and additional Aleppo Pepper for diners to adjust to taste. 

Aleppo pepper is available at Middle Eastern grocery stores and Penzeys.com 

This recipe is for Bette… read Eggplants for Bette



Grilled Baby Eggplants with Pistachio Pesto August 13, 2008

Posted by Paula Erbay in Sides.
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10 – 12 Baby Eggplants
Olive Oil

1 Cup Mint leaves, fresh
½ Cup Pistachio, raw shelled, unsalted
2-3 T Lemon juice, fresh
Lemon, zest from ½
2 Garlic cloves
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Pepper, Black
Dash Cayenne Red Pepper
¼ Cup Olive Oil, Extra Virgin
3 T Olive Oil, Extra Virgin – see note

Pistachio Pesto:
This recipe makes more Pistachio Pesto than you need for the Grilled Baby Eggplants. Save the remaining pesto for another use (I like to freeze in a plastic zip bag – it makes a great pizza sauce).

Place mint, pistachio, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic cloves, olive oil, and seasonings in a food processor. Adjust seasonings to taste. Makes about ¾ – 1 Cup of Pesto. 

NOTE: You can use the Pesto at this consistency. I prefer a “wetter” pesto with the Baby Eggplants. So, at this point mix about half of the pesto with 3 additional tablespoons of olive oil.     

Baby Eggplants:
Cut baby eggplants in half: if very small, cut just enough to open, keeping the two halves attached.

Pour olive oil in a rimmed baking sheet. Place eggplant in pan, turning to coat each piece evenly. Turn cut side up and place under broiler (about 4 inches from heat). Broil for 5 minutes, they should be caramelized and soft – check each minute after 5 so as to not overcook.

Place eggplants on a platter, while still warm spread a little of the Pistachio Pesto on top. Cover for at let rest about 30 minutes.

This recipe is for Bette… read Eggplants for Bette

Patlican Sarmasi – Chicken Thighs Wrapped in Eggplant August 12, 2008

Posted by Paula Erbay in Main Dishes.
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Serves 10 to 12
4½ to 5 lbs Chicken Thighs, boneless, skinless (approx weight, 20 pieces)
4 Lemons: zest from 2 of them, juice from all
1 tsp Allspice, Whole – crush with mortar and pestle
6 Garlic Cloves, pressed or mashed in mortar and pestle
1 tsp Salt

10 – 12 Eggplants, long thin
Salt to soak eggplant slices
Vegetable Oil – for frying eggplant

¼ Cup Almonds, whole, toasted – coarsely chop after toasting

2 9×13 baking pans (Pyrex)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (when ready to wrap the chicken in eggplant)

Marinate the Chicken:
Marinate the chicken in the Lemon juice, lemon zest, allspice, garlic and salt for a minimum of 2 hours in the refrigerator – turn occasionally.

Peel the eggplant in “zebra” stripes. Thinly slice lengthwise (5 to 6 good slices per eggplant). Soak eggplant slices in heavily salted cold water for about 1 hour to remove bitter juices. Drain and pat slices dry with paper towels.

Fry eggplant slices in vegetable oil until lightly golden – DO NOT OVERCOOK. Eggplant needs to be supple to wrap around the chicken thighs.

Use rimmed baking sheets, pour enough oil in pan to coat pan. Coat eggplant slices in oil in pan – there should still be oil on surface of pan (about 1/16th inch). Broil for 2 minutes, turn slices and broil another 2 minutes. Watch closely so as to not overcook!

Drain eggplant slices on rack over another rimmed baking sheet.

Select the best eggplant slices for wrapping the chicken – 2 to 3 slices per thigh. Reserve the other slices to line the baking pans. Place 2 pieces in a cross pattern. Roll one thigh into a tight piece and place on the eggplant cross. Wrap the eggplant around the chicken and place seam side down on eggplant lined pan.

Pour remaining marinade over chicken (about 1 cup total – ½ cup per baking pan). Sprinkle chopped almonds over each piece. Cover with foil and bake 30 – 40 minutes (juices should be boiling).         

Serve with Rice Pilaf
Ajvar is a great condiment with it (hot or mild, available in Middle Eastern and Eastern European markets)

This recipe is for Bette…. read Eggplants for Bette