This is the vegetarian version of my previous recipe, the Turkish stuffed eggplants (karni yarik). I tried to keep the recipe’s Turkish authenticity but otherwise it is my creation. I replaced the meat with lentils, eggs and cheese and used oregano in the place of mint. I also used more tomatoes to keep the mixture moist. All these ingredients are used in Turkey and hope you will like it as much as I did.
I can’t help but notice the abundance of goods at the farmers’ market. The tables are filled with all kinds of fruits and vegetables. In fact, it is the time of the year when they have the most varieties available. For today’s post I picked eggplant.
We associate eggplants with the Middle East but it actually originated from India and has also been popular in other Asian countries for a long time. Today, it is used all over the world. In Europe, it was a staple until potatoes arrived from the New World. The Turkish have certainly created many recipes with it and believe that they have the best eggplant dishes. The Spanards had brought it over to the Americas in the 1600′. Eggplants have been used in the United States; however, earlier, people didn’t really know what to do with them. Many just used them for decorations only.
Eggplants come in all kinds of shapes and colors. Shapes can be round or more elongated and the colors can vary from white, green to purple. In the United States, the rounder, purple, more oblong eggplant is usually available in stores. For this recipe, try to buy these medium sized, fat, purple eggplants that I have pictures of. Also, make sure they are about the same size because different sizes will vary their cooking times. Also they should be nice and firm.
Eggplants belong to the night shade family along with tomatoes and potatoes. It is a cooling bitter plant that is highly nutritious with vitamins A, B, C, K1, E and minerals manganese, magnesium, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. An interesting fact is that we often believe that it is a vegetable but in fact it is a fruit. Also, it is thought to be aphrodisiac.
In addition to its nutritional values, people have been using eggplants for other health benefits too. Asians like to use them for their cooling property. It is good for digestion, particularly for stagnation and heat. It is beneficial in clearing heat that accumulates during the warmer months but it is still a valuable plant now, during the Indian summer as it can take out heat that may have been trapped in during the summer. In addition, its antioxidants can protect the liver from toxins.
It is also associated with fertility from its ability to unblock stagnation in the liver and the womb. In China, brides were supposed to posses 12 eggplant recipes before they got married. By the same token, pregnant women are advised to limit the consumption of eggplants because of the possibility of miscarriage.
List of my other eggplant dishes
- 1 cup of cooked rice (about half a cup raw)
- about 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 4 medium, equal sized purple eggplants. Try not to get different sizes because they need different cooking times.
- 1 cup of cooked lentils (about 1/2 cup uncooked)
- 2 lightly beaten eggs
- 1 finally chopped yellow onion
- 1 finally chopped peppers (green, red, yellow-your choice)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp paprika powder
- 1/4 tsp of hot red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp of salt or to taste
- 6 fresh plum tomatoes or other tomatoes (canned is fine too)
- 1 cup of hard cheese + more for the top
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup of flat leafed parsley
- Soak the lentils for a few hours. Pour water in the pot so lentil are covered, about 1 inch above.
- Prepare rice with bay leaves. Use 1 cup of rice with 2 cups of water.
- Prepare the lentils. Place a bay leaf in the pot. Boil and cook on medium low heat until lentils are soft, for about half hour. Strain.
- Bake eggplants. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Wash eggplants and put them on an oiled baking sheet. Prick them with a fork in 6-8 places, half inch deep to prevent them from exploding in your oven. Coat them with some olive oil with a brush. Bake them for 45-60 minutes or until they are nice and soft, so you can put the blade of a knife through easily. You don’t want them to be hard but they shouldn’t collapse either. Once they start becoming soft, keep an eye on them. If you’re using larger eggplants, you will have to cut them in half lengthwise. Oil the top and proceed like you do with the smaller ones
- When ready take them out and let them cool..
- Prepare the stuffing. Sauté the onion in the oil. When onions are soft but not brown, add the green pepper pieces and continue sautéing the for about 10-15 minutes. Add spices (oregano, cumin, paprika), crushed garlic and stir. Then add tomatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes or until tomatoes are well cooked and there is a nice sauce.
- Take off the heat. Put mixture into a bowl. Add rice, lentils, eggs, salt, ground black pepper, hot pepper flakes and graded cheese (I used 1 cup). Mix.
- Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Gently cut a slit in the middle down from the top of a whole eggplant making sure you don’t cut through the skin. Take out the seeds. You can use the seeds to make babaganoush or just simply discard them.
- Just like its Turkish name, karni yarik, splitting belly suggests, stuff the inside of the eggplants, their bellies with the stuffing. You can put a little graded cheese and a thin slice of tomato on the top. Put eggplants in a baking dish. Pour boiling water into dish about 1 inch deep. Place dish into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Take them out when top is brown. Let them cool.
- Cut off the ends before serving them.
- Serve warm with cucumber yoghurt sauce.
- 1 1/2 cups of yoghurt
- 1 longer English, slicing cucumber
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tbsp of vinegar
- 2 Tbsp of olive oil
- 1 Tbsp of dried mint
- fresh mint
- Peel and slice the cucmber. Place the slices in a bowl, salt and let it sit for 15 minutes. Strain, squeeze out and discard the liquid.
- In a separate bowl mix together all the other ingredients, stir well. Put in the cucumbers and gently stir mix them in.
- Garnish with fresh mint. Serve with the eggplants.
- Paul pitchford: Healing with Whole Foods
- Sally Fallon: Nourished Traditions
- Nancy Harmon Jenkin’s Mediterranean Diet cook book.
Text, recipe and photo by twincitiesherbs.com.