Before moving to Asia, I never really considered an eggplant worth eating. I had had the occasional moussaka, but other than that it was completely lacking from my diet. Apparently in many parts of the world, it was reputed to drive people insane and was called the “mad apple”. Now, I think it should be called this simply because if you don’t try it, you’re mad.
Living in Japan I began to appreciate this fruit, but moving to Turkey I’ve found it is impossible not to eat it. There are many varieties of eggplant, but the Turks typically use the smaller and thinner type known as the Asian eggplant.
The Turks use eggplant (patlican) in such a variety of dishes from mezzes (appetizers) to the main course, and when I’m out and about, it’s a rare meal that I do not order it myself. I’m addicted!
One of the problems with cooking eggplant is that it can soak up a lot of oil, and therefore one of the reasons it is so good is because the Turks use such an abundance of olive oil. Even though it tastes delicious, we tried making this dish with much less oil for a little healthier option. If you want to try it the Turkish way, by all means go for it.
Eggplant is such a hardy mineral-rich fruit, that it can be cooked in any number of ways to include: frying, baked, grilled, etc. Many people believe it is better to “sweat” them first to erase some of the bitterness, but I’ve found that this is a personal preference and that the Turks never do it. To sweat an eggplant, slice it and sprinkle salt on the pieces. Let them sit for 1 hour and rinse.
In Japan, we enjoyed eggplant fried in oil with more garlic then seems possible and crushed red pepper. I haven’t seen a comparable dish in Turkey but I had the dish below while visiting a family in the city of Konya. I have not seen it on any restaurant menus. It is delicious served with some good Turkish bread or over rice.
Patlıcan kıyma (Eggplant Casserole)
4-5 medium sized Asian eggplants (1 or 2 for the American or “Italian” variety), sliced about 3/4 inch. thick
4-5 fresh medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cubed (1 inch)
1 pound ground beef sirloin or lamb
2 green bell peppers – blanched then chopped
4 tsp. Olive Oil
1 medium onion – chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. Thyme
1 tsp. Salt
Brown the ground sirloin and put in the bottom of a 13 X 9 inch casserole dish. Brown the eggplant slices in the same frying pan and put in on top of the sirloin. Sautee the onion and garlic in the olive oil until softened then transfer to the casserole. Add the tomatoes and green peppers and the spices and mix the casserole with a large spoon. Bake in the oven for about 60 minutes at 350 degrees stirring about every 15 minutes. When the eggplant is soft and beginning to fall apart it’s done. Enjoy.
Please let us know what you think!