Sunday, September 20, 2009

Slashed Eggplant (Karnıyarık)

Before the summer is completely over (I know it’s already over in some places), I wanted to publish one of my favorite eggplant recipes, the ‘Karnıyarık’ which literally means ‘Slit belly’. This Ottoman dish truly tastes delectable, not to mention its attractive looks.

The day I was shopping for eggplants, I did not find the regular long and thick eggplants that are usually used in Turkey for this dish at my grocery store, so I substituted with Chinese eggplants. The ideal eggplant is not the Chinese eggplant, but still works well. The short eggplants can also be used for this recipe; however I prefer the long eggplants.

6 long eggplants
1 cup olive oil
2-3 green long peppers (cut lengthwise)
2 tsp salt

For the Stuffing:

1 lb ground beef (96% lean)
3 ripe tomatoes (peeled and diced)
1 green long pepper (chopped)
½ onion (chopped finely)
2 cloves garlic (chopped finely)
¼ cup parsley (chopped finely)
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp salt

For the Sauce:

1½ cups water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp tomato paste

Peel eggplants in stripes as shown below without removing the stems.

Heat oil in a large frying pan and half fry the eggplants. The eggplants should be fried enough to be easily slashed, but not too mushy. Let the eggplants cool.

In the meantime, prepare the stuffing. Heat the 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan and place the ground beef. Cook the ground beef until it takes a brownish color. Add the onions and green peppers. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir. At the end, add the parsley and stir. The diced tomatoes can also be added inside the stuffing however this recipe will add it on top of the ground beef.

Let the stuffing cool. Slit each half-fried and already cooled eggplant from its belly lengthwise from the top, without detaching it. Salt the inside and the outside of the eggplants.

Stuff each slit eggplant with the ground beef stuffing.

Mix the diced tomatoes with the chopped garlic in a separate bowl. Place a couple spoonfuls on top of the ground beef.

Place a piece of green pepper on top and arrange in a deep baking pan.

Put the water in a bowl. Add the salt and tomato paste and stir vigorously until the tomato paste is dissolved. Pour over the eggplants in the baking pan.

Bake covered for about 50 minutes at 350 F . Enjoy with rice pilaf and salad.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Figs (İncir)

For the longest time, I have been thinking about introducing various fruits that grow in Turkey in my blog. Procrastination can no longer continue and I am going to start with one of my favorite fruits, figs.

Figs come in variety of skin colors such as green, yellow, brown or red. The inner part of the fruit is full of tiny seeds that are sitting in a pink or red flesh. The size of this fruit can also vary. I have seen figs that are as small as a small apricot and as big as a peach.

Figs grow all over the Mediterranean region. Culinary usage of figs is pretty common in some Mediterranean countries. The fruit are hard with a dark green skin color when they are immature and become soft when they are harvested around late July, August and early September. Ripe figs are soft when touched, although when they are extremely ripe, their skin will break just with a single touch due to their fragility. Select figs that are soft, but not mushy. The firm ones are usually not ripe, hence will not be sweet.

Picking fruit from the fig tree needs caution as the milky white substance that is stored inside the leaves or the stem of the fig, can irritate and itch the skin. Another caveat is that fig trees can attract snakes, which actually prevents me from going to a fig farm and pick figs! I am not sure if this is a myth or not, but I have heard about it since I was little.

My grandparents used to have a few trees of figs one of which gave unusually large figs with a firm and dark green skin. The inside of the fruit had a vivid red color and a very sweet flavor. My recollection of the figs picked from my grandparents’ tree is still so alive. Albeit, I have no recollection of any snakes around the tree! My father also has a couple fig trees in his garden. Every year, he advises me to come home during the fig season (sometimes around the pomegranate and persimmon seasons, since he has these fruit trees too), but I usually end up going too early to pick any ripe figs or persimmons or pomegranates. I think I only made it home once during the fig season.

I have lived in quite a few states in the U.S. and I do not recall seeing figs anywhere until I moved to Texas. I only started to see figs in the past few years, in my grocery store which carries specialty foods. Not only do they sell figs, they sell brown Turkish figs. Hence, we regularly eat fresh Turkish figs during the summer for the past few years. Personally, I prefer them, plain, as a fruit. I have never attempted to cook with figs or eat them with honey. If the fruit is ripe, they are as sweet as honey, so I do not understand the addition of honey. I would however, like to try cooking with figs sometime.

Figs can also be dried. Most grocery stores in the U.S. carry dried figs. Dried Turkish figs are very popular and I have run into them often in the U.S. If I am not wrong, I think Turkey is the biggest producer and exporter of dried figs. A post on dried figs will be prepared sometime in the future.

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