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One of the things I love most about cooking are the culinary traditions that pass hands over time. These are the recipes that transcend generations, make their way through the family tree, and give you comfort with each passing year. It’s no secret that I love eggplant, so when I tried this beautiful Turkish eggplant shakshuka made by a close friend’s mother-in-law, I knew that I had to somehow extort the recipe. Tender, fried eggplant cubes tossed in a lightly spiced tomato sauce seemed simple enough, but there was definitely a technique involved that could only be learned through close observation.

Güner Hanım, a former school principle from Istanbul, generously offered to share her secrets as I was invited for a cooking session on the eve of her eightieth birthday. With all our vegetables laid out in front of us, something told me that Güner could make this recipe with her eyes closed! I watched carefully –  my kitchen scale in hand – as my teacher guided me through the steps to make the perfect Turkish Eggplant Shakshuka.

From frying the eggplant, to charring the peppers, and simmering the sauce, Güner emphasized the importance of making each component separately. Trust me when I say your patience will be rewarded with a beautiful dish of saucy tomatoes and tender eggplant – all lovingly kissed with just the perfect amount of spice. Thank you Güner for sharing a recipe that comes straight from the heart.

This Turkish eggplant dish can be served hot just after it’s made or eaten at room temperature. Serve as a vegetarian main course, or as a side to chicken, meat or fish. It also works well tossed into fresh pasta or as a topping for crostini. So versatile, and so delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 700 grams eggplant (I use baby eggplant that are long and thin)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tomatoes (about 300 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 teaspoons salt (2 teaspoons to salt the water, 1 teaspoon for the tomato sauce, plus more to taste)
  • 1 long green “banana” pepper
  • Canola oil for frying eggplant
  • Olive oil

Directions:

Wash the eggplant and trim both ends. Peel a strip of skin off lengthwise every inch or so. You want to peel half the skin off the eggplant. Cut the eggplant lengthwise in half, then cut the halves into quarters. Chop each quarter into 1-inch pieces.

Cut the pepper into roughly the same size as the eggplant and set aside.

Cover eggplant in a bowl of cold water with 2 teaspoons of salt. Allow to soak for ten minutes. In the meantime, get on with your tomato sauce…

Cut your tomatoes in half. Grate each tomato on a box grater over a large bowl. This will allow you to get the flesh and juice out of your tomato while easily discarding the skin.

Mash your garlic in a mortar and pestle with ¼ teaspoon salt.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar, let simmer uncovered over medium heat until sauce thickens, about twenty minutes. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Drain your eggplant in a colander. Grab fistfuls of eggplant and squeeze the excess water out with your hands – you want your eggplant very dry to ensure that it browns properly!

Heat canola oil 1/3 of the way up the sides of a large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully add half the eggplant. Let fry, stirring occasionally. Once the eggplant turns from greyish white to a beautiful deep brown, carefully remove it from the oil using a slotted spoon. Place on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat the frying process with the remaining eggplant.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive OR canola oil in a small frying pan. Fry the pepper, stirring occasionally. Cook until the pepper is very caramelized, it can almost be black. Remove from heat and set aside.

To Assemble:

Spoon the eggplant into a bowl (I used two bowls since I doubled the batch). Sprinkle the peppers on top of the eggplant, then pour the tomato sauce. Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature.

Bon appétit!

Another delicious Eggplant recipe

Photos by Lidijas Kitchen

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