My recipe for stuffed Turkish eggplant — full of fresh sautéed tomatoes, mint and fresh lemon juice — is great year-round, but I especially like these flavors as we come into warmer weather.
You can make this as a main dish and serve it with rice and a garden salad, but it also makes a wonderful side to serve along with fish or meat.
This recipe is vegan in its traditional form, but you can add a half cup of feta or mozzarella cheese to the vegetable mixture and serve it as a dairy meal. It takes about half an hour to prepare in total, including chopping the vegetables, and 40-45 minutes to bake.
This is a savory dish, but the mint and sprinkle of sugar create a caramelized taste with a hint of sweetness.
Stuffed Turkish eggplant
3 large eggplants
3/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
3 crushed garlic cloves
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon dried mint or 1 teaspoon fresh chopped mint
Juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon Aleppo or black pepper
1 teaspoon white sugar
Place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 F.
Slice the eggplants in half, removing the stems. Slice lengthwise three times down the middle of the pulp as deeply as possible without hitting the skin. These slits are where you will stuff the eggplants with the tomato and onion mixture.
Sprinkle with coarse salt and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Use this resting time to dice the onions. Using a heavy bottomed sauté pan, warm ¼ cup of the olive oil over low to medium heat for about 2 minutes before adding the eggplant, skin side up, to the pan. Don’t put the flame up too high or the olive oil will smoke and burn.
Cook for 5-6 minutes, then turn over to cook another 2-3 minutes with the skin down. The pulp of the inside should be lightly browned, but a few charred spots are just fine.
Remove from heat and place into a low-sided casserole dish.
Add ¼ cup more olive oil to the sauté pan and repeat with the remaining eggplants halves.
While the eggplant is cooking, chop the tomatoes and parsley. When the second batch of eggplant is complete, place them in a second casserole dish.
Add the last ¼ cup of olive oil into the same pan and sauté the onions until they begin to soften, about 8-10 minutes. You can turn the flame up a little at this point, but don’t go over the medium marker.
Stir in the chopped tomatoes and cook for about 4 minutes, then add garlic and chopped parsley.
Cook for another 2 minutes, then stir in the salt, pepper, mint and lemon juice.
Remove from heat.
Each eggplant half will have three long slits down the middle. Take a serving spoon and stuff each of these slits with the tomato mixture.
Once all eggplants are stuffed, cover the top of each eggplant with the remaining tomato mixture, but be sure to get as much down into the slits as possible before topping them off.
Sprinkle a pinch of sugar over the top of each piece. (I’ve made this without the sugar, and it just doesn’t come out the same.)
Bake for 40-45 minutes.
To test for doneness, you should be able to easily stick a fork into the middle of the eggplant, and it should be soft but still a bit firm. If it needs a little more time, bake for an additional 5 minutes.
The eggplant may flatten out a bit, so don’t worry if it seems to spread in the baking dish. If you’re lucky, it will retain a boat-like shape.
Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
This recipe reheats well, so you can make it ahead of time and warm it before serving. It also tastes wonderful as a mezze (appetizer) served at room temperature.
Feel free to sprinkle with a little more fresh lemon juice, or even drizzle it with tahini. Enjoy! PJC
Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.