FOOD: Learning to Love Eggplant [Karnıyarık]
Before I moved to Turkey, I never bought an eggplant at the grocery store.
I loved to cook meals with lots of fresh vegetables, but I had NO IDEA what to do with this weird, rubbery purple thing. I’d had eggplant parmesan before, and it was tasty enough. But, to be honest, I’d prefer the chicken version. With the amount of imported produce available in the States, there was always such a variety of veggies that I never felt the need to attempt to do anything with eggplant.
I wrote it off as a food I didn’t like.
Within a month of arriving in Turkey, my eyes were opened. A friend ordered a patlıcan (pronounced pot-luh-john) pizza and let me try a slice. The eggplant I ate didn’t squeak between my teeth like I expected. In fact, it almost melted in my mouth.
Was this even the same vegetable I thought I didn’t like?
Several months later, my language tutor agreed to give me a cooking lesson for my birthday. I asked to her to teach me whatever she wanted to cook. She quickly decided on Karnıyarık, a stuffed eggplant dish. I was excited to learn how to make eggplant in a way that I would actually eat it. As a girl born and raised into a Southern American cuisine tradition, I should not have been surprised that the secret was in frying it.
If you’re interested in falling in love with eggplant, grab a kilogram of eggplant, some ground beef, and try out the recipe below.
- 1 kg (about 2 lb.) eggplant
- Sunflower (or other light) oil for frying
- 3 liters cold water
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 500g (1 lb) ground beef
- 1 large white onion, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 ½ Tbsp + 1 tsp tomato paste
- ½ bunch of fresh parsley, minced
- Boiling water
- Black Pepper
- Wash eggplants and chop off stems. If eggplants are a larger variety, cut in half so they are about 15 cm (6 inches) in length. Peel four long stripes off each eggplant. Soak the eggplant in a brine consisting of 3 liters of cold water, and two tablespoons salt for 20-30 minutes. Then squeeze the excess water from them.
- As you squeeze the excess water from your eggplant, heat up enough oil to deep fry your eggplant on medium to medium high heat. Fry each eggplant until it has a brown exterior and a soft interior. Set on paper towels to drain.
- In a frying pan, over low heat, brown 500 grams (1 lb.) of ground beef and one large diced onion in a tablespoon of olive oil for 20 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, and add 1 teaspoon of tomato paste, ½ bunch of minced parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Cover.
- Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). Place your eggplant in a large oven-safe pan, spacing them 2 cm (about an inch) apart. Slice open the middles of each eggplant, leaving 2 cm (an inch) on each end. Fill each eggplant with beef, using a spoon.
- To create the sauce, add boiling water, little by little to 1-1 ½ tablespoon tomato paste. Stir as you add each bit of water, smoothing out any grainy feeling in the tomato paste. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Grate 4 cloves of garlic. Place them in between the eggplant in the pan. According to my tutor, this is the most important step to getting delicious eggplant. Then, carefully pour the sauce between the egpplants until it comes 2/3 to the top of the stuffed eggplants.
- Cut a tomato in half, top to bottom, then cut thin slices. Place a half-moon shaped slice on the top of each stuffed eggplant to keep the moisture in. Top each eggplant with a little sauce. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
- Serve with red pepper flakes, rice pilaf and cacık. Afiyet olsun!
What about you?
If you like eggplant, what is your favorite way to cook it?
Leave a comment below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I am a lover of words and stories, student of culture, amateur photographer, adult cross-cultural kid, English tutor to TCKs (Third Culture Kids), and aspiring foodie. We will probably be instant friends if you give me good coffee, invite me to cook with you, or start a conversation with me about personalities, culture, and how the two intersect. I’m a life-long nerd, believer, and creative-in-the-works. I am all about the journey, so traveling and cross-cultural living is always something that has captured my heart and inspired my imagination.
In 2016, after teaching in an inner-city school and needing a change of pace, I spent a year abroad in Izmir, Turkey with a friend. I absolutely fell in love with the city and the people. The conveniences of a big city with a friendly, slow-pace-of-life atmosphere is all found between the mountains and the sea. What’s not to love? So, after my year of adventure, I knew I wanted to come back to Izmir to live.
Positioned on the perch of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, Turkey is both a mix of cultures, and a unique culture all its own. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and this desire to learn is what drives me to write. As a pretty quiet person, I write to learn, to discover, and to process. As someone who grew up in a cross-cultural context, Turkey’s diversity and mix of cultures is something I personally relate to. Plus, if you’ve ever tasted Turkish food, you know that it is definitely something to write home about. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Funks’ blog and to grow and learn in the process.