Karniyarik Eggplant Patlıcan Izmir Turkey

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.

Karniyarik Eggplant Patlıcan Izmir Turkey

Ingredients:

  • 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
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
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Instructions:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. Turn off the heat, and add 1 teaspoon of tomato paste, ½ bunch of minced parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Cover.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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. 
  7. 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. 
  8. 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. 
  9. Serve with red pepper flakes, rice pilaf and cacık. Afiyet olsun!
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What about you?

If you like eggplant, what is your favorite way to cook it?

Leave a comment below!

(Also, if you need a good dessert, make sure to check out Nia’s Chocolate Chip Cookies and/or Easy Peanut Butter Cookies recipes to top off your meal!))

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nia McRay from @Tastes_Like_Turkey

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.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Turkish Summers + Chocolate Chip Cookies

For me, summer is the season for picnics and potlucks, marked by evenings of snacks and çay watching the sun paint the sky as it sinks into the Aegean. In Izmir, the bay is always lined with families and friends enjoying the sea breeze. In the summers when the sun doesn’t set until well after 8 pm, it can be hard to find a place to put down a blanket to sit and watch the sunset. But when you do find a space to spread out with your friends, few things are more of a crowd-pleaser than these chocolate chip cookies. They travel well, require no utensils or plates, and go perfectly with a cup of çay.

Izmir Turkey
Izmir Turkey

 This cookie has a caramelly complexity from browned butter, brown sugar, ground oats and cinnamon, a solid crunch with a structured crumb and chopped walnuts, yet all the gooey chocolate you could possibly desire. It is the combination of my favorite aspects of a few different recipes. I wanted a cookie that would give a crunch on the outside and hold together well, but with a soft interior, a bit of saltiness to keep it from being overly sweet, and the complexity of different textures and flavors. 

Izmir Turkey

This recipe is a bit time consuming as it requires for melted browned butter to come to room temperature, so I like to double the recipe ahead of time and keep pre-scooped dough in my freezer. That way, I can bake as few as two cookies for myself in the toaster oven, or a full dozen when friends or neighbors drop by unannounced. It’s a lovely feeling to know you are no more than 20 minutes away from a plate of warm, gooey and crunchy chocolate chip cookies that go perfectly with a cup of tea or coffee. The doubled recipe was enough for me to bring to 4 events.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup oats 
  • 2 ¼ cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter
  • ¾ packed brown sugar (1 tbs molasses (pekmez) + 1 cup sugar = 1 cup brown sugar)
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ cups chopped walnuts
Chocolate Chip Cookies

Instructions:

  1. Brown butter in saucepan. Transfer into a bowl; place in fridge for up to 2 hours until room temperature.
  2. Pulse oats in a blender or food processor until oats are fine, but still retain some structure. Mix all dry ingredients except sugars (and chips and nuts).
  3. Cream room temperature butter and sugars. (If you’re in Turkey and don’t have brown sugar, mix 1 Tbs of pekmez (grape molasses) per cup of white sugar until well-incorporated, and keep in an airtight container.) Add vanilla, lemon juice and eggs one at a time. Stir until smooth. 
  4. Slowly add dry ingredients until sticky dough forms. Fold in chips and nuts.
  5. Scoop dough with ¼ cup. Freeze dough. 
  6. Preheat oven to 185 C. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Take out a few scoops of dough, placing them 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on the edges, but still slightly under-baked. If you enjoy a salty sweet taste, sprinkle a pinch of salt while the cookies are hot.
  7. Let cool for 5 minutes. Eat while warm. 

Let me know how the recipe turned out for you! What kind of chocolate chip cookie do you prefer? 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nia McRay from @Tastes_Like_Turkey

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.

Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies

CULTURE: Afiyet Olsun + Neighbors + Super Easy Peanut Butter Cookies

The Easiest Plate-Filling Peanut Butter Cookies

Knock Knock knock echoes from my apartment door. As a single woman who was raised in the States, I’m cautious of this sound. In the first week of coronavirus entering Turkey, I’m particularly so.  I’m not expecting any deliveries or visitors, but I look through the peephole.

The lady who lives in the apartment across the hallway from me stands at the door, looking right at the peephole – like she sees me. In her hand a plate of chicken and bulgur pilaf. I smile and open the door. Everyone in my building is keeping social distancing pretty seriously, and she pushes the plate into the door while simultaneously turning her face away as she isn’t wearing a mask and mumbles, “Afiyet olsun” (the Turkish equivalent of “Bon Appetit”). 

No, this wasn’t a special occasion. Recently I went to visit a friend who was injured and unable to walk (let alone cook for her family) for a while. Her Turkish neighbors kept a steady flow of home-cooked food coming, especially those first few days, without being asked or setting up a meal train.

While that circumstance was indeed a special occasion, I wonder if what made the action so organic is that bringing food to one another is already a commonplace occurrence.  Neighbors bring one another plates of food without ceremony with the expectation that you will return the dish with some homemade treat of your own to share. 

Once, the same neighbor from across the hall stopped me and my roommate as we walked down the hallway, on our way to dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants. “Wait, wait!” she waved us down. She proceeded to fill a bowl with popcorn as an appetizer and waved us back into our apartment to wait for the rest of the dinner she was cooking. Bit by bit she brought dishes to our door as they were prepared: salad, pilaf, beans. We grazed the whole evening as the plates and bowls began to collect on our table.

I felt cared for (even if my plans for the evening had been canceled in the process) especially as a single woman living in a foreign country. I knew that my neighbors care enough for me to make sure I’m at least well-fed. 

But another thought also began to come to mind as the plates piled up. I had already been made aware of the expectation to fill a plate once it was brought. This can certainly feel overwhelming for the ex-pat who has not yet mastered Turkish cuisine or knows what of the foods they do know how to cook would be palpable for a Turkish palate. 

Thankfully, I have found that the following recipe has been a hit among my Turkish friends and neighbors. It is also incredibly easy and quick. So easy that my neighbors and friends don’t believe me when I share the recipe. So quick that I can whip up a batch and return a plateful of hot cookies to my neighbors within 15 minutes of receiving a plate. 

The Easiest Plate-Filling Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup of chocolate chips of our choice

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 175 C (350 F).  
  • Mix egg, peanut butter, and sugar until fully incorporated. 
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Fold in chocolate chips. 
  • Scoop onto a prepared cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. 
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Let cool for 2 minutes before transferring to a borrowed plate and bringing to neighbors. 
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies
Nia McRay TastesLikeTurkey Peanut Butter Cookies

Note: The trick to these cookies is finding a good peanut butter to use. While JIF brand peanut butter is now available in Turkey (and is my personal favorite), it is often quite expensive when you can find it. The only brand that I’ve tasted that is similar to the peanut butter in the States is the Tuğba brand which advertises having no added sugar. It comes in crunchy and smooth (either of which can be used for this recipe) for a reasonable price. 

I hope you find these as yummy and easy and I do! Let me know if you try them!

What is your go-to food for sharing with neighbors?

Afiyet olsun!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nia McRay from @Tastes_Like_Turkey

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.

FOOD: Aşure – Noah’s Ark Pudding

Cheers to the first post about FOOD. Cheers to not just any food, but TURKISH food!

And yes, you read that right! We are here to chat about Aşure. So how do you say it properly? The ‘a’ is an ‘aah’ sound while the ‘new-to-you’ letter ‘ş’ is pronounced like the English ‘sh’ sound. The ş with the ‘ur’ is similar to ‘shur’. Finish it off by saying the ‘e’ like the letter ‘A’ and you basically speak Turkish now.

Ok, not really. But you at least learned a new Turkish word: ‘Aah-shOOr-EY’

First off, aşure is not just a Turkish dish. Other cultures throughout central Asia and the middle east share a similar type of dish. This dish is special to Turkey because the actual site of the historical Noah’s ark is said to be in eastern Turkey. Hence, aşure is also known as Noah’s Ark pudding. Originally a Jewish celebration, this dessert also marks the rescue of Moses from Pharaoh during which the Hebrews fasted. Sunni Muslims also connect this period during the year with the deliverance of Moses. Aşure is traditionally served on the 10th day of the Muslim month Muharrem, the first month of the Islamic calendar.

But before Moses and the deliverance of the Jews, the dessert come from the story of Noah and the great flood. When the waters receded after the great flood, Noah took whatever he had left from their food storage and toss it into one pot. As you will see below, there are quite the diversity of ingredients (some I would not normally put together!).  This large pot of food kept everyone well and alive until the waters finished receding. For this reason, aşure is usually made in large quantities and is shared with neighbors and friends standing as a symbol of friendship, diversity, and unity.

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What’s in it? Quite the assortment of grains, nuts, fruits, and sugar. It may contain but isn’t limited to: walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, apricots, raisins, currants, figs, chickpeas and navy beans. Depending on the family and region, ingredients like chestnuts, lima beans, bulgur wheat and pieces of fresh coconut will also be added. Spices like cinnamon, cloves, and another lesser known spice to westerners, cardamon, can be a main contributor to the sweet taste. So basically, anything goes.

FunkTravels Asure

The great plus about living in Turkey full-time is getting a home-cooked, traditional dish of aşure hand delivered by a neighbor. Just this last week, our 3rd-floor neighbors shared this sweet gift with us.  While I enjoyed it warm and cold, Jason wasn’t a big of a fan of it either way. The taste is a little … unique, but well worth the trying!

For recipes on how to make it yourself at home, click on some of the links below:

Ozlem’s Turkish Table Recipe

Turkish Food Recipe

All About Turkey Recipe

Video of the recipe

Questions for you:

Have you tried this before? Did you like it?

What do you think? Would you try this recipe at home?

If you do, let me know how it went and what you thought about it. You can always follow us through our move from the USA to Turkey via our 50 episodes of the FunkTravels Podcast.

See you next time!