Turkish Eggplant Puree with Yogurt Dressing and Walnuts
The combination of eggplant and yogurt dressing is not just reserved for the Persian kitchen. Turkish cooks also love to blend the two. The natural bitterness of the eggplant and walnuts is tempered by the tart, creamy yogurt. Even the chilies add a bitter edge. Sometimes the bitterness is too intense, so you might have to add more lemon juice for balance. Serve this eggplant puree with wedges of warm pita bread.
To make this creamy dressing, you need thick yogurt. The imported Fage brand of Greek yogurt does not require any draining, but most commercial yogurts need to be drained of excess water. To get 2 cups of thick yogurt, spoon 4 cups of yogurt into a strainer lined with cheesecloth, set it over a bowl, and let the water drain away for a few hours in the refrigerator.
Serves8 as part of a mezze assortment
Cooking Methodgrilling, roasting
Total Timeunder 2 hours
OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Cocktail Party
Recipe Courseantipasto/mezze, appetizer
Dietary Considerationantipasto/mezze, appetizer
Taste and Texturecreamy, garlicky, nutty, sharp, smoky, tangy, tart
Type of Dishdip/spread
- 4 large eggplants (3 to 4 pounds)
- Juice of 2 lemons, plus more to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, green sprouts removed, minced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, if needed
- About 1 cup yogurt dressing (recipe below)
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill, mint, or cilantro
- 2 jalapeno peppers, very finely minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin, toasted (optional)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped, for garnish
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
- Crumbled feta cheese (optional)
- 2 cups thick yogurt (see Notes)
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- Sea salt
- 2 to 3 tablespoons minced garlic (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or dill (optional)
In a bowl, whisk the yogurt with the olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt. Fold in the garlic or herbs if desired.
For a smoky taste, grill the eggplants under the broiler, turning often, or cook them slowly on a stovetop cast-iron griddle over medium heat, turning them from time to time, until they are uniformly tender, about 20 minutes. You also may prick them with a fork in a few places, place them on a baking sheet, and bake them in a 400-degree F oven until they are soft throughout, about 1 hour. No matter which technique you choose, remember to turn the eggplants occasionally until they are very soft.
Using tongs, put the eggplants in a colander or a perforated drainer tray. Let stand until cool enough to handle.
Carefully remove the skins and put the eggplant pulp in a strainer to drain for 10 minutes. Discard any large seed pockets; they are bitter and add an unpleasant texture to the creamy eggplant puree. To keep the eggplant white – a point of pride in Turkey – soak it briefly in water to which you’ve added the lemon juice, or squeeze the juice directly over the eggplant. After a few minutes, drain the pulp and squeeze it dry.
In a large bowl, coarsely puree or mash the eggplant with a potato masher or a wooden spoon.
If the garlic is strong or “hot,” warm the oil over low heat in a smell sauté pan, add the garlic, and cook for a minute or two to remove the bite. Add to the eggplant pulp.
Stir in the yogurt dressing, herb, jalapeños, and cumin, if using. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in a serving bowl or on a platter and sprinkle with chopped walnuts and parsley and with crumbled feta if you like. Serve with warm pita bread.
2008 Joyce Goldstein