The name of this Turkish dish translates to ‘the priest fainted’, as the legend goes, because 1) it tasted so good, 2) the ingredients were so expensive, or 3) it required a ludicrous amount of oil. Since #2 or 3 don’t apply here, we’ll go with reason #1!
This recipe is based on Madhur Jaffrey’s in World Vegetarian combined with my attempt to replicate the tender and tasty oven roasted baby eggplant served at Kali’s Mezze in Baltimore, which is stuffed with tomatoes and onions and topped with haloumi. Traditionally the dish is not served with cheese in Turkey so you can omit to make it vegan. Also, I layer slices of a large eggplant into a baking dish to make it easy, but if you’re going for presentation then nothing beats individually prepared baby eggplants.
1 large eggplant (~ 2 lbs) or 8 baby eggplants
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
3 large tomatoes, diced or 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, diced, with liquid
1/2 bunch or 1 3/4 oz pack fresh mint, chopped
1/3 bunch or 1 3/4 oz pack fresh Italian parsley, chopped
6 oz feta or haloumi
Salt and pepper
Smoked paprika (optional)
The mint is a key ingredient in this dish. It really sets the flavor of the tomato sauce apart, so don’t leave it out or skimp on it!
My favorite feta is Pastures of Eden, available at Trader Joe’s, because it’s lower in salt and very very creamy. It was out of stock for a while (something to do with a shortage of sheep’s milk in Israel) but I think it’s back now:
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Trim and slice the large eggplant into 1/2 inch thick rounds or baby eggplants in half, lengthwise. Place in a baking dish and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and salt. Cover with foil and cook until soft, about 40 minutes. Drain any liquid that gathers.
For the filling, saute onions in 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When softened, add the tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the tomatoes start to break down and the filling thickens, about 15 minutes. Add the herbs, stir, and turn off heat. Taste and adjust for seasoning – smoked paprika adds a nice kick.
Spoon filling over eggplant rounds or halves. Top with slices of cheese and place under the broiler until cheese browns. Serve with quinoa or couscous with some chickpeas thrown in. You can also go crostini style and place each round on top of a slice of baguette before broiling.