31 October 2013

Eggplant Magic

Happy Halloween! This post has nothing to do with Halloween what so ever but I figured I couldn't let it pass unmentioned.

One of my favorite restaurants in Istanbul is Faros (which is also a hotel). Like every other restaurant in Sultanahmet, Faros has a wide range of kebabs. However unlike all the other kabab houses, Faros has a few more interesting dishes. Like the Harem Special which is pan fried lamb and walnuts in pomegranate sauce and the Hurrem Special which is similar, but almonds instead of walnuts and dried apricots and prunes. Dude. I also recently discovered a to die for appetizer there involving eggplant and goat cheese.

One of my complaints about Istanbul is that, as an American who's lived in a fairly international city for 10 years, I'm spoiled by access to virtually any food product I could want. There are a great many things available here in Istanbul but I live in a small neighborhood and my small market carries basics. In my world, goat cheese is a basic. My market disagrees.

My previous access to goat cheese here has been when I have dinner at a friend's. She lives in a much classier neighborhood than I do and has easy access to a Carrefour. The first time I ordered this appetizer at Faros I thought I'd died and gone to Goat Cheese Nirvana. When I had it a second time I realized that the weeks between had been a sad limbo-like existence. It was while visiting a friend of mine, who works in one of the spice shops near Gulhane, that I thought to ask if I could buy goat cheese (keçi peynir) at the Spice Bazaar. Why I didn't think about this nine months ago when I moved here.

Not only did I find a dealer for my goat cheese need, I also found a dish that stands up against the mediocrity that is Turkish wine AND added a fourth dish to my collection of food I can make without an oven! Unfortunately I used all the tomatoes I bought and am too lazy to go back to the market today, otherwise I'd make it again. But I have to go out tomorrow anyway so I will definitely be stopping for some then!

What you need:
  • 1 medium to large eggplant
  • 3-4 tomatoes
  • crap tons of garlic
  • goat cheese, preferably a semi hard
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • Italiany spices
  1. Peel a few bulbs of garlic. If they're tiny put them in the pan whole, otherwise just slice them. Add about 1/3 of the garlic to the pan and put the rest aside. Add 1-2 Tbls olive oil to the pan and set aside.
  2. Chop the ends of the eggplant then cut in half the short way. You don't have to completely peel the eggplant but I peeled two sides so it would lie flat in the pan and cook more quickly. Slice the two halves the long way into 4-5 sections.
  3. Heat the oil then lay eggplant slices in the pan. I used an herb blend from my spice guy that basically smells like Italy (the herb blend, not my spice guy). So whatever you think smells like Italy (garlic, oregano, etc) is what you should sprinkle on the eggplant.
  4. While the eggplant is cooking, dice in larger chunks, the tomatoes and slice the goat cheese.
  5. Turn eggplant, herb the cooked side, and cook the other side.
  6. I suffer from one pan syndrome so I took out the eggplant slices and set them aside. If you're fancy and you have two pans you can skip this step and cook the tomatoes while the eggplant is cooking. Add a little more olive oil, remaining garlic, diced tomatoes, and salt to the pans. 
  7. When the tomatoes are about done, lay the eggplant slices on top and lay over those the goat cheese slices.
  8. Cover pan until it looks like the goat cheese has softened.
  9. Plate, pair with red wine, and enjoy eggplant magic!
As an appetizer this should make enough for like four people. As my entire dinner though I ate it all and then wanted more. Seriously, it's like Nirvana. Try is and dare to disagree!

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