Turkish Eggplant Tomato Casserole
One of my favorite vegetables is eggplant. I am always looking for new ways to cook eggplant. I can never eat enough of Turkish cuisine. It is one of the cuisines I hope to explore more of in the future to cook.
So when I came across Imam Bayildi or Turkish Eggplant Tomato Casserole, I had to make it. While this is a simple recipe, it is time-consuming. About an hour and a half so it isn’t a quick weekday meal, but a leisurely weekend one. Do not let the time scare you off, It is worth making it.
This dish is nice year round. It can be served warm or at room temperature. I have served it with hummus and pita or a cucumber salad. It also would go nicely with roasted or grilled meat.
Imam Bayildi Turkish Eggplant Tomato Casserole
- 2 pounds of medium-sized eggplant (I prefer Japanese eggplant, but Italian will do) thinly sliced
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1-4 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
- Dash of cinnamon
- 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, divided
- 1 Preheat the oven to 350F.
- 2 Lightly salt the eggplant slices and allow to stand for 20 minutes. Pat the slices dry and set aside.
- 3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil.
- 4 .Pan fry the eggplant in batches over medium-high heat until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Add more oil as necessary between batches so the eggplant doesn't burn, but try not to have too heavy a hand - the pan just needs to be greased.
- 5. Remove the eggplant to a plate.
- 6. Add the onion to the skillet and saute over medium heat until soft.
- 7. Add the garlic, chili flakes, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and cinnamon. Cook for one minute more, until fragrant.
- 8 Add tomatoes and simmer until thickened slightly, 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in half the parsley.
- 9. Spread a layer of tomato sauce in an oven proof casserole dish. Layer eggplant and sauce.
- 10. Cover with foil or casserole lid and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft and the sauce has reduced.
- 11. Let it stand for 10 minutes before cutting into it.
- 12. Garnish with the remaining parsley and serve warm or at room temperature.
Yes, Perfect Roasted Potatoes.
Growing up with an Irish mother, roasted potatoes were served on a regular basis along with boiled potatoes. Bisto Gravy was a must in our house. Getting perfect roasted potatoes can be very difficult. I know since growing up, I had plenty. They are hard on the outside and dry on the inside. The Bisto Gravy helped, but still.
As an adult, I like roasted veggies and I have been experimenting with roasting. Unlike when I was young where only the meat and potatoes were roasted while the veg was boiled in water, I have started roasting the potatoes and veg together with success. I toss them with olive oil and lots of herbs making it flavorful. Getting the temperature and timing right is the hardest for me.
The keys to roasting for me are:
- the right amount of oil. There should be enough to brown it and keep it moist.
- the size of the veg. The veg and potatoes need to cut into similar sizes and not too large.
Feel free to use veg you have on had to roast. I have roasted pepper, squash, sweet potatoes, and cabbage. All turn out nicely.
- 1 lb. (bag) small potato medley or baby red potatoes, sliced in half
- 1/2 lb. baby carrots, sliced in half or other veg
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoon fresh thyme, mined or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
- 2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the potatoes, baby carrots, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme.
- 3. Spread out the potato mixture into a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil.
- 4. Roast in oven stirring occasionally for 25-30 minutes.
Boiled Peanuts are an NC specialty.
Unless you are from eastern North Carolina then you most likely have never heard of boiled peanuts. They are a well-kept secret. It is a very seasonal and local specialty. You know it is that time of year when stands pop up all over the backroads of eastern North Carolina. The peanuts are sold out of pickup trucks. Some are well-oiled operations with tents and boilers while others are just a pickup truck with plastic bags of the warm peanuts. There are no worries about them getting cold since they are sold out quickly. People just know. And they just crave them regardless of age, gender, race, or economic status. It is a comfort food.
Now, most folks from eastern North Carolina are skeptical about anyone not from there liking it. They will raise an eyebrow at you if you are lacking the correct accent. That said, they will gladly share and talk to you about boiled peanuts. Though they are pretty sure you are not going to like it. It is nice to prove them wrong.
What are Boiled Peanuts?
All boiled peanuts are not created equal. Having lived in Tarboro, North Carolina, I have only eaten what I would call eastern-style. All the locals will firmly tell you that if it is from anywhere else it is just plain wrong and that those folks are not doing it correctly. Tarboro is in Edgecombe County just off I-95. It is a rural community where peanuts, cotton, and tobacco are the main cash crops. In fact, much of the peanuts you eat at baseball games come from eastern North Carolina and southern Virgina.
Not to embarrass anyone so I will just get it out of the way. Peanuts come from the ground like potatoes and other root vegetables. They are not from bushes. Honestly, unless I lived in Tarboro, I never would have known where peanuts came from. And yes I am educated and have traveled the world. Just never crossed my mind.
What makes boiled peanuts special in eastern North Carolina is the peanuts are new green peanuts. Other regions in the United States South dry the peanuts then boil them. Apparently, it changes the texture and taste. And as the Edgecombe County folks say it is not as good as their way. (Word of advice, never challenge someone from North Carolina about pork BBQ and boiled peanuts because you are going to lose. They are passionate and proud about their food culture.)
Everyone has their own way of preparing them like most comfort foods. They are simple to make: green peanuts in the shell, water, and salt. That is it. The secret is the ratio of water to salt. And that takes practice.
There are two ways of enjoying the peanuts. You just put one in your mouth then crack the shell and sucking out the peanut and juice. Or my preferred way, crack the peanut out with your nails. Eat it like you would an oyster with the slurping and all. You have to have the salty juices. I was unable to keep myself neat with salted peanut juices running down my arm… and ok my chin. It was not a dignified affair. After a bunch my fingers became wrinkly. Well worth it. Best not to eat in public until you have the form down or like me you will look a sight.
Go Ahead and Try Them
I am not going to fib to you, but it is an acquired taste and I rather like it. It only took me seven years of living in Tarboro in Edgecombe County to try them. I was always too late and would miss the small window they are available. It is worth giving it a taste. So if you are traveling the backroads of eastern North Carolina then stop and buy a bag for some local flavor.
It is worth giving it a taste. So if you are traveling the backroads of eastern North Carolina then stop and buy a bag for some local flavor.
Brake for Farmers Markets
I know I do whenever I get a chance. I spent the morning wandering through a farmers market on the Northern Neck of Virginia. In our move up the East Coast, I am enjoying the regional food culture of wherever we are staying. The Northern Neck is rich with farmers markets and produce stands dotting the countryside. The markets here tend to rotate among towns very weekend. It is not just fresh produce, but locally-made cheeses, bread, and meats that are sold.
I cannot help myself; I always have been that way. I have to stop and check out these markets and stands out. Growing up, my family had a huge garden on the side of the house on Greenlake Drive in Middletown, NJ. During the summertime, what we didn’t grow, we would go to produce stands along side of the road. Everywhere I have lived there was a summer farmers market. Lexington, Kentucky had the best one to date. It was huge and the products offered was of an amazing variety. They were very progressive by taking credit cards and accepting food stamps. The market made it easier for you shop fresh and wholesome regardless of your economic status. The last town I lived in, Tarboro, North Carolina, just formed a farmers market with the leadership of local business owners and town government. Every market day it is getting bigger as more vendors and visitors come. Having access to fresh, affordable produce is important to the health of the community.
There is something special about picking out fresh off the vine tomatoes while talking to the farmer about the weather. The farmers are very passionate about what they produce and are very proud of it. And you should too be passionate about what you eat. The produce you purchase is in season and fresh. Most of it came from a couple miles away and often you can see the actual farm where it was grown.
Visiting a farmers market forces me to think about food and meals. You never know what kinds of produce will be offered that day. It depends on what is ripe and ready. Today I came across butter beans, tiny tomatoes, green tomatoes, sweet pepper, and big sandwich slicers. That sets my thought process as to what I can make with these fresh ingredients. Lots. I plan on making a tiny tomato butter bean salad where I will add some asparagus and a vinegarette. With the green tomatoes, I will make fried green tomatoes. The sweet pepper and some of the tiny tomatoes will go in tonight’s hummus roasted veg tart.
This summer and fall, think local for your produce. It will open your mind and taste buds to new flavors.
Farm Fresh for Eggplant Okra Curry
During the summer, local fresh produce is abundant like eggplants and okra. Perfect for this simple eggplant okra curry dish that’s vegetarian. As I am traveling up the East Coast of the US on my way to our new home in Newport, Rhode Island, I plan on taking advantage of locally grown produce. Currently, I am on the Northern Neck of Virginia which is on the Chesapeake Bay. Farm fresh produce and just off the Bay seafood is in abundance. Honestly, I have been here since Friday night and it is Monday now and I have been to the produce stand three times! So glad they take bank cards as payment. The tomatoes, corn, peaches, berries…. yum! You can not OD on fresh tomatoes and corn, can you? If yes, then I will gladly go that way. I think by the end of three weeks here they will know me by name and I will know them.
Back to the eggplant okra curry. The produce stand had a quart okra and small local eggplants. How could I pass them? They needed to come home me and have me cook something. I am trying to get back on the plant positive lifestyle again so I decided to make a veggie Indian curry. Indian cuisine like many of the regions of the world is focused on veggies and fruit. As I traveled with a trunk of my spices, Dutch ovens, and other favorite cooking things, I had everything on hand to make it. The ingredient list is simple with spices you can get at your local grocery store. If you have fresh tomatoes, you can chop them up. It would take about 5 Roma or 2 big slicing tomatoes. I used my canned since I rather eat those beauties of slicing tomatoes with a little salt and pepper.
You can make it as a meal by adding naan or rice, serve it as a side for grilled chicken, or throw it in a food processor making a warm dip. Either way, it is not over powering and I have kept it mild in spiciness for those who aren’t into the heat. If you are looking for more Indian-style or vegetarian recipes, check out here.
Now go find a local produce stand and see what you came make. Since I have leftover okra, I will be trying out Thug Kitchen’s Baked Okra and Potato Hash.
Simple Eggplant Okra Curry
- 2-4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 small onion, sliced thinly
- 1 teaspoons turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 large eggplant, chopped into 1 inch cubes
- 1 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes
- 1 lb okra, trimmed and chopped
- Kosher salt to taste
- Generous turns of the pepper grinder
- Bunch of cilantro, chopped
- In large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium to medium-low heat.
- Fry the cumin seeds until fragrant.
- Add the onion cooking until soft
- Then add turmeric, cumin, and coriander cooking for a minutes.
- Add the eggplant and okra cooking for about 15 minutes just until it begins to soften. (you may have to add more oil.)
- Add the tomatoes and cook for another 15 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Stir in cilantro.