For someone who boasts quite a bit about her Turkish heritage, I have to ‘fess up to the lack of Turkish recipes on my blog. My Grandma Aurora was an amazing cook, whose Sepahardi-Turkish recipes are imprinted on my taste buds. Trying to recreate her dishes often leaves me a bit disappointed, because although the results may be tasty, they are never exactly as hers were (no matter how closely I follow her old notecards’ frayed instructions). This is all the more reason to try out Turkish recipes that were never featured on my grandmother’s table — keeping the Turkish cooking heritage alive, without the finished product having to suffer any comparisons.
There are a lot of versions of this delicious eggplant and pilaf recipe, most or all containing meat of some kind. This recipe is my vegetarian riff on Claudia Roden’s Turkish Pilaf or Sultan Rasht Pilabi, from בישול ים תיכוני – Cooking of the Mediterranean. If you are an eggplant lover and are craving a meal with that homemade, old-world flavor, this is just the ticket. Enjoy.
Sultan’s Eggplant Pilaf, heavily adapted from Claudia Roden’s Cooking of the Mediterranean
1 large eggplant, cut into cubes
sunflower oil (or other mild vegetable oil suitable for pan frying)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cups (350 grams) long grain white rice
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp cumin
3 Tbs chopped pistachios
3 Tbs chopped almonds
2-3 tomatoes, cut into wedges
Toss the eggplant cubes with a generous amount of salt and put them in a strainer, set over a bowl or some towels, to pull out some of their bitter liquid. This will take 30-60 minutes after which the eggplant should be rinsed of salt and gently squeezed in paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to dry.
Saute the chopped onion in a couple tablespoons of oil until it softens and begins to turn golden. Add the rice and stir to coat with oil. Bring the soup to a boil and pour over the rice. Add salt if the broth is not already salted and cover the pot, simmering the rice on low for 18-20 minutes.
Heat another spoonful of oil in a wide saute pan and pan fry the chopped nuts until they are golden. Remove nuts from pan and set aside on paper towel to absorb the oil.
Add another spoonful of oil to the pan and saute the dried eggplant on medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Toss in the cumin and pepper, and when eggplant is tender, add the tomato wedges and saute a couple minutes more.
Arrange the rice on a shallow serving dish and spoon the eggplant mixture over the top. Sprinkle the nuts over everything and serve family-style, with some yogurt or labane and a simple salad.