conversion by the sword, geometric patterns, Byzantine mosaics, and the works of Salman Rushdie. Ha, I'm just kidding with that last one, I'm not trying to start no trouble with the Ayatola. Fatwa free is cool with me. Anyway, my point is that I've been experimenting with yogurt in my mutfak (Turkish for kitchen, you're welcome) and I couldn't resist whipping up a side dish (or main dish, if meat isn't your treat, man, I'm on a ROLL today with the rhyming, rap career here I come!) using the key staples of Turkish cuisine. Foolish, you say, to gourge yourself on roasted eggplant with yogurt mint sauce right before a ten day stint in Istanbul? Well, I say to YOU....that's something I probably should have thought about earlier. Oh well. I'm a struggle for a reason.
In a move sure to anger and infuriate Turks the world over, I've used Fage Greek yogurt in my recipe. In my defense, however, when was the last time you saw Turkish Yogurt on the shelves at, say, any supermarket or grocery store? It's this kind of quick thinking that defeated Xerxes during the Persian Wars, and it's that kind of availability that means you can make an exotic seeming dish trading any camels to do so. And in THIS economy, who really has livestock to spare?
Roasted Eggplant with Yogurt Mint Dressing:
1 large Italian eggplant OR three medium sized Japanese eggplants (Japanese Eggplants are a lavender color and are generally sweeter and faster cooking then their bulbous deep purple Italian counterparts)
5 cloves of garlic, minced (3 for the eggplant, 2 for the sauce)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (or plain yogurt if your allegiance to the Turkish flag prohibits such a thing)
1/4 cup of chopped mint leaves
the juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
olive oil or cooking spray
Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the eggplant into rounds between 1 and 1/2" thick (depending on your eggplant choices these will resemble Hannukah gelt or small coasters). Toss the eggplant with salt, pepper, 3 minced cloves of garlic and oil or cooking spray depending on your preference. Lay the slices out on a baking sheet, making sure that none of the slices overlap. Roast for 30 minutes or until done. The Japanese eggplant may take less time and the Italian more, but you will know the eggplant is ready when the outside is dry and a little browned and the inside is soft and gray.
Meanwhile, combine the yogurt, mint, lemon juice and zest, and the garlic. Mix well, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. The sauce is honestly better when it has some time to blend, so make it the day ahead or that morning if you can count on yourself not to spread it on everything possible before you even buy the eggplant.
Serve the roasted eggplant with a generous dollop of (or all of) the yogurt sauce. Savor the taste of Turkey, enjoy, and try to beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
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