Getting Fresh in Turkey with Aubergines n’ Greens

I fell in love in Turkey. With aubergine.
I know it sounds a little surprising, but believe it or not, before this trip I wasn’t so smitten with this oddball veggie. Part of the reason for my former uncertainty was simply the name: eggplant. Of all the unappealing things to call such a delightful vegetable, eggplant has got to be the worst. It sounds totally gross. I think we could all stand to get a tad pretentious and call them aubergines from now on. Same vegetable, now far more appealing.

Okay, that’s the first hurdle. The next question mark for me was undoubtedly the texture. So mushy, so slippery…what is one to do? Unless you are going to deep fry the health out of aubergine and turn it into crispy bliss, there is only one thing to do about its inherent consistency, and that is to embrace it. Aubergine is pillowy when cooked, soft and velvety. Instead of trying to make it something it is not, I have learned to love its unique creaminess. It works wonders pureed into a dip, such as babaganoush, as a sandwich spread, or as a bed for a saucy topping.

And lastly, the taste; aubergine is not majorly captivating in the flavour department. The flesh somehow manages to be slightly bitter and bland at the same time, so the trick is to use it as a base for building taste upon. Think of aubergine like a sponge that can soak up all the bold and exciting flavours you can pair it with. From this perspective, aubergine really is a versatile veggie with boatloads of potential only limited by your imagination.

Aubergine, What A Dream 
Now that we’ve discovered that aubergine is not a complete dud in the culinary department, we can move on to celebrating its surprising nutritional value.
Aubergine is crazy-low in calories (only 19 calories per cup! what?), but high in fiber, making it a delight for anyone watching their weight. This veggie will fill you up, but not out. It should be noted however, that aubergine’s sponge-like texture soaks up oil extremely quickly and it’s easy to add a lot of fat and calories without realizing it.

As mentioned above, aubergine is an excellent source of digestion-supportive dietary fiber. This fiber can bind to cholesterol in the digestive tract so that fat is not absorbed into the bloodstream. Aubergine also contains bone-building manganese and vitamin K. This vegetable can enhance immunity, boost tumor-fighting activity and inhibit the production of cancer-causing nitrosamines. [1]

Aubergines are part of the nightshade family of vegetables, which include tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. For this reason, anyone with arthritis (like me) and inflammatory conditions should limit nightshades in their diet. Pregnant women should also keep aubergine consumption to a minimum as it can cause miscarriage. You can read more about the effects of nightshade vegetables here.


The thing that really inspired me about Turkey was the freshness. The landscape was bursting with life, purity, and abundance. As a result, Turkey seems to be a produce-centric culture focused on seasonal and local foods. A typical breakfast included lots of veggies; cucumber, tomato and piles of greens – my kind of party! I was very inspired by that, and by then end of the week I was mowing down watercress at sunrise like a little lamb.

From the crisp mountain rivers that ran into the clearest turquoise sea, to the verdant mountain ranges radiating the scent of orange blossoms, to the markets overflowing with rainbow colours and vibrant people, Turkey completely captured my heart and my appetite.
This recipe was inspired by the amazing flavours I savoured in Turkey, all of them with a back-story. It was fun to create a dish where every single element reminds me of a time or place on the trip, right down to the teeny sesame seeds we bought from a woman on the side of the road, harvested from her own garden. Of course, when you take inspiration from a harmonious experience, you end up with harmonious flavours. That’s just how it works!


 



Aubergine n’ Greens
Serves 4
Ingredients:
4 large aubergines
plenty of fresh greens  (arugula, watercress, spinach, purse lane)
olive oil
good finishing salt, such as Maldon
fresh mint
goat’s feta (cow feta also works)
liquid honey
3 Tbsp. sesame seeds
pinch crushed chili flakes
1 lemon
Spicy Tahini Sauce (see recipe below)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 °F/200°C.
2. Toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant. Remove from pan to cool.
2. Cut each aubergine in half lengthwise. Score across the flesh on a 45° angle and then repeat in the other direction to achieve a diamond pattern (this allows the steam to escape). Drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the flesh is very soft and golden.
3. While the aubergines are roasting, make the Spicy Tahini Sauce.
4. Remove aubergines from the oven, crumble a bit of feta on each half and turn on the broiler. Broil just until the cheese softens and takes on some colour (watch the aubergines carefully so they don’t get too dark). Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
5. Serve aubergines on a bed of greens doused with lemon juice. Sprinkle with roasted sesame, crushed chili flakes, flaky salt, lots of mint, a generous drizzle of honey and the Spicy Tahini Sauce.


Spicy Tahini Sauce
Makes about 1 cup/225ml
Ingredients:
1/3 cup/80ml tahini
1 large clove garlic
1 ½ Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. crushed chili flakes (or to taste)
pinch of salt
1 tsp. honey (or agave)
water to thin

Directions:
In a food processor or blender, add all ingredients and blend on high until smooth. Add water to thin to desired consistency (I added almost 2/3 cup water). Remember that this sauce is meant to drizzle, so it shouldn’t be thick and gloppy. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.

[1] Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Dietary Wellness. New York, NY: Penguin, 2003.


Copyright 2012 My New Roots at mynewroots.blogspot.com

53 comments

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  4. Renee

    I’ve just made this dish and it was delish. As I was afraid that it would be watery, I cut the aubergines in thick slices, did the crisscross as you suggested and they got nicely roasted on both sides. I was so yummy with the add-ons. Your recipes are always so good.

  5. Natalia Wieclaw

    I just love your food, I’ve never made anything off your website that doesn’t taste fabulous! I would love to receive your newsletters or be notified of any new recipes that come on your website. Please 🙂

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  7. Arlette

    This dish is fabulous the best aubergine recipe I’ve followed and one of the best vegan ones too. I placed it on a bed of massaged kale which I gently panfried – so I guess combining two of your posts in one! Would love to come on one of your food retreats so I hope you manage to continue despite the constraints of motherhood. Thanks for being such an inspirational foodie.
    PS eggplants have always been known as aubergines in England!

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  9. Jessica

    Oh my, how I LOVED this dish. It even got the compliments of my meat loving parents. Definitely going to be making this again! It was a LOT of food, so I have plenty of leftovers. Yum!

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  12. Adelya

    Sarah, its my fav vegetable and if you a sweet potato, im aubergine 😉
    Where in Turkey have you been? Im thinkin of going to Istanbul in May with my mom.
    Would love to hear some tips 😉

  13. Scout

    First, I am sitting at my computer eating this, and it’s amazing! I’m so glad to have another way to eat eggplant (excuse me, aubergines) – and an easy way, too!
    Second, as someone who grew up thinking eggplants were disgusting solely because of the name (really? eggplant? How did that even come about?), I think you are absolutely right about calling them aubergines 🙂

  14. Alice

    This spicy tahini sauce was soooo good. I stood at the counter & ate half the eggplant-after it cooled a bit. Eggplant loves to soak up all those yummy flavors. Such a great recipe! Loved the Turkey pix.

  15. Anonymous

    Turkey is a wonderful country! I’ve been there numerous times and try to go at least every two years. People are friendly, food is absolutely heavenly and the mountains are a delight to hike and the seas… what can I say about the seas?!? Turkey has many different kinds of eggplants, including short fat ones, and long skinny ones. I’ve had many, many different types of eggplant dishes and all of them were superbly prepared. Turkey is a heaven for foodies, whether you are a vegatarian or omnivore. Glad you enjoyed your trip Sarah B.!

  16. Johanna and Josh

    Hi Sarah,

    I recently began reading your blog and am loving all of the in depth nutrition info. I would like you talk more about one thing from this post: “Pregnant women should also keep aubergine consumption to a minimum as it can cause miscarriage.” Also, do other nightshade vegetables have the same effect? With all of the “don’ts” given to pregnant women these days, it’s interesting that nightshades haven’t made the list.

    This seems like too significant of a statement to not explain.

    Thanks!

  17. Anonymous

    I just found your blog a few days ago. WOW. You cook the same things I do, only more varied, and that is the key! Not many people inspire me (I’m gourmet/healthy every night, already), but you make me see there is more I can do! Keep it up!

  18. Kitchenette Finds

    I am SO trying this! Eggplants can be a little tricky, but so worth it when you do right by them. Last summer we grilled eggplant on a charcoal grill and made smoky, smoky babaganoush (now THAT is fun to say).

  19. aef

    This was SO delicious. Thanks for a single-veggie roast that’s NOT squash…so many great flavors in one little dish. And the presentation turned out beautiful, also.

    Love this blog!

    smaklig måltid from Sweden,
    Arianna

  20. nicholedunst

    Turkey is at the top of my bucket list and these pictures completely reinforce those dreams! Beautiful pictures and delicious looking food. I just discovered this blog and I will absolutely be returning 🙂

  21. Stacy

    I am pleased to hear you’ve embraced the humble aubergine! I think you have the right idea in mind in just going with–instead of fighting–its unique texture and tendencies. And I love that you took inspiration from so many experiences to create this recipe!

  22. Jenné

    Lovely photos! It looks and sounds like you had an amazing time in Turkey. Looks like produce heaven to me. I love those outdoor markets 🙂
    The aubergine photo is stunning!

  23. Smultron Soul

    I really appreciate your nutritional information in all your posts. I love Turkey as well, it is a lovely place for vegetarians to actually get variety in their diet, as well as eat the most scrumptious food!

    I’m a little disheartened on learning about the danger of nightshade veggies, especially tomatoes, as they’re my fav and I cook them at least 4 times a week. Isn’t there any saving grace?

  24. Kitchen Vignettes

    I am SO glad that the mighty aubergine has finally worked its charms on you. It’s my favourite, hence the name of my blog (and my long-standing nickname) and so I love this blogpost! (But I love all your blogposts)… the tahini sauce sounds tasty and the eggplant grilled like looks so delicious. Yum!

  25. gemma lush

    Sarah I just love your food & blog… Where did you go in Turkey? I’m off on a trip in June and would just LOVE any tips on where you went & ate!

    Gemma xx

  26. Anonymous

    You might like Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Plenty, which features a very similar recipe on the cover! The book is one of the most beautiful collection of vegetable recipes around!

  27. cutekittypunk

    I love eggplants, in fact, we are having stuffed eggplants for dinner… so it was nice to see this post in my reader today… i’ll have to try this variation next time 🙂

  28. nme

    I’m excited for a new tahini sauce! I really really love it in dressings and sauces – it just reminds me of home so much. Where in Turkey are you (or were you)? That looks so beautiful!

  29. Liz B

    Great recipe! I LOVE aubergines, and was in need of a new way to cook them, so yipee!! And I wasn’t aware at how amazingly nutritious they were too, so double yipee!
    Pics and holiday look awesome!
    Thanks x x x

  30. jeni

    aubergine vs. eggplants — yea, i’m going to call them aubergine too. this recipe looks divine! i’ll have to keep an eye out for some delicious eggplants at my farmers’ market!

  31. Ann-Louise

    Beautiful post! I personally love eggplant aka aubergine, especially grilled on a pizza. but I remember despising it when I was a kid. Growing up in California our garden was full of fresh veggies and I dislikes most of them…

  32. janet @ the taste space

    I absolutely adored Turkey when I visited a few years ago. I had no clue what their cuisine was until I got there, and then I was positively smitten. So simple, yet so good. Did you pick up any Aleppo pepper? That stuff is fabulous and ridiculously cheap there.

    Love the goat pic, btw.

    As well, made your root veggie mulligatawny and it was wonderful (just posted my version).

    Can’t wait to try this when I pick up an eggplant. 🙂

  33. Sasha

    I think that I’ve caught the travel bug just from looking at your pictures. That and a craving for aubergine.

    I felt the same way you did until Israel introduced me to roasted eggplant with lots and lots of tahini. Can’t wait to try the Sarah B. version!

  34. Krysta

    I am in LOVE with this recipe. I adore eggplant, ahem, excuse me, aubergines. 😉 I can assure you it will be on my dinner table this week. Thanks, Sarah!

  35. sylvia

    You should try Vietnamese eggplant too, you can buy it in china town usually. Its exactly the same except its long and thin like a zucchini, the skin doesn’t get tough, and it takes half the time to cook!

  36. Anonymous

    Beautiful! I lived in Istanbul for two years and like you, fell in love with eggplant. I can’t believe how much I’ve missed by not eating it before then! And yes, the markets… so wonderful. This recipe looks wonderful! ~Brenda

  37. Kit

    I love aubergine! For some bizarre reason, it took me a while to realise what a wonderfully awesome food it is, but now I’d eat it every day if I could. Thrilled to hear about it’s nutritional values as well. I’m definitely trying out the recipe- looks yummy!

  38. Joanna DeVoe

    GORGEOUS pics! What a beautiful vacation. That recipe looks intriguing as well. I like to saute cubed eggplant with garlic & olive oil & then use that instead of noodles for pasta :O)

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