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Karnı Yarık a.k.a. eggplant that you actually want to eat!

Highly affordable service is one of the really great things about living in Turkey.  For instance, because I really don’t enjoy cleaning, and definitely don’t do it as well as a professional, I have a lady come once a week to make my place shine.  But she’s such an awesome person that she doesn’t want to leave when she finishes cleaning the house.  Instead, she looks around for stuff to do to ensure that she puts in a full day’s work!  After she ironed everything she could find, mended all of my clothes, and fixed all of my experiments in home agriculture, she decided to start teaching me to cook Turkish style!

Sometimes I feel like one of the girls in The Help.  I love seeing Sarap, and she teaches me so many things about cleaning and all of the other facets of domestic engineering from a distinctly Turkish perspective.  After concentrating my Turkish studies on the high academic vocabulary of international relations, it was almost a relief to learn the words for bucket (kova) and broom (süpürge).

We started our cooking lessons with my favorite Turkish dish, karnı yarık, which translates to riven belly (like it’s torn or split – Turkey has lots of great dish titles).  It’s a eggplant boat with a vegetable/minced meat stuffing.  I always liked eggplant (this is an effect of growing up vegetarian) but didn’t fully appreciate it’s versatility until I came to Turkey.  Now, it’s my favorite ingredient.  Turks treat eggplant like Bubba treats shrimp – you always have options.

I was relieved this summer in Thessaloniki, Greece, when my friend Kim and I were at a Greek restaurant and overheard a group of Turk’s a few tables away asking the waiter what kind of eggplant dishes they offered.  This is usually my first question at menu-less restaurants here in Turkey, and their asking the same thing reinforced that I had properly embraced Turkish cuisine.

If you want to make karnı yarık, you’ll need the following  for 8 pieces:

  • 8 eggplants (the long skinny kind is best)
  • 100 g ground beef
  • vegetable oil
  • 8 hot peppers
  • 1 tomato, sliced into 8 pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • tomato paste
  • lots of salt and pepper

Start by cutting the ends off of the eggplant, then peel them in a striped fashion.

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Meanwhile, saute the hot peppers in the oil until slightly charred, then remove.

Mix the chopped bell pepper and onion in a bowl.

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Place the eggplant in the same pan and cook until browned on all sides (this may require multiple batches and lots of turning).

browning the eggplant

browning the eggplant

Once all of the eggplants are browned, remove from oil.  When cool enough to touch, slit them down the middle with a knife.

In another pan, cook the ground beef.  Once slightly browned, add the onions and bell peppers, and a little butter if you think it’s necessary (most Turkish cooks think it is!).

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Cook thoroughly, then add about 2 T tomato paste.  When the tomato paste is fully stirred into the mixture, add the chopped parsley, then remove the pan from heat.  This is your filling for the eggplant.

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Arrange the cooked eggplant in a deep skillet.  Fill each slit with the meat/veg mixture, then press a hot pepper and then a tomato on top of each eggplant.  Fill the pan with water to about 2/3 the height of the eggplant, then cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or so.  You have to taste to make sure it’s done.

This is best served over buttery rice.

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Afiyet olsun! (Bon appetit)

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