We’ve been lucky to hook up with Mediterranean culinary guru Paula Wolfert. We’ve been followers of Paula’s since the early 1980s, when we bought her classic book, the The Cooking of Southwest France. She’s written about everything from grains and greens to couscous. One of her recent cooking projects focuses on clay pot cooking.
Paula’s written an extremely valuable book, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking (Wiley, 2009). It features a wide variety of dishes, from first courses to meats and desserts, which are prepared in clay pots. (It’s not essential to use a clay pot to prepare the dishes.)
One of the featured vegetarian dishes comes from Turkey: a casserole of eggplant, lentils and mint. The dish comes from the coastal town of Senkoyon, near the Turkish Mediterranean coast. And the recipe comes courtesy of the acclaimed Turkish chef Musa Dağdeviren and the food journalist Ayfer Ünsal.
“What makes this dish stellar is the special technique used to prepare the eggplant slices,” Paula says. “They are not merely salted but immersed in heavily salted water, which removes any bitter juices but keeps them plump.”
She says another “distinguishing trick” is that you notch the sides of the eggplants used to line the bottom of the pot. “These indentations ensure that any liquid that seeps down from above will be absorbed fully,” Paula notes.
Begin by soaking and then notching the eggplants, followed by half-cooking the lentils in water. Grated tomatoes, onion, garlic, mint, green chile, red pepper paste, and other ingredients are combined in a bowl.
The notched eggplant is used to line the bottom of the pot. That’s then topped by the lentils and then the tomato mixture. The layering is repeated, and the top gets drizzled with a mixture of molasses and extra virgin olive oil.
The pot is cooked over low heat for 1-½ hours, and allowed to cool for at least 2 hours. “I like to make this dish early in the day and allow it to rest,” Paula says. The dish is served at room temperature accompanied by bowls of garlic-spiked yogurt.
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch