Eggplant Salad… Worthy of your “Rakı Table”…

Meyhane is one of the main components in Turkish culture. It is a type of restaurant where the menu heavily relies on alcohol (rakı or wine) and accompanying hot and cold appetizers, known as meze. Nobody eats big dinners at meyhane, everything comes to the table in small platters to be shared by everyone. This style is also the basic of a “Rakı table or dinner” which is a home-made version of meyhane. Some meyhanes have nice music groups that perform “Fasıl“, which is a collection of old Turkish classical songs played with traditional instruments.

During my college years in Istanbul, I was lucky enough to be surrounded with friends who enjoyed going to a different meyhane every month. We did not have to worry about driving afterwards, thanks to the public transport and cabs. Difficult mid-term exams, nerve-wrecking finals, heartbreaks, new excitements or just pure boredom were all good enough reasons for one of us to say “Meyhane tonight?”.

I am not a big drinker but I really enjoy the smoky atmosphere with some drama, laughter and the conversations loaded with the wisdom that only comes with some alcohol intake!  Thanks to my brother, I get my craving satisfied every time I visit. He makes sure he has something planned for me for one night: A night out in Istanbul with rakı, meze, music and friends… It is him in the picture below to the right, the guy with a big smile :)

Food never takes the center stage in meyhane but there are several cold and hot appetizers that are the main staples. Eggplant salad is one of them.

Roasted eggplants can be prepared in many ways, but these two are the common ones in my family: Either with some olive oil, vinegar, finely chopped tomato,spices and finely chopped parsley… or with olive oil, black pepper, salt, crushed red pepper, garlic and yogurt. If you can find some sweet Cubanella peppers, you can roast them as well and mix with the eggplants. I always prepare it with yogurt since it takes the sharp smoky taste and bitterness away.

Once you roast it, you can prepare both ways and see which one suits your taste. One thing to remember: Make sure you pierce the eggplants with a fork before you put them in the oven. Otherwise, the steam will build up and finally they will explode in your oven, scaring the heck out of you. The worse part: scrubbing the whole oven to get eggplant skins out of the walls.

When we go to meyhane, we do not go for the food. It is the company, conversation, music and alcohol that keep the night going. Food is just the necessary component to provide a landing base for the alcohol..you would not pay attention when it is there. But you would surely notice when it is missing!

Şerefe! (“Cheers” in Turkish)

Eggplant Salad

  • 8 eggplants (depending on the size of the eggplants, it will be enough to fill approximately 1.5 quart dish)
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons  yogurt (gradually add yogurt and taste after each addition to find your stopping point)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (if you can find, use Turkish red pepper “pul biber”)
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 450-degrees. Roast the eggplants as whole until they are done ( this will vary based on the size, check after 1 hour).

2. Let them cool and scrape the inside into a bowl.

3. Combine everything except yogurt with the eggplant. Use a fork and knife to break the strands and create a puree. Start adding yogurt gradually, tasting after each addition. Adjust salt and pepper if necessary.

 

16 Comments:

  1. by Tanvi
    10:35 am
    Mar 14, 2011

    I always love reading about different cultures and the food habits.Eggplant dishes are one of the best part of Turkish cuisine.Never ate eggplant salad with yogurt.Sounds good.

  2. by Melinda
    11:27 am
    Mar 14, 2011

    I would love to try this. It looks great. Do you serve it with something or just eat it plain? I would also love to see the other recipe that you mentioned for the other way to make it. It sounds pretty darn healthy too!

  3. by Meg (The Red Spoon)
    3:43 pm
    Mar 14, 2011

    I love every single aspect of meyhane. I wish it were a tradition here!

  4. by Ilke
    6:04 pm
    Mar 14, 2011

    @Melinda, this salad can go with pretty much anything, you can serve with pita bread as a dip or with grilled meat. Rich’s food blog, Oil&Butter has a good recipe for the other way around making, though he calls Greek salad :)
    Oh Meg, I so wish it was a tradition here too, I guess I can always start mine :)

  5. by sonia
    7:09 pm
    Mar 14, 2011

    Lovely eggplant salad. I have never tried it before but am sure wud love it with pita bread. Will give it a try soon.

  6. by Kristi Rimkus
    10:37 pm
    Mar 14, 2011

    Wonderful to have friends to share food and drink with. You all look like your having such a good time. I will try this with eggplant. I don’t often cook with it, but love the flavor. I make my own yogurt, so I can’t wait to see how this dish turns out.

  7. by Sommer@ASpicyPerspective
    11:07 pm
    Mar 14, 2011

    Oh I wish I could get my husband to eat eggplant. It’s one of the only things he’s funny about. It looks great to me. :)

  8. by Monet
    11:49 pm
    Mar 14, 2011

    For someone who loves eggplant…this sure seems like heaven. Thanks for sharing your recipe with me. This was a great way to end my Monday. I hope you have a safe and happy week!

  9. by something_good
    1:03 am
    Mar 15, 2011

    Being so close to Istanbul (1 hr flight), we go quite often for city breaks or use it as connecting hub to SE Asia. Each visit is a perfect opportunity to taste Turkish food which I love – eggplant salad is always on top of my orders!

  10. by Caroline Taylor
    1:06 pm
    Mar 17, 2011

    Thanks for the tip about piercing with a fork – I would have not known what to do with myself if it had happened. I love aubergines and this sounds like such a good recipe. I love meals where everyone tucks into everything.

  11. by Shelley Lucas
    11:46 am
    Mar 20, 2011

    Şerefe to you too! What a sweet story- I love to hear about other countries’ customs. So Meyhane sounds like the American tradition of happy hour. I’ve not yet made it to Turkey but hope to one day.

  12. by Kristin @ delishliving
    3:28 pm
    Mar 20, 2011

    awesome! as always, you have such a great way with words. i so enjoy your stories about your culture. looks like a wonderful way to spend an evening with friends! and the eggplant dish sounds simple and delicious – really, the best kind of food :)

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