SAKSUKA (Turkish-style fried eggplant meze with green peppers, tomato, garlic and yogurt)
4 to 5 good, large eggplants (remove the stem and peel zebra-style, leaving some skin on) or use 10 smaller imported Mediterranean/Italian eggplants. (You can find these excellent-quality imported eggplants either in Whole Foods Market in Wellesley or Russo & Son’s in Watertown)
1 cup peeled red tomatoes, diced into ½-inch cubes
1 Cubanelle green pepper, diced into ½-inch squares
1 to 1-1/2 Tablespoons finely chopped garlic
½ Tablespoon kosher salt
½ quart plain whole milk yogurt (We suggest Stonyfield, but make sure to remove the cream on top.)
- Cut the eggplant into two 3-inch squares and place in a large bowl. Discard sections of the eggplant that are full of seeds.
- Cover eggplant with cold water and add 1 Tablespoon kosher salt (or 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar) in order to remove the bitterness. Cover the bowl tightly with a plate or some other lid. Let sit for at least half an hour.
- Dice the tomatoes and green peppers into ½ – inch squares.
- Remove the eggplant from the water and squeeze the water out of each piece with your hands. This step is very important. Excess water will splatter when you start to fry them and will change the texture of the eggplant as well.
- Fill a heavy-duty pan halfway with canola oil. Turn the heat on high and wait until the oil gets hot. You can test it by carefully placing a small piece of eggplant into the oil and see if it sizzles.
- Carefully add the eggplant cubes to the pan in small batches so that they brown nicely. Repeat until all the eggplant has been fried.
- Remove the eggplant cubes from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on a tray covered with paper towel to absorb the oil. Let cool.
- Put cooled eggplant in a large, deep bowl.
- Heat olive oil (not extra virgin) in a pan. When the oil is hot, add the diced green peppers and cook on low heat until they are soft. Then, add the tomatoes and cook until soft. Add 1 to 1-1/2 Tablespoons of garlic and 1/2 Tablespoon of kosher salt. Cook the garlic, stirring, about 2 minutes.
- Allow the tomato, green pepper and garlic mixture to cool slightly (about 5 minutes), then mix with the cooled eggplant cubes and let sit for half an hour.
- Put approximately ½- quart of whole milk yogurt (a little more or less based on your preference) over the cooled eggplant, tomato, and green pepper and mix everything together. It’s important to make sure the mixture has cooled sufficiently before adding the yogurt.
- Add more salt and garlic if necessary, to taste.