It’s been “years” since my last post, hasn’t it? Or at least it feels so to me. I am not “to blame”. A couple of weeks ago I took a brief vacation from my full-time job to rest and to temporarily reunite with my blog. Instead, I had to take care of a medical emergency that popped out of nowhere. Oh well, things happen and life is unpredictable. But beautiful all the while. All is well that ends well and I am grateful for every breath I take. Spirituality aside, I am back to normal and ready to share one of my favorite recipes with you.
So ladies and gentlemen, meet badimjan sirdagh, garlicky eggplant with tomatoes. It comes from the southwest of Azerbaijan, and is especially popular in the region of Lenkeran, where in fact, it is believed to have originated. You only need 3 ingredients to make the dish—eggplant, tomatoes, and garlic. A tad bit o water to help seal the flavors together in one pot and voila! It is good beyond words. Eggplant lovers will rejoice while eggplant haters will rejoice, too. I received this recipe from my lovely friend, a generous soul, Sevda Ismail.
Note that there is also a sirdagh dish made with fish but it is a different story fit for a separate post.
Garlicky Eggplant with Tomatoes (Badimjan Sirdaghi)
8-9 medium dark-skinned eggplants, such as Japanese (about 2 ½ pounds / 1 kg 200 g)
½ cup olive oil or more as needed, for frying
5 medium ripe but firm tomatoes, cut into thick circles
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup water
Ground black pepper
First, prepare the eggplant. Using a sharp knife it lengthwise into slices, about 1/4-inch (6-mm) thick. Extract the bitterness from the eggplant using either of the methods below:
Method 1: Put a colander in the sink. Arrange the eggplant slices in the colander; sprinkle generously (about 2 tablespoons) with salt. Place a weight, such a plate with jars on top or a heavy lid, on top, to apply pressure. Leave for 20 minutes, to allow the bitter dark juices to drain. Rinse and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels.
Method 2: Place the eggplant slices in a bowl filled with cold water and sprinkle with salt on top (about 2 tablespoons). Place a weight, such a plate or lid, on top and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels.
In a medium frying pan (11-12 inch / 28-30 cm), heat the oil over medium heat until it is sizzling hot (eggplant will absorb all of the oil if it is not hot enough). Fry the eggplant slices on both sides until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Add more oil if necessary, heating it before adding a new batch of eggplant. Remove the slices from the pan and drain on paper towels.
If there is still some oil left in the frying pan, arrange the tomato slices in it, and cook about half a minute on each side (if the pan has dark bits from the eggplant, wipe with paper towels, add some oil and heat before cooking the tomatoes). Remove from the heat and place on a separate plate.
Wipe off the pan and arrange the eggplants in three to four layers on the bottom. Place a layer of tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour in the water, cover the pan, and simmer over medium-low heat, without stirring, for 15 minutes. Serve immediately with bread on the side.