Remember the old saying, "You can't judge a book by its cover"? It means that we shouldn't make judgments based solely on appearances. Usually, that is good advice to follow. But, when I saw Claudia Roden's lovely cookbook, Arabesque: A Tale of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon, at Borders a few weeks ago, I didn't even look inside before I grabbed it and raced up to the check-out counter. I knew just by looking at that beautiful cover, that I was going to love this book- and I do!
Claudia Roden is popular cookbook author, widely regarded as an authority on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. In her forty year career, she has won numerous awards, including the prestigious James Beard Award. In Arabesque, she provides an informative and thoroughly enjoyable journey through the cuisines of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon, offering a closer look at the different culinary traditions within these three cultures. The book includes snippets of history, anecdotes and over 150 recipes. It also boasts many lovely photographs by Jason Lowe and Noel Murphy.
Arabesque is divided in to three sections, one for each of the countries she writes about; Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon. It is also further divided into courses from starters to desserts. One could plan a veritable feast, either from the same country, or by mixing and matching recipes from each.
For my first foray into Arabesque, I chose to make Eggplants Stuffed with Meat from the section on Turkey. The ingredients were simple and can be found at any grocery store. The instructions were straightforward and easy to follow. Roden's recipes are not overly fussy and allow a lot of room for individual interpretation.
Whether you are already a fan of the Mediterranean cuisines showcased in this cookbook, or you'd like to get to know them better, Arabesque will not disappoint. With so many great dishes to choose from, you will never get bored. I'm looking forward to cooking this book for a long time!
Stuffed Eggplants with Meat
6 thin and long medium-sized eggplants
sunflower oil for frying
2 onions, chopped
1 lb ground lamb
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 large tomatoes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup tomato juice
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Trim the caps from the eggplants. Peel 1/2-inch wide strips off the skins lengthwise, leaving alternate 1/2-inch strips of peel. Soak the eggplants in water mixed with 1 tbsp of salt for 30 minutes. Drain and dry them.
Fry the eggplants briefly in hot oil in a shallow skillet, a few at a time, turning to brown them lightly all over. Drain them on paper towels.
For the filling, fry the onion in another pan in 2-3 tbsp of oil until soft. Add the meat and cook for about 5 minutes, crushing it with a fork and turning it over until it changes color. Add the tomato paste, one tomato, peeled and chopped, the cinnamon, allspice, salt, pepper and parsley. Stir well and simmer about 10 minutes, until liquid is reduced.
Place the eggplants side by side in a baking dish. With a sharp knife, make a slit in the center of each one, lengthwise, along one of the bare strips, until about 1-inch from each end. Carefully open the slits and press against the insides to make a hollow pouch.
Stuff the eggplants with the meat mixture, using a dessert spoon. Slice the remaining tomato and place slices on top. Pour the tomato sauce into the dish, cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the eggplants are soft.
Here are some more delicious eggplant recipes:
Eggplant Stewed in Honey and Spices from The Traveler's Lunchbox
Eggplant Parmesan Stacks from Ms. Adventures in Italy
Baingan ka Bharta from A Life (Time) of Cooking
Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree from The Smitten Kitchen
Curry Eggplant Croquettes with Mango Chutney from Closet Cooking