Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hunkar Begendi - Turkish Eggplant Puree

Adapted from The Mediterranean Kitchen by Joyce Goldstein

This is a recipe for Hunkar Begendi, a Turkish eggplant puree that was served at Joyce Goldstein's restaurant Square One in San Francisco as a bed for little meatballs in tomato sauce. Yes, I have served this puree with meatballs, but it goes well with leg of lamb and is perfect as part of a vegetable plate.

A tip about eggplants I got from a very early issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine (thoroughly debunked in a future issue) was to check out the bottom of the eggplant. If it's flat, it's male and has few seeds; if it has an indentation, it's female and has lots of seeds. I'm not a botanist (I know you didn't think I was a botanist), but I do know that, for me, this trick, however inexplicable, works.

Hunkar Begendi - Turkish Eggplant Puree
Adapted from The Mediterranean Kitchen by Joyce Goldstein

3 eggplants, about one pound each (not little Japanese ones)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup of bechamel sauce made with the following:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Do not peel the eggplants. Wash them and prick them in a few places with a fork. Put in a roasting pan, and bake, turning occasionally, until they feel soft. This will take about 45 minutes to one hour depending on your oven and the eggplants. Remove them from the oven, and let cool slightly until you can handle them. Cut them in half, scoop the flesh into a colander to drain for about 15 minutes. Puree the flesh in a food processor.

While the eggplants are cooling, make the bechamel. On top of the stove or in the microwave, heat the heavy cream until warm. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, and cook, stirring for about 4 minutes until well blended. Whisk in the warm cream, and continue to whisk until thick. This should take another 4 minutes. Then add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Mix the eggplant puree, bechamel, and Parmesan cheese in a bowl. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary. You can keep it warm over hot water in a pan or heat in the microwave right before serving.

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