To those of you who have noticed, my sincerest apologies for being M.I.A. The last month has been hectic, to say the least. I had to finish up the school year, pack up all my belongings, move back into my parent's house (where I'll be until I leave for Nice in September), and begin an informal summer history course and start a new job. Whoo! Plus, I'll admit, when living at home, my mommy does most of the cooking and she does such a gosh darn good job of it that I leave her to it for the most part. That is, of course, until she needs my help.
Tonight we are having a family party to celebrate my uncle's recent marriage and welcome his new wife into the family. There will be over 40 mouths to feed so we've been cooking all sorts of traditional Iranian foods since this morning to get everything ready in time. It sounds nuts to undertake so much, but for the two of us who love cooking and for all the warmth and love that home-cooked food brings into the home, we think its worth it (what we'll think tonight when it's all over and there are piles of dishes to clean is another story...).
One of the dishes we made together is an all-time favorite of mine, Kashke Bademjan. Kashk is a sour creamy liquid made from whey or something. It doesn't taste too good on it's own but serves as a great topping for many Iranian dishes including this one and a hearty noodle soup called Asheh Reshteh. I believe it is made by curddling milk or something. It's availible in dry or liquid form and I would recommend looking for it in an Iranian or Middle Eastern grocery store near you, if you have one, or buying it online here.
This dish involves tons of eggplant being simmered for a long time, so I certainly wouldn't recommend it if you're in a rush. Otherwise though, I find it like a more delicious version of Baba Ganoush, if you've had that. I've made it several times, including one night in Morocco last summer when all I had was a few eggplants, some oil, and some salt, without the kashk and it's still ridiculously delicious.
Tonight, we'll be serving it with squares of lavash bread for dipping, but it would be delicious with just about any kind of flatbread. To make it more visually appealing (it tends to just look like brown mush, topped with the white creamy kashk), we topped it with carmelized onions and swirled in some kashk mixed with saffron (hence that rich color).
5-6 eggplant (my mom likes the longer Chinese eggplants, but I've used all varieties)
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2-3 big onions, diced
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tsp black pepper
2-3 tbsp kashk (if you can't find it, I've used creme fraiche)
1 tsp saffron, dissolved in 2 tbsp of boiling water
Peel the eggplants and dice them into small pieces. Add them to a frying pan or large saucepan with water and tomato paste and let slowly simmer on low or medium-low, covered.
Meanwhile, heat the oil to a frying pan on medium-high heat. Add the onions, turmeric and pepper, and caramelize.
Once the onions are caramelized, add most of them to the simmering eggplant, reserving about a quarter for the garnish. Uncover and continue cooking until the water and any juice from the eggplants has evaporated, stirring as often as possible.
When you the eggplant seems no longer watery and only the leftover oil from the caramelized onions remains, allow it to sit and brown in the pan. The longer you let this cook, the more the flavors will mellow together and the tastier it gets. After about 20 minutes, turn off the heat and add salt and pepper, to taste. Mix with the kashk or a mixture of sour cream and yogurt.
Pour into your serving dish. For the garnish, add a few drops of saffron dissolved in hot water to kashk. Add this mixture, plus the rest of the caramelized onions to the top of the eggplant mixture and use the end of your spoon to create a dramatic flow, dragging the toppings into eachother.
Serve with pita chips or lavash bread.