In What We Owe by Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde, while living as an Iranian refugee in Sweden, Nahid looks back on growing up in Iran and her life as a “young person with great potential.” She reminisces about the summer nights cooking in the kitchen with her mom and her six sisters when they were preparing food for a party they were hosting. Together they cleaned vegetables, while one sister fried eggplant and cooked pot after pot of meat to serve at their party. “Eight women in a steamy kitchen. Mother and her seven daughters. It sounds like a fairytale.”
The following recipe, adapted from Istanbul & Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey by Robyn Eckhardt and David Hagerman, relies on staples of both Turkish and Iranian cooking: meat, eggplant, tomatoes and pungent spices. Cookbook author Robyn Eckhardt introduces the dish:
In this homey dish, köfte generously seasoned with the region’s favorite five spices—cinnamon, allspice, coriander, cumin, and black pepper—are arranged, alternating with chunks of browned eggplant, in concentric circles on a bed of thyme-scented tomato sauce and then baked. The result is a celebration of contrasts: the toothsome köfte and silky eggplant, rich meat and warm spices countered by a tomato sauce heady with thyme.
I’ve eaten versions of this made with beef or lamb; the former is more common in Diyarbakır, where I learned to make it at Omayra Café. As with all meatballs, ground meat on the fatty side will ensure moistness.
The tomato sauce cooks in 25 minutes, during which time you can make the meatballs and prepare the eggplant. The dish is so pretty that it deserves to be served at the table, straight from the pan. Rice and Orzo Pilaf or Simple Bulgur Pilaf, both from Istanbul & Beyond, are good accompaniments.
Recipe adapted from Istanbul & Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey by Robyn Eckhardt and David Hagerman. Copyright (c) 2017 by Robyn Eckhardt. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.