Mezze and the Middle East

This is the second week of Sundays with Moosewood recipes. Last week, I cooked up some African cuisine. This week, its Armenia and the Middle East. 

I carried the chapter for Armenia and the Middle East around in my bag for days. I intended to at least peruse it, make a shopping list, not wait until the last minute. Of course, it stayed in my bag until the last minute. That is 5 pm, Monday night when I  ran off to the local Giant grocery chain to pick up some last minute items: eggplant, onions, mayo, apricots, napkins. Usually, I like to go to a small local chain and buy organic, but I ran out of time and Giant is just across the road. I also usually use cloth napkins, but I’m behind on the wash because we are having work done on our basement, which is where the laundry is. Underwear beat out napkins on the priority list.

I had wanted to make an Imam Bayildi. This is one of my favorite dishes. It means “The Imam Fainted” supposedly that is what happened when he was presented with this dish. It is a baked eggplant dish which required letting the eggplant drain and baking for over an hour. Scratch that, no time. Next, I decided on stewed batilgian.

Batilgian (bottle-john) is the Armenian word for eggplant. This simple, economical dish is similar to ratatouille but lighter.

Another favorite dish of mine, ratatouille. Can you tell I just love eggplant? Really, there wasn’t any time for this dish either, because by now my husband was prowling and growling. Its a sure sign he’s hungry. So a quick check in the fridge – oh no, no cucumbers either how did that happen? Here’s the menu:

  • PitaImage
  • Yogurt
  • olives
  • Black Bean Ful
  • Bulghur Pilav
  • Herring
  • Apricots
  • Taratour
  • Carrots and celery
  • Fried Batiljian

IMG_1678IMG_1679First, I peeled and sliced the eggplant. This sat until later. Next, I started on the Bulghur Pilav. Basically, it’s like cooking couscous: you saute the onions add herbs and spices, stir in bulghur to toast and then add water and boil, reduce heat and simmer for around 15 minutes. While this was simmering I started on the Black Bean Ful. The recipe calls for dried black turtle beans or fresh fava and chopped fresh tomatoes.I cheated and used canned beans and tomatoes to save time.  IMG_1680

I love this little tool I found. I’ve had it for years. Use it one way to squeeze out tuna fish and the other way to drain beans.



In this recipe you are supposed to toss the warm-just-cooked beans with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Since, I’m using canned beans, I sauteed the garlic quickly in the olive oil added the beans to a pan and threw in the diced tomatoes and let stew for a bit. Then I made the taratour sauce. I ground garlic, dijon mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, pine nuts and blanched almonds in a blender with 1 cup water. I then added 2 cups crumbled italian bread. Ok, I just broke off a mini-baguette over the blender piece by piece until it was the consistency of mayonaisse. Add salt and pepper to taste. This Taratour sauce goes with the chopped carrots and celery, and the herring.

I arranged a plate of olives, sliced carrots and celery, pickled herring, and the Black Bean Ful. Lastly, I went on to fry up the eggplant. This was quick and easy. I heated up some olive oil in a dutch oven until it sizzled. I then dipped the eggplant rounds into the beaten egg and fried for 4 minutes on each side. I drained the fried batilgian on a brown paper bag and then patted with a paper towel. IMG_1682IMG_1685Dinner is done! This was delicious. I forgot to half the recipes this week, so it was too much food. But this food can be served warm or at room temp. So, we’ll just have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Yum.


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