Even though August is usually hot and humid here in NC, there is a subtle change in the air. It seems that the poplar trees are among the first to start dropping their yellowed leaves, just a few here and there. The garden begins to look a bit tired and the cucumbers and tomatoes, while still producing, don’t seem to bear as much and the vines start to look a bit straggly. There’s still plenty of growing time and I have recently planted more cucumber seeds, in possibly an unrealistic attempt to get more cucumbers up until frost. We’ll see.
There’s a dish I love to make this time of year-somehow it symbolizes this time of year for me. It’s a regional Turkish dish…from the Gaziantep region of Turkey. I learned how to make this from my late mother-in-law and it remains one of my favorite foods. It seems to symbolize late summer gradually beginning to have a tinge of fall. In fact, it is the first meal I prepared on my new stove! The full detailed recipe will be in my cookbook, hopefully to be finished this fall…but this is basically how to make it.
2-3 T. vegetable oil
1 lb. stew meat, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
1 onion, diced
1 can diced tomatoes (or if you have a ton of extra tomatoes in the garden, use 3-4, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 long slim eggplant, chunked into 1-2 inch chunks
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
salt and pepper to taste
1 T. dried mint
2 T. butter
juice from 1 1/2 lemons
Heat the oil on medium high in a medium large pot. Stir in the onion, let wilt. Add in the meat and stir around. Let it brown a bit. Stir in the jalapeno peppers. Saute for a few minutes until everything is wilted and slightly browned. Stir in the tomatoes and add about 3 cups of water. You may need to add more from time to time. Turn down to low and let simmer for an hour or an hour and a half. Check the water level and add as needed. The meat should be tender before proceeding to the next step. Stir in the chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Then stir in the eggplant chunks, add a bit more water if needed. Add the lemon juice. It should be a little soupy but not overly watery. Check the seasoning. You may need to add more salt after adding the eggplant. Cook on medium for 20 minutes or until the eggplant are done. At this point, you can set it aside to rest for a little bit and let the flavors meld. Before serving, melt the butter in a small pan til it sizzles, then stir in the mint, and stir the whole thing into the stew. Serve with fresh crusty bread and enjoy!!!