Dried Eggplant Dolma

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I have been receiving complaints from readers, friends, and friends of friends about lack of new recipes on the blog. I know; it’s been a while. I’ve been busy and lazy at the same time. But here we go.

Dried eggplant dolma is a popular winter dish mainly in the southeastern part of Turkey. Reasonable size eggplant are cut in half, carved, put on strings, and dried out in the sun to cherish eggplant deliciousness in the winter. You can find strings of dried eggplants easily at Turkish or Middle Eastern markets. The number of dried eggplants on a string vary between 30-40. Why am I cooking dried eggplants when we can find tasty fresh ones? We’re moving across the country and I am cooking our pantry one item at a time!

1 string of dried eggplants ( 30)

for the stuffing
1 lb ground beef
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp spicy pepper paste (it’s ok not to use it if you cannot find it)
1 medium tomato, grated or 1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup white rice
1/2 cup bulgur (if not, substitute with rice)
juice of one lemon (In the southeast, in stead of lemon they use a thick sour sauce made from plums, similar to pomegranate sauce)
1 tbsp dry sumac (obviously sourness is a must with this dish)
1 tsp black pepper (or more–I usually go up to 1 tbsp)
1 tbsp dry mint flakes
1 tsp cumin

1/4 cup water
2 tbsp olive oil

for the sauce
3-4 tbsp butter
3 tomatoes, grated or 1 can of petite diced tomato
hot water

-Boil a big pot of water and add dried eggplants. Cook for 20 minutes or until they soften enough that a fork can go through easily. Rinse in cold water and set aside.
-Mix all the stuffing ingredients well.
-With the help of your hands or a small spoon, stuff eggplants. Do not stuff all the way; leave room on top to fold the top. This way you will secure overflowing. (Look at the first picture; do not stuff your dolmas like the one on the left. The one on the right is the good model!)
-Place dolmas side by side in a wide pot.
-Pour grated tomatoes and sprinkle butter pieces. Add hot water to cover dolmas. On top of the pot, place a flat-ish plate upside down. It will hold dolmas down when you’re cooking them.
-Bring to a boil. Cover and turn down to low for 30-35 minutes or until rice is cooked.
-Let it sit in the pot for 5 minutes and serve with crusty bread.

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