Okay, not sometimes. Truth is that my kitchen is filled with all kinds of weird, impulse-buy crap.
I love ethnic ingredients and can't help but buy all sorts of things I'd probably never use in my normal cooking. Considering that I have Indian, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Turkish and Middle Eastern markets not too far from me, I now have random ethnic food items coming out of my ears (or at least my pantry, fridge, and freezer).
I'm making a concentrated effort to go through my woefully over-packed kitchen and actually make use of these items.
Here's one of them:
This is a dish inspired by buranee banjuran, an Afghan dish of baked eggplant with a meat sauce and yogurt on top.
The secret ingredient in this recipe is green za'taar, a spice blend found in many middle eastern dishes. Za'taar is a mix of thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, and sumac (a lemony-tasting spice). You can find it in ethnic grocery stores and spice places - I use the Sadaf brand.
Use the long chinese eggplants as opposed to the big globe ones you find.
Afghan-style eggplant with lamb and yogurt sauce
- 2 medium Chinese eggplants, sliced into 1 inch thick rounds
- large handful cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- green za'taar spice blend
- 1/2 lb ground lamb
- 1 tbsp grapeseed or other veg oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 8oz can of tomato sauce
- Spices, to taste: tumeric, chilli, cumin, coriander, za'taar
- 1 cup thick greek whole-milk yogurt
- salt, pepper, za'taar, paprika, onion salt (to taste)
- Set the oven to 350 degrees.
- Toss the sliced eggplant and cherry tomatoes with the olive oil, za'taar, salt and pepper, coating everything well. Layer in a square baking dish and put it in the oven to start baking while you make the sauce.
- In a hot skillet, add the grapeseed oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the lamb and brown well. Let the meat brown on each side before you break it up into smaller chunks.
- Season the meat with salt, pepper, and za'taar.
- When the meat is browned well, add the onion and garlic along with the tumeric, chilli, cumin and coriander. (this is to ones own liking, but mine come out to about 1/4 teaspoon each.)
- Lower the heat to medium and cook until the onions are translucent, frequently stirring so nothing burns.
- Add tomato sauce and mix well, being sure to scrape up the lovely bits that have stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Cook for about a minute.
- Take the baking dish out of the oven and add the meat sauce on top of the eggplant and tomatoes. Cover with aluminum foil and return to the oven to bake until the eggplant is easily pierced with a fork.
For the yogurt sauce:
- Blend yogurt with onion salt, paprika, za'taar, and salt/pepper to taste.
Serve over basmati rice with a generous dollop of yogurt sauce.