Aubergines (eggplants) are not the easiest vegetables to cook with if you are not familiar with their structure. They are spongy, filled with air pockets that are ready to absorb any liquid. If you just boil them they’ll end up pretty tasteless. If you fry them without any precaution against soaking a lot of oil you’ll end up with very greasy aubergines – which is not necessarily a bad thing when used in smaller amounts. It can act as a flavourful oil-carrier with banging umami after frying. That’s what we are going to do here. We are also going to take a look at ways to prevent our beloved aubergines from getting greasy in other recipes later.
Aubergine As Oil-Carrier
Due to their porous, structure they are also fragile, which means, once we fry and/or cook oily aubergine slices for longer than about 10 min, they will start to break up. We can use this extremely useful trait to act as an oily base for other veggies, grains or legumes. They will almost dissolve and coat anything near to them which is a very powerful. In the photo, you can see that I didn’t take it that far but certainly you can. In that case, the only trace of aubergines will be the skin (which you can of course peel off in advance if you don’t like them) and the almost shockingly rich flavour.
Using Vine Leaves in a Different Way
Fermented vine leaves are pretty much exclusively used to be filled. Filled vine leaves are called “sarma” or “dolma” in Turkish. Even though it is my absolutely favourite dish it is also a very laborious one. So surely, there must be another way to use this phenomenal ingredient. The combination of different acids creates an unequaled, complex and deep sensation of acidity. Here is why.
- Acidic taste in the leaves themselves. Even in a their raw state vine leaves taste quite intensely acidic.
- During fermentation in brine, lactic acid is produced.
- Salt in brine intensifies the sensation.
- A lot of lemon juice and sumac are added to sarma, adding even more acidic complexity.
And what a relief, there is another way to use vine leaves! We just invent it. For a start, we can just chop them up and add them to pretty much anything. They already taste so good! That’s what we are doing here. However, we’ll continue exploring. A chef shared with me on Instagram that he likes to dry them until they are crunchy. That sounds amazing, too!
Great Way to Use Dark Greens
If you have excess greens, especially dark greens, this is a fantastic way to use a lot of them. Greens of beets, carrots, turnips etc or spinach are perfect. Do use the stalks, too. Just finely chop them and add them along the other veggies.
You can replace fava beans with mung beans, which are easier to get and available all year round. In that case this dish would with as a main. You could also just leave out the beans.
Aubergine (Eggplant) Dissolved with Fava, Dark Greens and Vine Leaves
- 1 aubergine (eggplant), thinly sliced
- ½ medium-sized onion, diced
- 6 tbsp oil
- ½ tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup fresh or cooked fava beans
- 1 ½ tbsp dried herbs like oregano, thyme, …
- chilli flakes as much as you like
- 4 vine leaves, chopped
- 1 bundle dark greens, roughly chopped like greens of root veggies, spinach etc
- ½ bundle fresh herbs, chopped like dill, parsley, …
- 1 handful walnuts, roughly crushed
- Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat, add the onions, tomato paste and aubergine. Stir. Lower the heat a little and fry for about 7 minutes. In the meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients.
- Add salt, pepper, the stalks of the greens and the fava beans. Give it a stir. Add ⅓ cup of water and cook for about 4 minutes, lid closed.
- Add the chilli, herbs and walnuts. Stir and close the lid again. At this point, the aubergine slices should be breaking up.
- Let rest for about 10 min.
Do you find this recipe interesting? Let me know in the comments : )