This dish might be the hands down all-time favorite dish that I’ve made since I began this site. Flavor builds upon texture as the vegetable, grain, dairy and proteins comprise a delicate framework for a singular, spectacular dish. The scoured purple eggplant serves as a platform for the spice paste, the North African flavor base for the rest of the meal. The fine grains of the sweet and salty cranberry-plumped quinoa play as a counterpoint to the finely minced and flavored turkey, which is then tempered by a cool drizzle of yogurt, fragrant mint leaves, a splash of olive oil and a hint of cilantro. It all weaves together into a luscious feast, my favorite of the year.
I owe this lovely experience to Yotam Ottolenghi and Sam Tamimi’s wonderful cookbook Jerusalem. I have been slowly making my way through this book and it is one of the best cookbooks out there. The versatility of flavors and ingredients of their cookbook lend themselves to adaptation. They have beautiful photos, easy to follow recipes with readily available ingredients and stories that lend history to the dishes. They make this dish with bulgar, not quinoa and it contains no meat. Their main flavor is created from chermoula paste, a very fragrant North African paste. It is a mix of spices and lemon that provides heat and flavor to fish and vegetables. Creation of this paste actually takes more time than I had, though they offer an easy substitute. I changed a lot of ingredients slightly, left a few out and added some main ones to accommodate what I had on hand. If you get only one cookbook this year, this is the one I recommend. It is definitely a purchase that has given back far more than I ever expected.
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 tsp ground cumin
- 4 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp chili flakes
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 4 tbsp lemon juice
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 2 medium eggplants
- 1 lb lean ground turkey
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2/3 cup boiling water
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 3 1/2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 handful cilantro
- 1/3 oz mint chopped
- 1/3 cup sliced toasted almonds
- 8 scallions, chopped
- 1 cup greek yogurt
Preheat oven to 350F
To make the chermoula-like spice, mix in a small bowl the 1/2 of the garlic, cumin, coriander, chile, smoked paprika, lemon juice, 2/3 of the olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt.
Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Cut deep diagonal crisscrosses in both halves of the eggplants, making sure not to reach the skin. Spoon most of the paste over each half, but reserve some of it for the turkey. Spread it evenly over the eggplant and place it on a baking sheet cut side up. Roast for 45 mins in the oven.
In the meantime, mix the rest of the paste into a bowl with the ground turkey. Add the rest of the garlic, smoked paprika, lemon, salt, cumin, coriander, and some pepper to taste. In a pan over medium flame saute the spiced chopped turkey, making sure to mince it with the spoon or spatula as it cooks.
In another pan, boil the water and add the quinoa. As the quinoa boils, you will start to see a white ring outside the grains. When you see most of them have sprouted, add the dried cranberries, almonds, herbs, scallions, lemon juice and salt.
When ready combine the finished quinoa with the chopped turkey in a bowl and mix. Pull the eggplant from the oven and top with the mixture. Spoon a few dollops of yogurt on each half, sprinkle with cilantro, scallions and a drizzle of olive oil.
Adapted from the Chermoula eggplant with bulgar & yogurt recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamim’s Jerulsalem cookbook. This was by far the best recipe I have tried this year.