Mom’s Recipe: “Eggplant Feresh”

I recently discovered a computer directory containing 749 recipes written, organized, annotated, and collected by my late mom.  Somewhere there are expanding files and written recipes, though not all of them made it through all the moves. Still, I have these, and in them I can hear her voice.

a long list of folders  from bread to poultry, from a windows explorer page

This dish is named after an Iranian student my mother had once, who later went to work (I believe) for Voice of America. I met her once. I was served this eggplant dish many times and you know what, I still don’t like eggplant. But I like hearing my mother’s voice and this is a quintessentially “her” recipe. I am not sure who she thought she was writing to, especially in the final paragraph where she’s describing a particular meal and dispensing advice. I think it was just her voice, and it makes my chest tighten and my eyes leak, but I’m grateful to be able to hear it.

If you try and cook it, let me know. I’ll be looking for more “mom” recipes, recipes written in her clear voice or things I know we cooked, soon. I think next is Carbonara.

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PERSIAN EGGPLANT (vegetarian style)

I call this dish “Eggplant Feresh,” naming it after a former student of mine, Fereshteh Mangeneh Nouraie, who came from Iran in the late ’60s to study U.S. history and never went back. I told her I didn’t like eggplant, and she said, “You’ll like this dish,” and I did!

olive oil – amount depends on whether you’re using a non-stick pan (optimal)

1 large eggplant or 2 small (any kind)

1 small can tomato juice

1/2 lemon – zest the rind then juice it

½ an onion, diced

1/4 c. diced bell peppers of any color

Some chopped garlic

1/4 c. dry white wine or more, to taste

2 fresh tomatoes, diced, or 1 med.-sized can of chopped tomatoes (I like the “fire roasted” kind)

1/2 t. dried basil or parsley or cilantro, or more if fresh, to taste

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 t. sugar or sugar substitute

pinch saffron (optional)

All these amounts are variable, depending on your taste.

Peel eggplant, slice in ½” rounds, salt both sides if they are kind of old (not necessary if fresh), let drain in a colander 20 min. to an hour. Rinse or scrape the salt off with a knife, pat slices dry with paper towels, sauté in olive oil over medium heat in large non-stick pan. When brown on both sides, remove to a plate, then gently cook the peppers, onion, and garlic; add the lemon juice and rind, tomato juice, and enough water to keep everything moist. Add rest of ingredients and simmer covered for about 10 min. Break up the eggplant into pieces, gently fold it all in, add more water and/or wine if you like more sauce. Serve over rice, couscous, orzo, etc. You can add some turmeric to the rice to make it yellow, some chopped parsley for some green.

Serves 2-3.

For a larger number of people, use 6 eggplants, a whole onion, a whole red bell pepper, 3 cans of fire roasted chopped tomatoes, rind and juice of a whole lemon, etc. I also put in two cubes of “lemon basil” I froze from last summer. I cooked it two nights before, kept the eggplant on the bottom of the large pot and put the tomatoes on top of them to keep them moist, put the whole pot in the fridge, warmed it slowly Friday, and then added the sugar and cinnamon “to taste” at the last moment. I hadn’t salted the eggplants, so I think the recipe lacked a bit of salt. Leftovers were delicious. Note: sometimes I add a minced hot pepper or some Italian hot pepper flakes to this dish. It can also be served with meat: best are small ground lamb meatballs mixed with seasonings and chopped parsley, sautéed separately and added at the last moment.

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