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Kashk bademjan (eggplant dip) is by far the most popular and delicious appetizer served in Persian restaurants.  It’s traditionally made with golden-fried eggplants that are cooked with caramelized onions and garlic. The mixture is then mashed, combined with kashk (thickened whey) and garnished with caramelized onions and sautéed mint and garlic. There are various ways of making this dish depending on how you cook the eggplants (simmer, fry, grill, bake or roast in the oven). The method used in this recipe uses the least amount of oil for cooking the eggplants. Toasted walnuts add more texture and flavor to this dish, in addition to their health benefits.

Kashk Bademjan (Eggplant and Whey Dip)

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 1 hour 40 min
Ready in: 1 hour 55 min
Yields: 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

1 large onion peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic peeled and finely chopped (divided)
6 tablespoons oil (divided)
2 large globe eggplants peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Pinch of ground saffron (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 cup water
1 cup walnuts (optional)
1 cup kashk
1 teaspoon dried mint

INSTRUCTIONS

For garnishes:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet. Add half of the chopped garlic and cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes or until slightly golden. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Wipe the skillet clean and heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add dried mint and sauté over medium high-heat for about 1 to 2 minutes or until the mint color slightly changes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Mix 1 tablespoon kashk with 1 tablespoon hot water in a small bowl and set aside.

Mint and garlic can burn quickly and turn bitter. Transferring them to a cool dish stops the cooking process by lowering the oil temperature.

In a medium-sized skillet toast walnuts over medium-high heat for about 2 to 3 minutes or until fragrant, stirring occassionally. Finely grind walnuts in a food processor using the on-off pulse setting. Stop the machine periodically and scrape down the sides of the bowl for an evenly-textured ground. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. The finer the grind, the smoother the finished dip will be.

Heat the remaining oil (4 tablespoons) in a deep non-stick skillet. Add chopped onions, sauté over medium-high heat for about 5 to 7 minutes or until slightly golden, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining garlic, cook for about 2 minutes or until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Stir in salt, pepper, turmeric and 1 cup hot water. Add chopped eggplants and bring to a boil. Lower heat to low, cover and simmer for about 1 hour. Stir eggplants a few times during the cooking process.

When eggplants are tender add ground walnuts and saffron, cook (uncovered) for about 30 minutes or until all the liquid is gone. The eggplants are done when you see oil coating the bottom of the pan.

Mash eggplants using a potato masher. Stir in kashk. Taste and adjust the seasoning. The amount of salt in kashk varies depending on the brand used. It’s best to adjust the seasoning after adding kashk.

Transfer to a serving platter or bowl. Garnish with sautéed mint and garlic.

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