My childhood friend Constantin took me out in Dubai to a really fancy Iranian restaurant, knowing that I love Iranian cuisine. He ordered a medley of dishes including this one called mirza ghassemi, which I had never tasted before. One bite and I was enraptured. It was light, full of tomato and garlic flavor, and spiced with turmeric. It was served with fresh naan bread that the chef cooked in his tandoor oven to order.
I got back to Beirut vowing that I would learn how to prepare Mirza ghassemi. Even though this dish uses ingredients familiar to the Lebanese, such as eggplants, tomatoes and garlic, the way they are put together is completely different. The turmeric reminded me a lot of Iraqi cuisine. I guess since the two countries are neighbors, there are some commonalities in their food. In any case, it is easy to prepare, it is served at room temperature, and it is a perfect appetizer if one is looking for a change from baba ghannouj.
INGREDIENTS: 6 to 8 servings
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil or olive oil or ghee
- 1 heaping tablespoon garlic paste
- 1 ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 jar pulp of eggplant (about 1 pound) or 1 pound of eggplant charred over a BBQ grill, peeled, drained and mashed
- 1 ¾ pounds peeled diced tomatoes or 2 cans of diced tomatoes in their juice
- ¼ cup tomato paste (if using fresh tomatoes)
- 2 large eggs, whisked in a bowl with a fork
- Salt, to taste
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- In a large and deep skillet over medium heat, pour the oil and warm for 3 minutes; add the mashed garlic and stir a few seconds till it sizzles; add the turmeric and stir for 10 seconds; add the pulp of eggplant and stir a few seconds till all the ingredients are combined. Lower the heat and cook gently for about 5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste (or canned diced tomatoes) and stir for 4 minutes longer. If the sauce is too thick add ½ cup of water; simmer the mixture over gentle heat for about 10 minutes or until it dries-up and the oil surfaces around the pan.
- Pour the whisked eggs all around and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the eggs are cooked, about 4 minutes longer. Add salt and pepper and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve at room temperature with flatbread or pita bread. Mirza ghassemi can also be served with a platter of fresh herbs, and a bowl of yogurt dip (or white Paneer, Feta cheese or Double Crème if desired).
- The garlic paste is obtained by mashing 8 garlic cloves in a mortar (or mini-blender or processor) with one teaspoon of salt till creamy.
- The yogurt dip is prepared by mashing roasted shallots or onions with yogurt and seasoning it with salt.
- The herbs on the platter could be fresh mint, purslane, fenugreek, oregano, dill, etc. The platter could include radishes.
- The cheese is a traditional Iranian white cheese similar to the Lebanese double-crème or feta.
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