Ramadan Recipe: Treedeh Betinjan (Eggplant with Toasted Bread and Pomegranate Syrup)

August 23, 2010

During the month of Ramadan (August 11 – September 10), I am going to be posting daily reviews of books that deal with Islam, as well as other discussion posts related to the topics that come out of these books. I will be writing about both fiction and non-fiction books, and from a variety of sources and perspectives.

Just like last week, I’m sharing with you another of my kitchen adventures. This was my third major attempt at Middle Eastern food this Ramadan – the second was a yogurt dip – and one of the only times that I’ve ever cooked with eggplant. This recipe is for treedeh betinjan (eggplant with toasted bread and pomegranate syrup). This is a type of dip that is made to go with pita bread, but could definitely be eaten with crackers or something else as well.

For more posts in the Ramadan Reading series here at Reading Through Life, you can click on the image above, or take a look at the schedule of posts.


The recipe that I used comes from The Arab Table: Recipes and Culinary Traditions by May S. Bsisu (page 68). The only things that I changed about this recipe was that I used yellow tomatoes instead of red, since that’s what I had in the fridge, I used a bit of extra garlic, and I used the pita bread for dipping instead of toasting it and putting it directly in with the vegetables.

I should warn you that the eggplant looks really weird as it’s cooking and once it’s cooling down, and you may be worried – as I was! – that it wouldn’t be at all tasty. Honestly, though, it turned out to be really tasty and much better than I was expecting based on its look! If I made it again, I would probably be sure to cut the eggplant into smaller pieces after it has cooled down but before mixing it in with the rest of the ingredients. Otherwise, it worked out really well!

The recipe as it is originally written, plus the photographs that I took along the way, are behind the cut. Enjoy!


Treedeh Betinjan (Eggplant with Toasted Bread and Pomegranate Syrup)

My grandmother always said that there are over a hundred ways to cook eggplant. Treedah Betinjan, a chunky dip of diced eggplant and tomatoes bathed in pomegranate syrup, was among her favorites. It can be served on its own as a salad or with several different small dishes on the mezza table. Jalapeno is always added to give Treedah a bit of a kick, and I like to make mine very hot with two chile peppers. Adjust the amount to suit your taste.

Treedeh Betinjan can be made 2 days in advance as long as you wait to toast the bread and mix it in just before adding the garnishes and serving.

Serves 6 to 8.


Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 pounds eggplant
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 pound tomatoes, seeded, diced, and drained
  • 3/4 pound white onions, diced
  • 10 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, or more to taste, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate syrup
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • One 7-inch loaf Arab flatbread, cut into 1-inch squares and toasted
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh pomegranate seeds, for garnish (optional)
  • Dried mint, preferably spearmint, for garnish (optional)

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin from the eggplants lengthwise, leaving a few thin strips here and there. Cut the eggplants into 2-inch-thick rounds; then cut each round into 2-inch cubes. Combine the eggplant, 5 cups water, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a medium saucepan. Cook, covered, over high heat until the eggplants are fork-tender, about 25 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside to cool completely.

Combine the eggplant, tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapeno, pomegranate syrup, lemon juice, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Mix well. Taste, and adjust seasonings if needed. Add the toasted Arab flatbread and mix gently. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and drizzle the olive oil over it. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds, if using, and mint.


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