This is another summer vegetable stew, turlu in Turkish. The dish can be heavy with olive oil, or rely more on a mixture of water and tomato pureé as a medium in which the vegetables cook. Needless to say, I prefer the latter, with enough olive oil nonetheless to give the dish great texture and flavor. I know the list of ingredients is long, but each one has a worthwhile presence in the dish. Make it leisurely one day and serve the next for best results.
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large eggplant, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced salt
freshly ground pepper
2 medium onions, sliced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
, lightly crushed
2 green bell peppers, sliced
2 medium zucchini, sliced
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and sliced
2 bay leaves
1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus additional for serving
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, plus additional for serving
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed (optional, see note)
1/4 pound small okra, ends trimmed (optional)
Note: If you are using green beans, they will be even more tender if you blanch them for 3 to 4 minutes before adding them to the baking dish.
Stir together the tomato paste, water, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, and paprika, and set aside. Heat the oven to 350°F. Oil a deep earthenware baking dish.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant slices in one layer and cook until lightly browned. Using tongs or a spatula, turn over and cook the other sides until lightly browned. You will probably have to cook the eggplant in batches to avoid crowding the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking dish.
Reduce the heat to medium, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the skiller, and add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until tender, 5 to 8 minutes, and stir in the garlic and coriander seeds. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute, and add the green peppers and zucchini. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the vegetable are limp and the zucchini is just beginning to color, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and scrape into the baking dish.
Add the tomato paste mixture to the pan, bring to a boil, and stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to deglaze. Add to the baking dish along with the tomatoes, bay leaves, parsley, mint, green beans, and okra. Season generously with salt and pepper, cover, and bake until the vegetables are very soft, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring from time to time. Taste and adjust seasonings. Discard the bay leaves.
If you have a large frying pan with a lid, you can cook this over low heat on top of the stove. Follow the directions above, but transfer the cooked ingredients to a bowl. Deglaze as instructed, then return all of the ingredients to the pan. Bring back to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the stew is very tender, stirring often. Taste and adjust seasonings. Discard the bay leaves.
Cool slightly before serving with yogurt and additional chopped fresh herbs.
Use leftovers to make Turlu topped with a fried egg. Take the Turlu out of the refrigerator and set it on the stove to come to room temperature a few hours before dinner. When you're ready to eat, fry an egg, sunny side up, and put it right on top of your serving of Turlu -- it makes a wonderful supper!