The excellent Istanbul restaurant Meze by Lemon Tree is owned by good friends of Ya’lla Tours. (A meze is an appetizer.) When you’re in Istanbul, do check it out.
The restaurant has received rave reviews in dozens of publications and the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Chef Gençay Üçok has been kind enough to share several of his recipes with me for publication on this blog.
The first meze is called Köpoğlu, a delicacy of the Aegean region of Turkey.
6 medium Italian eggplants
6 medium green bell peppers
1.5 cups of Greek yogurt
3-4 large cloves of garlic
7-8 medium tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
Peel the eggplants partially (leaving 1cm wide black stripes on), chop them into chunks and soak them for an hour in salty water. Rinse and dry them. Deep fry them until they are golden brown. Sprinkle salt on them immediately after removing from the oil.
Remove the seeds from the peppers, cut them into thin strips and deep fry them.
Place chopped tomatoes (peeled and seeded), tomato paste, salt, freshly ground pepper and a little olive oil in a sauce pan and gently boil until reduced down to a thick, dark red sauce.
Whip the Greek yogurt with salt, garlic and a little olive oil.
Allow eggplant, peppers and tomato sauce to cool to room temperature. Then layer everything with mixed eggplant and peppers on the bottom, yogurt mixture in the middle and tomato sauce on top. Mix it up a bit so it’s not like a lasagna on the plate and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
I know my homemade version does not compare with Gençay’s but it was quite delicious, if I do say so myself. It’s earthy and tangy, rich and creamy, with a satisfying garlic bite. I bet this dish is a favorite comfort food of many an Aegean Turk.