Ich bin ein(e) Berliner(in)
On Love and Baked Beans

Melissa Clark's Pasta with Turkish-Style Beef, Eggplant and Yogurt Sauce


Oof. That ever happen to you? You spend a big part of your evening grocery shopping, prepping, and cooking, only to find yourself - twenty minutes later - staring at the half-eaten plate of pasta in front of you, wishing you'd just fixed a salad?

I hate it when that happens. Especially when it's with a recipe I've been hoarding forever - and something that sounds as good as pasta with turkish-style lamb, eggplant and yogurt sauce. Right? Sounds tasty, doesn't it? The thing is, the meal indeed was pretty good. I used Melissa Clark's recipe, subbing ground beef for lamb (it's what I had in the freezer). What you do is roast eggplant at very high heat - a nice little trick in and of itself, since you end up with meltingly soft on the inside, super-crisp on the outside, addictive little eggplant cubes - and then combine that with sauteed ground beef flavored with shallots, minced garlic and a generous amount of Aleppo pepper.

(Aleppo pepper! Aleppo pepper. I could say that all day long. It just rolls off the tongue so nicely, wouldn't you say? Aleppo pepper!)

You serve that mixture over boiled pasta (orecchiette would be best) and top it off with browned butter and garlicky yogurt. Manti, deconstructed, as Melissa says. So, yes, it's all very delicious and interesting and all that, but still, I just couldn't get my appetite up.

Am I secretly - even to myself - considering vegetarianism? Was it just too much food (Melissa says this serves 2 to 3 people, but eyeballing my leftovers, I think at least 4 could be happy)? Did I get overwhelmed by the amount of leftovers staring me down? It's a Thursday morning mystery, is what it is. In the meantime, does anyone want to come over for dinner tonight?

Pasta with Turkish-Style Beef, Eggplant and Yogurt Sauce
Serves 4

1 large eggplant, about 1 pound, in 1/2 -inch cubes
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, more to taste
3 fat garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1 pound ground beef
1/2 teaspoon red pepper, preferably Turkish or Aleppo, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, more to taste
1/2 pound orecchiette or penne pasta
2 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, to taste (I barely used a tablespoon)
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Bring a pot of water to boil for pasta.

2. Toss eggplant with 4 tablespoons oil and a large pinch of salt (I also mistakenly added one minced garlic clove here). Spread on a baking sheet, making sure there is room between pieces, and roast until crisp and brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. In a large skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and the shallot and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add beef, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper, and black pepper to taste. Sauté until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in mint and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir eggplant into beef. Taste and adjust seasonings.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter: the amount is to your taste. Let cook until it turns golden brown and smells nutty, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together yogurt, remaining garlic (well, I didn't have any remaining garlic, plus I don't like raw garlic, so I left the yogurt garlic-less) and a pinch of salt.

5. Drain pasta and spread on a serving platter. Top with beef-eggplant mixture, then with yogurt sauce. Pour melted butter over top. Sprinkle on additional red pepper and more mint. Serve immediately.