Tag Archives: eggplant

Fantastic Tapas Abroad: Ficcin, Istanbul

29 Dec

Ficcin, just off İstiklal Caddesi is a restaurant well-known to locals in Istanbul. For good Turkish food, stay off the main drag and duck into smaller alleys – that’s where you find the good stuff like Ficcin, where the hosts don’tneed to  pester you with invitations into their restaurant. This was one of the best meals I had while in Istanbul.

Dinner at Ficcin

Mixed vegetables in olive oil (left) | minced chicken – a cross between chicken salad and pate. It looked plain but was delicious! (right)

Stuffed sundried eggplant

Stuffed sundried eggplant, my favourite dish of the night


Ficcin’s specialty: Circassian pastry, stuffed with beef. A huge portion!
Manti (Turkish style dumplings) filled with meat, served with yogurt


Info: Ficcin,  İstiklal, Kallavi Sok. No:13 D:1, Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey

Fantastic Tapas: Curate, Asheville

24 Jan

Curate is one of the top restaurants in downtown Asheville. If you’re in the area, perhaps to visit the gorgeous Biltmore Mansion, I highly recommend dinner at Curate. It’s a long space, with a bar down one side, and tables for four on the other, opening up to a dining area at the back. The name “Curate” means “cure yourself”… and it’s true, if you’re not in a terrific mood when you step in the doorway, you will be when you’ve taken the first few bites of your meal.

For a small party of 2 or 3 people, I definitely recommend sitting at the bar, to get a great view of the open kitchen (a great way to impress a date 😉 Watch charcuterie plates being assembled, potatoes and eggplant being fried, and cocktails being mixed.

DSC01390For a small party of 2 or 3 people, I definitely recommend sitting at the bar, to get a great view of the open kitchen (a great way to impress a date 😉 Watch charcuterie plates being assembled, potatoes and eggplant being fried, and cocktails being mixed. For larger parties, make a reservation! 

It’s no surprise that this restaurant is busy: look at these beautiful and delicious tapas!

Curate: Butternut squash soupButternut squash soup (Crema de Calabaza) – deliciously smooth

Curate: grilled octopusPulpo a la Gallega – octopus served served with olive oil and potato puree, and sprinkled with Spanish paprika

DSC01399Chicken croquettes

DSC01402Canelones de carne – described as “Spain’s gift to Italy”, it’s a unique, delicate pasta filled with pork, beef, and chicken liver in a creamy bechamel sauce and topped with manchego cheese.

Curate: eggplantBerenjenas la Taberna – fried eggplant drizzled with honey and sprinkled with rosemary

Curate: calamari sandwichBocata Calamares – calamari on a fresh baguette – a delicious and filling sandwich!

DSC01409Chisatorra con pure de patatas – grilled chorizo with potato puree

Curate: spinach with pine nuts and raisinsEspinacas a la Catalana – sauteed spinach, apples, raisins, with pine nuts – a simple, yet elegant dish.

The Final Word: With delicious food and attentive service in a bustling atmosphere, dinner at Curate was one of my most enjoyable dining experiences yet!

Info: Curate, 11 Biltmore Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801 USA
Cúrate on Urbanspoon

Chicken and Vegetable Tagine

27 Jan

I came across a recipe credited to cookbook author Bruce Aidelis and made a few tweaks based on the ingredients I had at home. My recipe uses chicken breast tenderloins (the flap of meat you usually find attached to the chicken breast), which are a convenient size and come out more tender than the breast itself. The eggplant holds the tagine flavours very well.

chicken tagine


Spice Mix
1 tbsp paprika

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp fennel seeds

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp ground ginger

ground black pepper to taste

The Rest
6 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, slivered

6 large cloves garlic, minced

1 cup cherry tomatoes (alternatively, use drained diced tomatoes)

1 cup crushed tomatoes

3 tbsp lemon juice

16 chicken breast tenderloins (or use 8 chicken legs with thighs)

1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large, wide pot over low heat. Cook onions and garlic, covered, until softened, stirring occasionally (~10 min.)
2. Add all the spices and stir over low heat (1 min.)

spice blend for tagine
3. Add all tomatoes, water, and lemon juice. Bring to boil (2 min.)

sauce for tagine
4. Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer in the pot, spooning some sauce over them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer (15 min.)
5. Turn chicken over and simmer until tender (~20 min.) Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F.
6. Toss eggplant in remaining oil. Spread on baking sheet and roast until soft and golden (~25 min.), tossing once.
7. Stir eggplant in with the chicken.

Serve on a bed of spinach, with couscous.

Flavourful Afghan cuisine: The Helmand

18 Nov

The Helmand (143 First St., Cambridge, MA) has great ratings on Zagat, so I was not surprised to find it packed at 9 pm on a Friday night.  The waiting area has a large comfy couch and a coffee table lined with issues of Bon Apetit  and other foodie magazines. The open, main dining room also has a good view of the wood-fired brick oven. This place obviously takes food seriously.

Like many Boston area restaurants with good, moderately-priced food, tables are rather close together. I wondered if it was a pain for waiters to get to our table – that would explain the slow, inattentive service. My boyfriend and I sat awkwardly for a while, waiting for menus. When they finally arrived, they were crinkled, ratty, folded sheets of paper – not a great first impression.  When our server returned, he didn’t even ask to take our drink order.

I was delighted however, when flatbread arrived –  warm, and served with a trio of sauces you often see served at Indian restaurants: cucumber raita, a green chutney, and  a hot chili sauce.

Our appetizers arrived quickly. The bowlawni consisted of two filo pastries, one filled with leeks and scallions, the other filled with potatoes.

We also had the aushak: two triangular raviolis filled with leeks and scallions, topped with ground beef sauce. The raviolis themselves reminded me of Chinese dumplings.

Entrees ranged from $15-27. Lamb Lawand (below): chunks of tender leg of lamb in a spiced onion and tomato sauce, served with sauteed spinach and fluffy challow rice (white basmati rice boiled and drained, then tossed in Canola oil and cumin seeds, then baked).

The server neglected to bring us our side dish. When I did arrive, it was worth the delay. The banjan was melt-in-your-mouth yummy:  a thick slice of eggplant, pan-fried and then baked with tomatoes and served with a yogurt sauce.

The Final Word: The food at The Helmand is delicious and well-priced, and the menu offers flavours not often seen elsewhere. Too bad the service is lacking. Otherwise, I’d come here more often.
Helmand on Urbanspoon

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