Summer is the season of many vegetables here, and one of the most outstanding vegetables in Summer is eggplant. We can see eggplants at markets in the Winter as well, but they don’t have the same taste as the ones at bazaars. The difference of these two shopping centers is so obvious at this point. I don’t know if this is the same in other countries, but although they are lower at price, the vegetables and fruits at bazaars are always much fresher. That’s why I always prefer shopping there. At bazaars, you are not allowed to pick the vegetables yourselves and fill your bag, sellers do it for you. You just tell him how many kilos you want. Some people may find it unfair and prefer markets as they are more free there to pick what they want. But what does it mean when they are not that fresh?
I think I must talk on the meanings of market and bazaar in our culture. Market is the same in Turkish, just its pronounciation is different, but its meaning may also have some difference from its English meaning. Market is a closed area (I mean which has a roof) with many things like canned/packaged foods, vegetables and fruits, detergents, kitchen utensils, garden tools, so many various things. Here we buy things, put it in the shopping basket and pay it to cashiers in cash or with credit cards. As for bazaar, we call it ‘pazar’ in Turkish and they are always at open areas. (I think they are also called open markets in English, I don’t know if they have difference.) They are open in certain neighborhoods on certain days, so you have to wait for that day for shopping and people generally buy their needs weekly. Unlike markets, these bazaars are generally based on vegetables, fruits, homemade breads, cheese, yogurt, no detergent or other things not related to food, but some bigger ones may have clothes stands. And we must pay in cash at bazaars, no credit cards.
Besides the fresh foods, the thing I love the most at bazaars is the conversations I have with the sellers and other people who are shopping there. I think markets add to modern indivual’s alienation, no social relationships there, just fill your shopping basket and pay. Of course the role of the music playing at markets can not be ignored here. It prevents you from feeling lonely and also it makes you feel yourself as an important person. I know many people ‘visiting’ markets to spend time, not for shopping, they just watch the aisles, compare products and leave. On the contrary, you feel the life energy and interactions between people by the time you approach to a bazaar. You start to hear sellers’ voices trying to attract customers. You can ask sellers where that product is grown and talk for a while. You can even get a recipe from a seller or an old lady while shopping. Sellers at our bazaars are always so funny and creative, they find different descriptions or slogans for their products and they continually repeat them in a high tone. They may suddenly break a cucumber in half just as you’re passing along to show how fresh it is and say it is like fresh green almond.
The seller which sold me these eggplants was repeating this; ‘perfect for kebab, perfect for kebab, perfect for kebab, come on look at this’. As you can guess, I went and buy as I was intrigued by the word ‘kebab’ (kebap in Turkish). Kebab is the general name of meat dishes grilled on skewers on wood fire. It has many varieties and it can be made from lamb(the best for me) or beef, diced or minced. There are also some meat dishes cooked in pots on stove but called kebab though.
This eggplant kebab is traditionally grilled on wood fire and eggplants and meatballs are strung on skewers, but I cooked it in oven, so I didn’t use skewers. Homemade version is made with this method.
Ingredients (serving 4)
– 4 eggplants
– 2 tomatoes
– 4 green peppers
– 250gr (9oz) ground meat
– 1 big onion, grated
– A handful of bread crumb
– 1 tsp black pepper
– 2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp cumin
– 4 tbsp olive oil
Slice the eggplants in circular shape, they shouldn’t be too thin as eggplant is an easily cooked vegetable. Wait them in salted water for 15 min. To remove its bitterness.
Meanwhile, you can prepare the meatballs. Combine ground meat, grated onion, bread crumb and spices. Knead it to combine these well. Take a piece in your hand, if it doesn’t spread, it’s done. You can add a little more bread crumb if needed. Then take pieces as big as a walnut and first roll it in your hands then gently press on it to give it a flat shape. Repeat this until all ground meat finishes.
Preheat the oven to 180 C. Drain the eggplant slices. Oil an oven tray and lay the eggplant slices and meatballs as you see in the picture. If you still have some eggplant slices at the end, you can place them in the empty places of the tray.
Cut the tomatoes in half and place them in the tray with peppers, you can use them help the eggplant slices to stand still. Pour 4 tbsp olive oil on them and cook in the oven for 45 minutes. After this time, check if the eggplants are soft enough by inserting a fork on one of them. Cook 5 or 10 minutes more if needed. Put each eggplant-meatball combination on a service plate with a tomato and pepper and serve it hot.