Friday, November 25, 2011

Begendi (Mashed Eggplant with Cheese)

I read about Begendi in the same issue of Food & Wine where I stumbled upon the inspiration for Dijon Chipotle Chik'n. Chef Daphne Oz discussed eating begendi, mashed eggplant with mozzarella, and I thought it sounded magical. She suggested cooking it as an alternative to mashed potatoes--you can't go wrong with mashed potatoes, right?

 I put toasted almonds on it. Notice the leftover brussel sprouts and squash, sans pasta & ricotta

She didn't include a recipe, so I used the ole' trusty internet to find one. I found a recipe on Clifford A. Wright's blog. He warned: this is easy, but labor intensive. I didn't take his warning seriously enough!

I followed his directions pretty closely, reprinted in my own words here. There was a minor kitchen disaster, because the recipe didn't specify whether to cook the eggplant whole, halve it, or cut it smaller. I should have assumed that since he didn't say, keep the eggplant whole. I halved it to roast it, and it never cooked properly and adhered like rubber cement to my baking dish. Oh what fun to clean! Here's how to make it, properly.

Oh, one more thing. When I was researching the recipe, most called for a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cheese. Kasseri, kashkaval, kefalotiri, and parmesan were all mentioned, but never mozzarella. But I had already gotten mozzarella into my head, so that's the way I went.

Listened to: New Pornographers. I listen to them very frequently with cooking, their albums seem to complement the process of cooking perfecting--can't tell you why!

Begendi (serves 4-8 as a side)

  • 2 lbs eggplant (about 1 large)
  • Oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 C AP flour
  • 1 1/2 C hot milk
  • 1 C fresh mozzarella, diced
  • salt & pepper to taste
 1. Preheat the oven to 425. Brush the whole eggplants with a bit of oil. Place in a roasting pan, and roast, turning periodically, until the skins have blistered black, about 40 mins.
2. Once cool enough to touch, remove skins, and place the pulp of the eggplant in a strainer and strain for 30 mins (this will reduce bitterness)
3. Place the strained eggplant in a food processor, along with the lemon juice. Puree until smooth. Set aside.
4.  In a heavy bottomed pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat, gradually stir in the flour to form a roux, and cook 20 mins, stirring constantly. 
5. Remove the pan from heat, and gradually whisk in the heated milk, continue whisking til smooth.
6. Return the pan to the burner, and add the eggplant. Combine, and simmer on low heat for 20 mins.
7. Stir in the cheese, and combine til smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately. 

Kitchen Notes: In general, the skins remove easily from the roasted eggplant, but use a knife or fork to remove all the spare eggplant flesh from the skins. If pressed for time, roast and drain the eggplant one day, and finish the next.

Verdict? Tasty, but not worth the effort. It's a rich and creamy side. I personally would like it spiked with a bit more lemon juice. Feta or goat cheese would also be nice, though the amount would need to be reduced. I sprinkled toasted almonds on top, and I think that it would be great over rice pilaf.


  1. This sounds like something I will love, anything with eggplant is my favorite!

  2. Hi Claudia! Thanks for the comments. I'd have to agree with you on eggplant, I think it's sadly underrated!