Monday, August 24, 2009

manti vs. manty

I find myself eating a lot of lamb in the summer. Perhaps that's a little odd given the hot weather, but I'm guessing it might have something to do with the abundance of lovely fresh mint. I'm craving middle eastern food quite often, so Melissa Clark's recipe for Pasta with Turkish-Style Lamb, Eggplant and Yogurt Sauce from the NY Times seemed like the perfect make at home fix. She gets the inspiration for this dish from Turkish manti, little lamb-stuffed dumplings served with yogurt.

Recently, while out having dinner with my mom, Brother #2, and his wife, we saw manti on a menu. Having had Uzbeki "manty" I assumed it would be very similar, and encouraged #2 to order it. It turned out to be rather different from the pastry wrapped lamb pies at the Uzbeki restaurants, but you could see the similar influences. It was also a very pleasant surprise. This pasta actually comes reasonably close in flavor to those little dumplings, and it's certainly a lot easier to make at home. Recipe after the jump:

From a recipe by Melissa Clark in The New York Times

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 lamb
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, preferably Turkish or Aleppo (see note), more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or dill, more to taste
1/2 pound bowtie or orecchiette pasta
2 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, to taste
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. 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 lamb, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste. Sauté until lamb is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in mint or dill and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir eggplant into lamb. 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 and a pinch of salt.

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

Yield: 2 to 3 servings.

Note: Turkish or Aleppo (Syrian) red pepper flakes are sold at specialty markets and at You may also substitute ground chili powder. Do not use crushed red pepper flakes; they will be too hot for this dish.

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