TURLUH, a “Mixed-Up” Vegetable Stew

Ratatouille is a popular recipe from the French region of Provence, consisting of eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic, herbs, simmered in olive oil.  It can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature, and the vegetable combination can vary according to the season, and to the cook’s preference.

Does this recipe sound familiar? It should! It’s been a popular dish for Armenians, Greeks, and the like for many a moon.

An any-time-of year, but especially good during Lent (when made without meat) recipe, is Turluh,or Tourlou Gouvedge, a “mixed-up” vegetable stew. This was sent in by Ara Kassabian to add to our ever-growing Lenten recipe collection. Thanks again, my friend!

Ara wrote:
“This can be made vegetarian or non. Its success depends on the freshness of the vegetables, so splurge on farmer-market produce or wait until the summer, but for heaven’s sake do not use three day old wilted veggies. The list of vegetables can be adjusted based on what’s fresh and available in the market. I am not giving exact quantities because the quantities depend on the size of your baking dish (see below).

Choose an oven-proof baking dish (pyrex or similar), about 2 inches in height. Pour a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil in the baking dish, enough to coat the bottom of the dish. Don’t skimp on the quality of the oil; much of the flavor of the dish comes from the olive oil.

You will need to buy a mixture of fresh vegetables, enough to fill up the dish when diced. The following list is a suggested mixture: eggplants (Japanese are preferred), zucchini or Mexican squash, baby okra, fresh green beans, bell peppers of any color or a mix of bell peppers and jalapenos for that extra kick, ripe tomatoes (in the winter, get some hot-house heirloom tomatoes), a few whole cloves of garlic (no more than 5-6; this is not a garlicky dish), garbanzo beans (canned is OK), sliced onions (in thin rings), potatoes (fingerling potatoes or the waxy variety). You can also add some extra-firm tofu (obviously, this is a contemporary addition). Dice the vegetables in 3/4 inch dice and arrange in the dish.

If the tomatoes are not very ripe or juicy, add about half a can of tomato sauce.

Add the juice of half a lime or lemon. You can also use verjuice, the juice of unripe grapes (sold in bottles at the Middle-Eastern market) or the green grapes themselves if you can find them.

Add about a handful of golden prunes, which you can find at a Middle-Eastern or Persian market. If you cannot find golden prunes, then use the same amount of golden (not brown) raisins and increase the amount of lemon or lime juice. Another option is to use sour plums (in May/June, when they are in season).

If you are doing the meat version, add about a pound of beef (loin or chuck steak or shank, not too fatty), diced in one-inch cubes.

Salt and pepper. No water is required as long as you use zucchini and/or eggplant, since they will give off water. Otherwise, add 1/2 cup of water (but the zucchinis and eggplants are recommended).

Pre-heat the oven to 325-350 F. Bake, covered, for about 1 hour. Uncover and bake for another hour. Serve hot with bread.”

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