To begin: Paputsia is one of my favourite Greek words. It's really a Turkish word turned into a Greek word, but I'm not too fussed. Say it out loud twice and try not to smile. Then look at your shoes and say it. Now you're speaking Greek AND having fun. Hurrah!
I'm new to the Greek language, but trying really really hard to speak it. I have more than once this summer mixed up the words for little girl (to koritsi) and goat intestines (kokoretsi). Not the same? Ahhh... yes. Apologies. I meant your daughter, not that bowel-wrapped spit of innards.
In addition to calling shoes paputsia, they call an eggplant dish by the same name, adding a little -aki on the end to make it even cuter. Why? Well, because the open-faced eggplant filled with tomato and meat sauce topped with cheese bears an uncanny resemblance to shoes, of course!
This dish is not paputsakia. I have been mistakenly calling it that--likely because I can't stop saying that word. so fun!!--but my mother in law set me straight. There may be more Greek ways to cook an eggplant than there are gods in the pantheon, but the one I have here is more along the lines of melanzanes sto fourno, roughly translated as... eggplants in the oven. A rather disappointingly direct description when compared to edible little shoes! As such, I've defected and renamed my interpretation Eggplant Shoes.
I am sure there are rather particular and laborious ways to make the actual melanzanes sto fourno. I pretty much managed to avoid them by ignorance and a bit of American gumption ("what! how could you not use homemade tomato sauce??!" Mihalis asked).
Here's the play-by-play:
As I was brushing my teeth on Tuesday I noticed the gorgeous purple globes of eggplant we had were starting to look a little wrinkly. Eek! Time to cook them!! Immediately!!!
I cut them in half (tops included), unceremoniously coated them in oil (put some oil in the baking pan and turned them each of them over a few times), and then popped the baking dish with them all face down into the oven at 200oC. Just before crawling into bed twenty minutes later, I turned off the oven and went to sleep with my fingers crossed.
The next morning I took them out, perrrrrrrfectly roasted. Yahoo!! Now what?
Deciding to turn them into "little shoes", I cut into their flesh a bit with a spoon to make space for the tomato sauce to intermingle. Now any self respecting cook in Greece would have taken the 10 minutes required for a homemade tomato sauce... but we had friends coming over... so... (this is where I really hope the yiayias look the other way)... I pulled down a jar of sauce (an expensive one! from Italy!! nearly as good as homemade and SO much easier!!!) and spooned that on top.
Then the crowning glory: CHEEEESE! This is where our fridge offered up so many options that, in the name of science, I had to try them all: Xino (a soft cheese that looks like Chèvre and tastes nothing like it), Feta (you know this one--but get the real kind made in Greece because the "like Greek" ones taste "like hard paste", Mastelo (usually reserved for saganaki), and the local Graviera we got from the butcher (butchers sell cheese here!). I mixed and matched and (spoiler alert) it turns out they all work rather deliciously.
Put the whole pan in the oven at 180/200 until the cheese melts--some are better at melting others, but basically when it looks so good you can't wait any more, take it out. Then cool a bit and enjoy.
They are yummy when hot and still alluringly delicious straight out of the fridge (door still open, of course). The whiter the cheese, the better they are cold, a general rule for cheese, apparently! Go try it out for yourself and let me know if you agree.
Best when served with friends, of course :)
1 EGGPLANT per person
enough TOMATO SAUCE
your favourite melting CHEESE
make it happen
Cut eggplant in half. Roll in a bit of olive oil, dash with salt, and cook face down.
180 for an hour OR 200 for 20 minutes and then turn the oven off and go to bed.
When cool, turn eggplant face up and cut flesh to make space for sauce.
Cover with tomato sauce. Top with slices or dollops of cheese and fresh pepper.
Bake at 180 for ~30minutes, or until cheese is melted and you can't wait any longer.