Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Zaalouk - A Moroccan Eggplant Dish

This is generally described as a salad, but it really is more like a stew. At least, mine definitely was - perhaps my tomatoes were more juicy than would be ideal. Like a lot of Middle-Eastern/Mediterranean dishes, it is meant to be served just barely warm or at room temperature; maybe that's why it gets the salad description. We piled it on top of pita bread, and it seemed a bit more like a salad that way, I guess.

But whatever you want to call it, it's very tasty! Perhaps half-way between ratatouille and babaganoush in terms of ingredients and form, the spices make it quite distinctive as its' own thing. It should have been garnished with finely chopped cilantro or parsley, but as usual we had eaten half of it before I remembered. All our cilantro is brown, seedy sticks at the moment anyway, but I could have scrounged up some parsley.

4 servings
1 hour - 30 minutes prep time

Zaalouk; a Moroccan Eggplant Salad

Prepare the Eggplant:
500 grams (1 pound; 2 or 3 medium-small) eggplant
3 tablespoons olive oil

The eggplant can be cooked however you like and if you are able to grill it, so much the better. However, it was a skillet for me. Wash, trim, and cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and then in half width-wise. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the eggplant skin down. Add a little water and cover it for the first 5 minutes or so. Then, remove the cover and turn the eggplant to cook on the other sides until lightly browned  all over. Transfer the cooked eggplant to a plate and allow to cool, at least enough to handle.

This can be done up to several hours in advance; just leave it in a cool spot. Peel the eggplant pieces if possible and if the skins seem tough.

Prepare the Seasonings:
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (to taste)
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf

Grind the cumin seed with the salt and put it in a small bowl with the rest of the seasonings. Peel and mince the garlic, and add it, along with the bay leaf.

Finish the Zaalouk:
600 grams (1 1/4 pound) tomatoes
1/2 cup water
lemon wedges to garnish
chopped cilantro OR parsley to garnish

Put a pot of water on to boil and blanch the tomatoes for 1 minute. Transfer them to cold water until cool enough to handle, then peel and chop them.

Put the eggplant back into a large skillet and reheat it over medium-high heat. Once it is hot and sizzling, dump in the bowl of seasonings and mix in well. After cooking them in for a couple of minutes, add the tomatoes and the water. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly.

Once the tomatoes are cooked and the mixture moist but not liquid, remove it from the heat and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, with lemon wedges and garnished with a little chopped cilantro or parsley.

Last year at this time I made Thai Basil Chicken.

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