This version of the cooked Moroccan salad, zaalouk, includes roasted bell peppers along with the requisite tomatoes and eggplant. The vegetables are cooked with Moroccan spices, garlic, herbs and olive oil until they can be mashed into a paste-like consistency.Although you can simply peel and chop eggplant when making zaalouk, for this version I suggest roasting it under a broiler while you prep the other ingredients. Add a roasted and minced chili pepper for a fiery touch, or offer it on the side as an optional garnish.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a side
- 1 large eggplant (or 2 medium)
- 2 green bell peppers
- 3 large tomatoes
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or pressed
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro and/or parsley
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
- 1 chili pepper (optional)
Roast the Vegetables
Preheat your broiler to its highest setting. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Trim the stem from the eggplant and slice it in half lengthwise. Place it on the baking sheet, skin side up.
Trim the stems from the green peppers, slice them in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place the pepper halves skin side up on the baking sheet, flattening them with your hand (or breaking them into pieces if necessary) so that they lay flat.
If you'll be using a chili pepper, prepare it in the same manner as the green pepper and add it to the baking sheet.
Roast the vegetables under the broiler for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the skins on the peppers are dark and blistered and the eggplant is soft and yields to the touch. If the peppers finish roasting before the eggplant, transfer them to a plastic bag (or wrap them in another piece of foil) to sweat and loosen the skins while the eggplant finishes. If everything appears to have completed their roasting at the same time, simply gather up the foil around the vegetables and set them aside to cool for a few minutes before handling.
Make the Zaalouk
While the eggplant and peppers are roasting, prep the remaining ingredients. Peel, seed and chop the tomatoes. Transfer them to a deep skillet and add the garlic, cilantro, olive oil, water and spices.
Remove and discard the skin from the roasted chili pepper, finely chop the pepper, and set it aside for later use.
Remove and discard the skin from the roasted bell peppers, coarsely chop them and add them to the skillet. With a spoon, scoop out the flesh of roasted eggplant into the skillet (discard the skin, as well as large clumps of seeds) and mash it with the back of a spoon or a vegetable masher.
Stir to combine the ingredients, cover the skillet and simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Use a spoon or vegetable masher to crush and puree the cooked tomatoes and eggplant, add the lemon juice, and continue cooking, uncovered, to reduce the liquids. Stir occasionally and keep an eye on the heat, adjusting it if necessary to avoid scorching the zaalouk.
When the zaalouk has reduced to a paste-like consistency (you should be able to stir it into a mass in the center of the pot), stir in as much of the minced chili pepper as you'd like. Allow the zaalouk to cook for just a few minutes more before removing from the heat.
Serve warm or cold with crusty bread. A little fresh parsley or a drizzle of olive oil may be used as garnish. Offer any remaining minced chili pepper on the side as a condiment for the salad.