Many Moroccan salads are, in fact, purees of cooked vegetables intended to be enjoyed as dips. Among the most popular is zaalouk, a zesty concoction of eggplant, tomatoes, and Moroccan spices. You will, of course, find many variations as cooks vary not only in their ratio of eggplant to tomatoes, but also in terms of seasoning and final consistency.
This version includes roasted bell peppers along with the requisite tomatoes and eggplant. The vegetables are simmered with 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, you'll get better flavor by roasting the eggplant under a broiler; this can be done alongside the peppers while you prep the other ingredients If you want to add a little heat, as some of us do in my home, throw a whole or minced chili pepper into the pan to simmer along with the other veggies.
- 1 large eggplant (or 2 medium)
- 2 green bell peppers
- 3 large tomatoes
- 1 or 2 chili pepper (optional)
- 4 to 6 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
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
- 1 chili pepper (optional)
Roast the Vegetables
1, Preheat your broiler to its highest setting. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Trim the stem from the eggplant and slice it in half lengthwise. Place it on the baking sheet, skin side up.
3. 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.
4. Roast the vegetables under the broiler for 10 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, remove them to a plate while the eggplant finishes.
Make the Zaalouk
1. 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.
2. 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, discarding large clumps of seeds. Chop or mash the eggplant then add it to skillet. Discard the skin.
3. Stir to combine the ingredients, cover the skillet and simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. 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.
5. Taste and adjust seasoning. Continue cooking until the zaalouk has reduced to a paste-like consistency (you should be able to stir it into a smooth mass in the center of the pot).
6. Serve warm or cold with crusty bread. A little fresh parsley or a drizzle of olive oil may be used as garnish. Minced roasted chili pepper may be offered on the side as a condiment for the salad.