Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Zaalouk ~ Moroccan Cooked Eggplant and Tomato Salad

     A Nice Refreshing Healthy Salad!
     Nearly all traditional salads in Morocco are cooked.  In Morocco, vegetables are prepared and cooked, then served at room temperature or slightly chilled.  Vegetables or greens are rarely eaten raw in Morocco.
     The Moroccan tradition of all salads being cooked does bring an idea to mind.  From one culture to the next, there are many food traditions.  It does not matter if the food tradition is religious or not, when looking at this topic from a health standpoint.
     Many religious and cultural traditions prohibit eating certain foods like meats, pork, beef, entheogens, bottom feeding fish, shellfish and raw vegetables.  Many of these traditions may have started because of pathogen related illness or disease associated with these food items.  One might say that these ancient rules of what can be eaten were set in place for the well being of civilized mankind.  If we all ate the same food, we would all have the same biochemical makeup and we all would be susceptible to the same illnesses.  Ancient food traditions may be a key factor as to why mankind is not an extinct species.    
     Not eating raw vegetables is a good way to avoid pathogens, especially listeria.  Cooked salads are a tradition throughout the Mediterranean region, but the reason is not 100% pathogen threat related.  Food is eaten with fingers or scooped up with bread between fingers in many North African and Middle East countries.  A salad is easier to scoop food up with fingers when it is in a paste-like state.
     Zaalouk is a cooked salad.  The texture of Zaalouk is thick and dense.  Zaalouk should be thick enough to be picked up in a traditional way with fingers or bread.
     Zaalouk is usually served with crusty baguette style bread.  Crusty European style bread is a modern traditional that came from French and Italian occupations of North Africa.  For western world style table service, Zalouk is thick enough to be spread on bread ahead of time.
     Moroccan Zaalouk only has a few ingredients, yet the flavor is rich and zesty.  Many extra ingredients are added to regional and family Zaalouk recipes.  Minced olives are often added.  Zaalouk is often topped with chopped preserved lemon, to make it even more refreshing in hot summer weather.   

     This recipe yields about 1 3/4 cups.  (Enough for 2 guests to share.)
     Harissa Sauce is available in Mediterranean food markets.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium low heat.  
     Add 1/4 cup of olive oil.  
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced garlic.  
     Sauté till the garlic starts to turn a golden color.  
     Step 2:  Add 2 1/2 cups of small chopped peeled eggplant.  
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.  
     Gently sauté and stir till the eggplant is very tender.
     *Do not brown the eggplant!  Add a splash of water, only if the eggplant becomes dry.  
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin.  
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.  
     Use a fork or a potato masher to thoroughly mash the eggplant.  
     Continue to gently sauté and mash the eggplant, till it resembles a thick puree.  
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of finely minced ripe plum tomato.
     Add 2 tablespoons of mild Harissa Sauce.  
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.  
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Simmer and mash the tomato with the eggplant, till it is thoroughly combined.  (Only add a splash of water if the ingredients look dry.)
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.  
     Stir the Zaalouk one last time.  
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Allow the Zaalouk to cool to room temperature.  
     Step 1:  Place the Zaalouk on a small salad plate.  
     Use a spatula smooth the zaalouk, so it looks nice.  
     Step 2:  Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of virgin olive oil on the Zaalouk.  
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of chopped pickled lemon on the Zaalouk.  (Optional)  
     Step 3:  Set the Zaalouk salad plate on a serving platter.  
     Place 7 or 8 lightly toasted slices of French baguette on the serving platter.

     Moroccan Zaalouk is one of the most delicious eggplant salads that there is!

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