For the last cooking assignment I’ve decided to make something that would be vegetarian and would remind me of the several places our people live in thought the world. I took the recipe from the “Olive Trees & Honey” book (p.74) and it is under the name of “Moroccan Eggplant Relish”. Did I tell you that the book lists every dish’s name is the language most commonly used for it? So this one is apparently in Arabic-French mixture “Zeilouk d’Aubergines”. However it reminded me of a rather traditional salad the Tat Jews of Caucasian region of Caspian Sea made so often. These days one can try a number of variations of it in Israel. The taste would probably vary depending on the origin of the chef making it. Israelis made cooking with eggplant into an art in itself. I, usually, am not so fond of it (I would never eat babaganoush), but sometimes I like it and my view of it reflected the outcome of the dish, which turned out more like vegetable relish than an eggplant one.
Making it was fun for multiple reasons. First – I was making it for my daughter, whom I haven’t seen for 10 months and who is keeping to her vegetarian diet and her sustainability goals for all this time. How interesting that our readings in this class have finally brought me to the same subjects. When I mentioned to her that there exist theories that G-d originally wanted the humankind to be vegetarians, she acted as if the idea was so natural to her that she could not understand why I was surprised.
Second – over the last couple of years I have become (dare I say) friends with another vegetarian girl in her late teens ready for college and much better writer than me. We often discuss our food intake differences and now I wonder how young people brought up here in the free world have different views than us, their parents. Yet they are our continuation. Because of both of these amazing girls I’ve actually become more interested in the subjects like eco-kashrut and vegetarian kashrut. I have to publicly thank them for it.
Back to the recipe though:
2 Medium-large eggplants (peeled)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¾ cup olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 green bell peppers, seeded, deribbed and coarsely chopped
1 ¾ pounds plum tomatoes, skinned and chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
¼ cup fresh cilantro or parsley (I used a mix of both)
The eggplants need to be cut crosswise, then lengthwise, the diced and left in a colander under some salt for about an hour until they “sweat”. After that, rinse them under the cold water and pat dry several times until they are dry completely.
In a large saucepan fry the eggplant in heated olive oil in 3 to 4 batches until golden and get them off to paper towel to drain.
In the same pan fry the onion, garlic, peppers and sauté until softened 5 to 10 min. add the tomatoes, paste and spices and bring to a boil.
Return the eggplant to the pan and simmer over medium heat for about 20 min stirring occasionally. Stir in the vinegar and cilantro.
Mine turned out a little too hot for some taste, but that’s how we liked it on the shores of the Caspian Sea :-). It was a real vegetarian Shabbat, my daughter’s 19th birthday. I didn’t miss the meat one bit.