“Funny vegetable, this eggplant is,
Brown and colorless, with purple skin.
A taste of odds, in various forms,
Takes on colors, and easily conforms.
Mash or sauté, grill or dice,
Serve it roasted, or with tons of spice.
Used in cuisines, tells many a tale,
Brinjal or Aubergine, the flavor never fails.”
I first tried Zaalouk at a Mediterranean restaurant in Hong Kong. After several coy tries of figuring out what exactly went into this delectable dip, I had asked the owner for the recipe (none of the ones online did it any sort of justice!). He obviously didn't reveal it all, but did mention that its "simply a blend of roasted eggplant, garlic, red pepper, lots of tomatoes and common spices". Ha, a sentence that didn't give away much, but just enough for the sleuth in me to set off on a culinary mission and decipher this recipe! After a few tries, I felt I had come pretty close to what I tasted in the restaurant - the missing ingredients was probably just the amount of oil I could get myself to use at home! ;)
While Babaganoush is a common eggplant dip enjoyed at most Middle eastern or Moroccon eateries, Zaalouk is definitely a large step ahead due to bolder flavors - or at least I think so personally. Maybe because I enjoy the similar Indian dish or 'Bharta' so much. So do give this simple, vegan & glutenfree dip a try, and let me know your thoughts in the comments!
1 large eggplant, cut into cubes
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 cup cherry/grape tomatoes, halved
½ onion, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons cumin powder
½ teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
8 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss the cubed eggplant and red pepper in 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt & pepper. Grill the vegetables at 425F for 30-35 minutes, till the eggplant collapses and is mushy. A little charring is totally fine, but don't let the vegetables burn. Keep aside to cool.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a on-stick pan. Add the onions and garlic, and cook till the onions are turn translucent. Add the tomatoes, chili flakes, paprika, cumin, salt and cover. Cook on medium heat till the tomatoes are tender. Stir in the grilled eggplant and red pepper. Continue to cook covered till everything mashes easily and the oil begins to separate - approx 10-15 minutes. Turn heat to high, remove cover, and dry any moisture that might be there. Stir in the lemon juice, adjust seasoning and turn off the heat. Cool to room temperature. Once cooled, blend it all in a mixer. You can blend to a smooth consistency, or keep a little texture. Personally, I prefer a little texture to my dips.
A delicious & versatile dip that can be served warm or cold. I love mine with pita chips, bread or even over rice / quinoa!