Charred Eggplant Purée
Excerpted from Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2011. Photographs by Deborah Jones.
- Servings: Makes 2 cups.
A versatile and smoky flavored way to cook eggplant. From MOURAD: New Moroccan, by Mourad Lahlou.
Chef Mourad Lahlou writes:
"You know baba ganoush? This is not that. Flavorwise, it’s got more to do with zaalouk, one of the many Moroccan “seven salads” options: strips or hunks of boiled eggplant seasoned with garlic, harissa, cumin, and preserved lemons. I wanted to whip that idea into a purée for our popular spreads-and-flatbread sampler. But I’m not a big fan of boiled eggplant, so I came up with this method of charring — not the skin, as people often do, but the flesh. Bingo. It cooks the eggplant, making the pieces easy to peel, and adds smoky flavor, as well as drawing out some of the bitter moisture, the way salting would.
"And I do mean charring. As in burning. Don’t be put off by this — just give it a try. You’ll find that the burnt part ends up being only a small portion of the mix, because a lot of it remains in the strainer. Use firm eggplants with small seeds. If you want to use the slender Asian kind, just cut them in half the long way before charring. You can also do your charring on the grill or under the broiler instead of in a skillet, brushing the pieces with a light coating of oil first.
"Lamb with eggplant is a major Moroccan combination, and this spread suggests all kinds of lamb-enhancing possibilities. Smear it on the plate with grilled lamb chops, dollop it onto slices of roasted leg of lamb, or spread it on a lamb sandwich with some fresh spinach or arugula."
- 2 pounds eggplant, preferably Rosa Bianca or globe
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup Garlic Purée (see below)
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon sweet praprika
- 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste
- Pinch of cayenne
- Pinch of smoked paprika
- Extra virgin olive oil for finishing
- Marash pepper
- Grilled flatbreads or pita chips
- Cut off and discard the ends of the eggplants. Cut the eggplant crosswise into 3/4-inch slices.
- The eggplant is best if charred in a large dry cast-iron skillet. Turn the fan over the stove to high and set the pan over medium-high heat. Let it heat for about 5 minutes. Add as many eggplant slices as you can fit without crowding the pan. Char for about 10 minutes, using a spatula to press down on the slices and rotate them in the pan as necessary until the bottoms are blackened and burnt. Turn each piece over once it is charred and repeat on the second side. As the pieces are charred, move them to a large bowl. Repeat with the remaining slices.
- Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow the eggplant to steam for about 10 minutes. Pull away and discard the peel from each slice of eggplant. Chop the eggplant and put it in a colander in the sink to drain for 20 minutes.
- Put the eggplant in a food processor and add all the remaining ingredients. Process to a smooth purée. Pass the purée through a fine-mesh strainer to strain out the charred bits (there will still be small dark flecks in the purée). Taste it and adjust the seasoning, adding more lemon juice, salt, and/or pepper if you think it’s needed.
- The spread is wonderful when just made, but it can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- To serve, put the purée in a serving bowl, drizzle the top with olive oil, and sprinkle with Marash pepper. Serve with warm flatbread or pita chips, if desired.
Garlic Purée (Garlic Confit)
Makes about 1 cup.
3 cups garlic cloves
About 2 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for storing
- Put the garlic cloves in a small saucepan and add enough olive oil to cover them. Bring the oil to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and golden brown. At this point you have garlic confit, which can be stored in its oil for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
- To make garlic purée, use a skimmer or slotted spoon to remove the garlic from the oil, and pass it through a fine-mesh strainer or or tamis.
- Put the purée in an airtight container, smooth the top, and cover with a thin layer of fresh olive oil. The purée can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 weeks.