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Eggplant Charmoula

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© 2012 Helana Brigman
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“Oooh, that’s good.  I’ve had that. You should really make that,” Jonathan said with a sort of vague enthusiasm as he pointed to a large page filled with charred eggplant and a buttery Moroccan marinade.  While trying to stay cool during the final days of Hurricane Isaac, Jonathan and I found ourselves hunkered down at a Barnes & Noble coffee shop flipping through the book The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert.  To say we were hungry for real food, and I was eager to get back to my not-so-fancy stove, blogging, and my camera would be an understatement.  But sitting in the air conditioning and looking at Wolfert’s images of brightly-colored Moroccan dishes and culturally diverse cuisines made me hungry.

The Saturday after we got back electricity, I went on a day-long cooking binge featuring Seven Vegetable Couscous, Horaseth, and this Eggplant Charmoula.  I was drawn instantly to the warm buttery nature of the roasted eggplant and jumped at the opportunity to prepare a dish that was seemingly easy, but still outside my day-to-day cooking.

Charmoula involves the blending of spices–usually cumin, paprika, cilantro, and parsley–with an olive oil or lemon juice base.  A richly seasoned marinade, charmoulas frequently top locally caught fish, but go great as toppings to vegetables and other kinds of meat.  Eggplant Charmoula is one of the more popular ways you’ll see this marinade prepared, but I imagine it would taste great on a simple roasted zucchini or light fish, such as sole.

For a flavor of Morocco (post-hurricane or not), try this simple and lovely Eggplant Charmoula.  The prep work is minimal and results are impressive whether cooking for a friend familiar with the dish or not.

Eggplant Charmoula

This recipe is adapted from Saveur Magazine (here) and incorporates Charmoula, a Moroccan spice blend typically used for fish, with warm roasted eggplant served at room temperature.  For my take on the Saveur variation, see below.  But for others, consider checking out Paula Wolfert’s recipe in The Food of Morocco.

Ingredients:

*1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch thick slices

*kosher salt, as needed

*2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

*2 teaspoons paprika

*pinch of cayenne

*3/4 teaspoon cumin

*2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

*2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped

*3 tablespoons lemon juice

*1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus more as needed)

*parsley and cilantro, to garnish

1.) Stem eggplants and cut into 3/4-inch slices.

2.) Place eggplant inside a large colander and salt between each layer.  Using a heavy pot, weigh down eggplant and rest for 30 minutes (this step helps to tenderize the fruit before cooking).

3.) In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the marinade: add next seven ingredients plus two tablespoons olive oil and whisk to combine.  Cover and reserve for eggplant.

4.) Preheat oven to 350F.  Pat dry eggplant and spread across 1 or 2 baking sheets (do not overcrowd).  Using a silicone brush, brush each side of the eggplant with olive oil and bake until tender (about 25-30 minutes).  Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

5.) Add remaining olive oil to a nonstick skillet and warm over medium heat.  Pan-fry eggplant slices several at a time (do not overcrowd pan).  Flip when golden on one side and repeat (about 1-2 minutes depending on stovetop and temperature).  Transfer eggplant to a plate lined with paper towels.  Repeat to cook all eggplant.

6.) When eggplant has cooked and cooled to room temperature, spoon whisked charmoula over eggplant and serve.  Makes 4 servings.

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Eggplant Charmoula, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
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