Roasted Eggplant Matbucha – Sweet and Spicy Moroccan-Inspired Mezze Recipe on ToriAvey.com
In the Middle East and Mediterranean, meals are often served “mezze” style– small bites, lots of salads and appetizers to go along with one (or more) main courses. I’ve encountered endless varieties of mezze during my travels, including several cooked eggplant-tomato salads. These salads are very often sweet and served more like a condiment, always at room temperature, with lots of olive oil added for a richer flavor. They’re usually served with freshly baked bread or pita, perfect for dipping into the saucy goodness. There is nothing better than sitting on the patio of a seaside Middle Eastern restaurant using a warm grilled pita as a spoon for this stuff.
Recently I found myself craving some eggplant-tomato mezze goodness. None of my cookbooks had exactly what I was looking for, so decided to develop my own take on the concept by combining my popular Moroccan matbucha recipe with eggplant. Roasting the eggplant before adding it to the matbucha mix rids it of excess moisture and makes for a nicer, thicker, less mushy end texture. I also roast the peppers, bringing out their natural sweetness and adding a little smoky flavor to the mix (enhanced by smoked paprika). The result is nothing short of delectable.
This salad-like side condiment is seriously scrumptious. It’s a bit of a process to make (not too difficult, but it takes time). You might want to double a batch and freeze the leftovers… if there are any leftovers. 🙂
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- 2 lbs eggplant 2 medium sized eggplants
- 1/3 cup olive oil divided
- 2 whole red bell peppers
- 1 whole jalapeño or fresno chili pepper
- 2 1/2 lbs tomatoes (8-10 large), peeled, seeded and diced (learn how here) or 2 large cans (1 lb 12 oz each) diced tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 3/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes or more to taste
- Sugar, or your favorite sweetener, to taste
- 2 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- Heat oven to 425 degrees F. While oven is heating, slice stem ends off the eggplants, then peel them halfway in stripes down the side so strips of skin remain intact around the eggplant, with half of the skin peeled away. This helps the eggplant cubes to hold their shape without being too tough (too much skin can negatively affect the texture).
- Slice the eggplant into 1 - 1 1/2 inch chunks and toss them in a bowl with 1 tbsp olive oil. Spray a full-sized baking sheet liberally with nonstick cooking spray, then spread the eggplant out in a single layer on the sheet.
- Line a half baking sheet with foil and place the bell peppers and jalapeño or fresno chili pepper on the sheet.Place both baking sheets in the oven and let the vegetables roast for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, turn the peppers over with tongs and continue roasting for another 3-5 minutes, until the small pepper is soft and collapsing. Remove the small roasted pepper and set it aside. Turn the bell peppers again and return them to the oven. Stir the eggplant.
- Continue roasting the eggplant and bell peppers for another 10 minutes or so until eggplant is tender and lightly browned and the bell peppers are soft and collapsing.
- While the rest of the vegetables finish roasting, stem the small pepper, peel off any loose skin, and take out the seeds (unless you want a really spicy matbucha-- I leave 10-15 seeds in for a little kick). Dice into small pieces. You may want to wear gloves during this process to protect sensitive skin from the capsaicin of the pepper.
- When the eggplant and peppers finish roasting, remove them from the oven. Place the peppers in a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or foil and allow to steam for a few minutes. Set the eggplant aside. Once the peppers have steamed, seed them and peel the skin off. Dice into small pieces.
- Combine peppers, tomatoes, garlic, salt, tomato paste, and chili flakes in a 6 quart pot. Bring ingredients to a boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 8-10 minutes, until the mixture has cooked down and most of the excess liquid has evaporated.
- Stir in the roasted eggplant chunks. Continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes longer until thick and saucy. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar or your favorite sweetener to taste. I usually end up adding about 2 tbsp of sugar; it's supposed to be a sweet salad with a bit of a spicy kick. You can add more hot pepper flakes or salt to taste too, if you like.
- Stir together remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, paprika and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Pour oil into the salad and stir until well mixed.
- Serve salad at room temperature or chilled.