Mechouia . . . . God bless you

African meal night. It’s been a long time since I first encountered mechouia, a North African “salad” and slightly less time since I made it. But I have always loved it and we’re entertaining and one of the guests is vegan. This seemed like as good a time as any to whip out my North African cooking skills. Me and Ottolenghi. Plus, I was having wistful memories of Shukette in New York.

It turns out that this is much easier to do on a grill outside rather than in a kitchen, and in (and on) a German stove that makes disquieting noises and delivers incomprehensible instructions (One assumes they are instructions anyway, they may be warnings or funny little comments on my cooking skills, but I doubt the latter, Germans are not funny, as far as I can tell.)

The recipe follows but it’s such a woo-ha that no one will ever do it. Well, Ottolenghi might.

This needs 24 hours to combobulate before we eat it.

Mm hm. Grill groß. Tell me about it.

Mechouia recipe

2 tsp coriander seeds

1.5 tsp caraway seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

Grind to a powder or just use already ground spices which is a lot less rigmarole

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne

1 tsp salt

Whisk all of this into 5+ TB olive oil 

Add 2 TB of this mix to a small pan on gentle-ish heat. 

Add 2-3 chopped garlic cloves (I use a press, I don’t care what the hell Julia Child says about it. I love her though, don’t get me wrong. I just don’ like her anti-press stance) 

Simmer or sauté until fragrant—5 mins—and then cool

1/4 cup each of chopped parsley, cilantro, basil or mint. Mint is more African and I have come to appreciate the virtues of mint over the years except in ice cream or most desserts.

Remove the uncooked 3 TB of spice-oil mix and paint:

1/2 medium eggplant cut top to bottom and score just the skin with a few exes.

2 unpeeled shallots

2 roma tomatoes cut in half lengthwise

2 peppers (red and green) 

1 zucchini

Grill the peppers first. Char skin side down and remove to a covered bowl to steam.

You can throw the shallots on with peppers or any of these, they just have to be charred.

Grill the eggplant cut side down first, then char the skin side. This may require moving it around

Grill the zucchini and then the tomatoes. (tomatoes cut side down then skin side down)

As the vegetables are grilling, take the remaining now-cooled 3 TBs of the spice mix, add 2 TB lemon juice and blend (in a blender or processor) with the chopped herbs. Then add 2 tsp lemon zest. This is the “vinaigrette.”

Once the vegetable are cooled and peeled, cut them into manageable chunks and toss with the “vinaigrette.”

Best to do all of this the day before so the flavors calm down and blend.

Good luck.

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