I don’t think Julia Child would object to a little tweaking of the French Classic Ratatouille, taken in a Moroccan direction. Besides, all things Eggplant are a huge favorite in North African and Middle Eastern Cooking. In Arabic we call this variation on Ratatouille “Za’Look”, which must predate Julia’s cooking by a couple centuries!
There’s a little more dicing in this ratatouille than I like my dishes to involve, but I think you will find it well worth it. Plum tomatoes are perfectly suited for cooking, as they have little juice and lots of flesh. I love to serve ratatouille at picnics, or at summer shabbos meals as it lends itself perfectly to room temperature serving. You will easily find your way to the French Classic at the bottom of this recipe.
Those of you who have my cookbooks, including my new one, the Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen most certainly have the preserved lemons called for in this recipe. If you don’t, order my new book (new vastly improved edition in the works), you will be happy to have it, not only for the preserved lemons, but for hundreds of fabulous recipes and tips! Until you do, don’t hesitate to settle for lemon zest or tamarind powder, easily available online or at specialty grocery stores.
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 6 large cloves garlic
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 2 red peppers, cut in large chunks
- 1 medium-size eggplant, peeled and diced small
- 3 medium-size zucchini, diced small
- 4 plum tomatoes, diced small
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 good pinches red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup water
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
- 4–5 sprigs cilantro, tough stems cut off
- ½ preserved lemon, skin only, rinsed (settle for 2 tablespoons lemon zest or 1 teaspoon tamarind powder)
Heat the oil in a wide heavy pot. In a food processor, finely grind the garlic. Add the onion and peppers and grind coarsely. Add the mixture to the pot and sauté until translucent. Add the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper, and water and stir to combine. Cook covered on a medium flame 30 minutes, or a little longer until the vegetables are tender. In a food processor, mince the parsley, cilantro, and preserved lemon and stir into the pot. Cook 3 to 4 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Variation: Classic French Ratatouille
Instead of (not in addition to, please!) the cumin, cilantro, and lemon, add ½ cup chopped fresh basil and 2 tablespoons oregano toward the end of cooking: Voilà!