One of our Moroccan favorite dishes. Kids love it too! We used to clamor for matbukha sandwiches with pate before shabbos: A shortcut preview of the coming Shabbos attractions.
It is a sort of comfort food for expats and honorary Sephardis alike: See how they mop those tomato chunks with their bread! I just cannot tell you how ubiquitous it is at our Moroccan tables. It seems to be leaning on the Jewish side more often than on the Arabic side. In a cheese sandwich, in a tuna sandwich, slathered on fish and chicken, even on pasta. Talk about eating your veggies at every meal! There’s no such thing as Sephardi kids not eating veggies: It was our sustenance. So you see it’s all about what you grow up with!
My Matbukha version has roasted garlic in it, for an easily added wonderful layer of flavor. In fact it is so fragrant and so flavorful that you can easily afford to main course very plain, this dish is enough to take it places!
Matbukha is very concentrated
Unlike its famous saucy and runny Shakshuka cousin, it is a pure tomato quintessence, as reduced as a confit. Do not neglect this reducing step, or you’ll end up with a glorified tomato sauce. The trick is to make it in a wide and shallow pot or skillet, so your ingredients are in a shallow layer, and get reduced quickly and evenly.
That is the only vegetable that does not love me back. Eh, what are you going to do? Alas, the name alone gives me heartburn (interestingly, this doesn’t happen with jalapenos). And I am told it doesn’t mistreat only me. So I replace the traditional green peppers used in Matbukha with their gentler red cousins. It is true that I lose the vibrant red-green contrast with this substitution, but I save the dish … and myself. I am happy with the tradeoff, and so will you be. Now if green peppers are no problem to you, go ahead and use them instead of the red peppers.
Matbukha with Fresh Tomatoes
This is the ultimate treat. Settle for canned tomatoes (I do love this brand) when fresh tomatoes are too expensive. It will be very good, yes, but fresh will be fantastic. Do not use very juicy tomatoes such as the cherry or vine variety. Use the less juicy and meatier tomatoes. Plum and beefsteak tomatoes are perfect.
Matbukha freezes very well.
Go ahead and double the recipe. Just as long as you make it in a broad bottom recipe. The trick is to have at all times a shallow layer in the pot, so the liquids evaporate steadily and at a brisk pace.
- 1 whole head garlic
- 2 red bell peppers, washed, cored, and seeded
- 2–3 jalapeño peppers
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 large beefsteak tomatoes, or 8 plum tomatoes, diced small (settle for 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, liquid and all)
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Slice about ¼ inch off the pointed end of the head of garlic, leaving the cloves exposed. Drizzle the olive oil onto the garlic and the peppers, place them on a cookie sheet, and roast for 30 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and the peppers are charred (the peppers might be ready a few minutes before the garlic). Press the cloves out of their skins while still warm and mash with a fork. Peel the peppers and cut them into thin strips.
In a heavy, wide-bottom pot, bring the tomatoes, oil, and paprika to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the roasted garlic and peppers, and cook covered for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Check the liquid.
All of the liquid should evaporate, and the oil will resurface.
If the oil has not resurfaced, cook uncovered for just a few more minutes, stirring to prevent scorching (if you neglect this step, you will not get the desired reduced Matbukha look and texture but a glorified tomato sauce). Add the minced garlic and the salt and pepper to taste. Let cool and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to two weeks (gentle reminder: No double-dipping!). Use a slotted spoon to serve so the oil stays behind. Makes about 3 cups.