A flavorful spread with made with roasted eggplant, the addition of tomatoes and spices sets zaalouk apart from its cousin, baba ghanoush. This recipe is inspired by the Moroccan variation.
There are actually a number of similar eggplant and tomato spreads common to various Middle Eastern cuisines. They’re all simple and delicious, and a great addition to mezze platters served with hummus and plenty of fresh pita bread.
You can add other components to Mediterranean / Middle Eastern mezze platters, including olives, pickles, and/or stuffed grape leaves, plus any of the following:
- Baba Ghanoush (aka baba ghanouj; since you’re already roasting eggplant!)
- Hummus (prepared or homemade—here are 12 ways to make it)
What gives zaalouk its special flavor is roasting the eggplant whole in a hot oven. Not only is this easy (no need to peel, and once done and cooled, it’s easy to chop), but you can do this part the day before.
Tip: since you have the oven running at 425º F. why not use the occasion to roast a pan of vegetables?
- 2 medium eggplants, about 1 1/2 pounds total
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 cups diced ripe tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon natural granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Pinch of dried hot red pepper flakes or to taste, optional
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil or cilantro
- Preheat the oven to 425º F. Arrange the whole eggplants on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until the skin is charred and the eggplants have collapsed, turning the eggplants with tongs once or twice, about 40 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow the eggplants to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove the stems and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the eggplant pulp and chop finely.
- Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and sauté over low heat until golden.
- Add the chopped eggplant along with the tomatoes, sweet paprika, smoked paprika, sugar, cumin, and lemon juice. Cook over low heat, covered, for about 8 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened and the ingredients have melded. Lift the lid to stir every couple of minutes.
- Remove from the heat. Season to taste with red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Allow to stand uncovered until the mixture is just warm or at room temperature.
- Transfer to a serving bowl, stir in the basil or cilantro, and serve.
Tip: Roasting the eggplants a day ahead makes the recipe a breeze. Let them cool once out of the oven, then store intact in the refrigerator until you're ready to proceed with the recipe.
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