Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce

Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce

Last week, I told you all that I bought The Food of Morocco, and have been on a Moroccan food kick. The kick continues today… with this Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce.

There are already a lot of eggplant recipes on this blog, and I know it’s not everyone’s favorite vegetable. This blog post is really more about the sauce, which you could use over fish, grilled meat, or roasted veggies (and don’t stop there). Or, eggplant.

It struck me, while I was adding all of the ingredients for this Charmoula to the blender, that it’s just like so many other herb-based sauces found around the world. It combines oil with an acid (lemon juice), garlic, salt, and pepper, and heaps of herbs. In this case, cilantro and parsley. The process reminded me of making a South American Chimichurri, or the garlicky dipping oil used in Ecuador, or even pesto.

It is not so much their similarity that surprises me, but the idea that diverse people, strung out across the world, all arrived at a similar solution to saucing food. Oil, herbs, garlic. I’m not a historian, though a quick look at the Wiki history of Chimichurri sauce suggests it was brought over by Spanish immigrants. Were all of these sauces another way of making the flavors immigrants were familiar with in a new environment, with new ingredients? Perhaps. (I, by the way, adored this essay on how immigrants assimilate through food).

Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce
Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce

The other thing that struck me about Charmoula was it’s flavor, which I found sharper and stronger than chimichurri or pesto. I would probably eat a spoonful of pesto straight. At least, I would definitely lick the spatula. And maybe I would with charmoula as well, but it’s flavor is not as sweet, or creamy — it will wake you up a bit! It’s salty and tart and herbaceous. Which is why it’s a perfect finishing sauce, the final touch on roasted eggplant that wakes it all up. A drizzle over a fillet of fish that brings everything together. The “zing.”

Pulling from Mediterranean flavors, I also added a drizzle of tahini to this eggplant. It’s richness is a good counterpart to charmoula, and the charmoula cuts through the richness of the tahini. Eggplant — we'll, I’d say it’s just the carrying vessel, but others might disagree.

Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce

Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce

Published March 12, 2019 by
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Serves: 4   |    Active Time: 45 minutes



Ingredients:


For the charmoula:
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground paprika
  • Dash cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup packed cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup packed parsley leaves

  • For the eggplant:
  • 2 eggplants
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • For serving: 1/4 cup tahini

  • Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
    2. Slice stem from eggplant and then cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Spread out on a baking sheet (or two) in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt, and allow eggplant to sit for 5-10 minutes. The salt with help reduce bitterness.
    3. Brush eggplant with olive oil. Flip eggplant and brush the second side. Place in oven and bake 30-35 minutes, until eggplant is soft all the way through, and is golden/brown on the edges.
    4. While eggplant cooks, combine all ingredients for charmoula in a food processor or blender, and pulse until a sauce forms. I like my sauce to still have some texture to it, so I stop before everything is puréed, but this is just my preference.
    5. Serve: place roasted eggplant on a plate, and drizzle with several spoonfuls of charmoula and several spoonfuls of tahini. Eat warm.
    6. Note: you will likely have leftover charmoula, which can be used as a sauce for fish, or grilled meats and vegetables.

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    Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

    Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

    An unopened bottle of orange blossom water had been occupying precious real estate in our fridge for months as I debated the best thing to do with it. Finally I opened the bottle, just to smell. One whiff is all it took, and my thoughts were drifting away on a cloud of delicate blooms — soft and white, immensely fragrant. From that cloud, I landed in a darkly lit room, sitting at a large round table surrounded by smiling faces. My tenth birthday party.

    We perch on round, gilded pillows at a low table. Silky fabrics hang from the ceiling, lining the walls and giving the room a sense of mystery. Someone has given me a warm, floral-scented cloth for cleaning my hands. A waiter is sprinkling us ceremoniously with orange blossom water, and the droplets land on my shoulders like the sweetest rain that ever rained. Talk about feeling like Queen for the day.

    Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

    There are candles artfully lighting the space, but the most notable ones are balancing on a women’s body. A belly dancer. She gracefully juggles fire from her head to her elbows and back again, never missing a beat. We eat couscous, chicken with almonds, and b’stella pastry (a dish my dad would later take to making at home).

    When it is time for tea, it is time for the greatest show of all. The waiter stacks drinking flutes in a pyramid. He makes a show of pouring the mint concoction from an ornate tea pot, starting with the top glass, and pouring until it pools over, filling the next two. The cascade continues, until each glass is full. (In my mind, the memory is almost a dream-state. I can’t quite figure out the physics of these glasses. How is it that they only spill in two directions? Did they have little spouts? Did he actually pour into glasses individually, and it is my memory that falters?)

    We each take a glass and sip. It is, to this day, glorified as the best cup of mint tea I’ve ever had.

    To say the least, I’ve been on a Moroccan food kick since I stole a breath of that orange blossom water in the fridge. I bought The Food of Morocco (affiliate link) and searched for something reminiscent of that day. I bought harissa paste and slivered almonds and actually started to use the orange blossom water.

    Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato
    Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

    The flavors of Moroccan food are so different from what you find in other cuisines. Flowers take on a large role. Both roses and orange blossoms. Herbs are used fresh. Citrus is a star of the show. Lamb, goat, cumin, paprika; Roses, pomegranate, dried fruits.

    But, this stew is not traditional. It was never supposed to be. Rather, it’s approachable. It’s a one-pot wonder that has been Americanized, Instant Pot-ized, and everyday dinner-ized. It doesn’t ask you to buy a bottle of orange blossom water, which you would surely have to get at a specialty store (or on Amazon (affiliate link), like me). It also calls for quinoa in place of couscous (Couscous is a hand rolled pasta, so not GF, despite it’s millet-y looking appearance). The recipe calls for ingredients you know, but combines them with Moroccan flare in mind. Cumin — lots of cumin. Paprika. Turmeric. And cinnamon, a small amount, something we rarely add to savory dishes here in the US.

    I know it’s starting to look a lot like spring in somewhere, but here — and lots of places - it will still be winter for at least a month. On a snowy evening, this stew is absolutely warming and cozy. Just my style.

    For the curious: The restaurant I had my tenth birthday at, Boulder’s Mataam Fez, has since closed. There is a Mataam Fez in Denver that provides a similar (but IMO, not quite as magical) experience. Plan to make an evening of it.

    Instant Pot Moroccan Stew with Chicken, Quinoa, Chickpeas & Sweet Potato

    Published March 5, 2019 by
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    Serves: 6   |    Active Time: 45 minutes



    Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cubed
  • 1 16-ounce can chickpeas, strained
  • 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup currants
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • For serving: minced parsley or cilantro

  • Directions:

    1. In the bottom of an Instant Pot, heat coconut oil using the Sauté setting. When oil glistens, add onion, garlic, ginger and celery and sauté until onion is transparent.
    2. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine.
    3. Secure lid on Instant Pot and press the “Manual” button. Set to “high pressure” (labeled “more” on some models) and set timer for 1 minute with vent in the sealed position.
    4. When the timer goes off, turn off the Instant Pot and allow it to set for 10 minutes with out releasing the steam. This will ensure the quinoa is cooked through.
    5. After 10 minutes, release any remaining pressure. Stir, and ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro.

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    Moroccan Spiced Carrot Salad (Paleo & Vegan)

    Moroccan Carrot Salad is a quick recipe: only 4 real salad components, if you don’t count the spices that give it that Moroccan flare. Carrots, parsley, raisins, and lemon vinaigrette. Then, ground cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne, and cinnamon pop in and dress it up. Thanks to those spices, this carrot salad really stands out. 

    To my surprise, little baby carrot heads were popping out from the surface of our garden beds back in early March. They were from seeds planted last year, ones that didn’t sprout before the season ended. And somehow, they grew on through snow and frost and unpredictable Colorado spring weather... hardy little plants to say the least! I’m planning to xeriscape our front yard this year, and build brand new garden boxes, so I’ll likely have to wipe them out before they get fully grow, but maybe they’ll have enough time to grow into baby carrots before then. 

    Carrots are a hardy after they’re picked, too: you can make this the day before, and then drizzle on the vinaigrette at the last minute. The carrots won’t get soggy in the fridge overnight. 

    I use a food processor (affiliate link) with a shredding attachment to shred the carrots — I do not have the patience to do that by hand! 

    This is the perfect side to Moroccan Beef Kabobs, or Lamb & Winter Squash Tagine.

    Moroccan Spiced Carrot Salad

    Published April 17, 2018 by
       |     Print This Recipe

    Serves: 6   |    Total Time: 20 minutes



    Ingredients:

    • 3 to 4 cups shredded carrots
    • 1/3 cup minced parsley
    • 1/3 cup raisins
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground paprika
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 4 dashes ground cayenne
    • Juice from 2 lemons
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt

    Directions:

    1. Place shredded carrots in a bowl with minced parsley and raisins. Add cumin coriander, paprika, cinnamon, and cayenne and toss.
    2. Make vinaigrette: Mince the garlic and add it to a jar with the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Shake to combine. (Makes enough dressing for 2-3 salads). Drizzle about 1/3 of vinaigrette over salad, or to taste. Toss and serve!

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