Preserved lemon teams up with green olives and vinegar for a tart counterpart to the eggplant in this traditional Moroccan eggplant dish. Preserved lemons, with their unusual pickled flavor, are indispensable in Moroccan cooking. Typically, they're made by covering lemons with salted lemon juice for a month. We're providing a method to obtain some of the tang of preserved lemons in just 20 minutes. Serve with rice.
*Note: Preserved lemons are available at some Whole Foods and Balducci's stores. They also are available online. If using ready-made preserved lemons, omit the step of sauteeing the lemons.
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 thin-skinned lemon, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 4 small (1 1/2 to 2 pounds) eggplants
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
- 12 green olives, preferably cracked green or Picholine
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil. Add the sliced lemon in a single layer and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt and a pinch of sugar. Cook, turning occasionally, until the lemon is tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Chop into small pieces and set aside.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Halve the eggplants from stem to tip, then score the flesh deeply into large cubes without slicing through the skin. Brush the cut surfaces with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Place the eggplant pieces, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they are fork-tender. Remove from the oven and cut into large cubes, including the skin.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, then add the tomatoes, paprika, cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the eggplant cubes and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the vinegar, cilantro and half of the lemon pieces and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes. Serve warm, garnished with the olives and remaining lemon pieces.
Adapted from "Moroccan Modern," by Hassan M'Souli (Interlink Publishing, 2005).
Tested by Marcia Kramer.
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