The Saturday morning farmer’s market in Portland is simply breathtaking. Every direction you look is a sensory explosion of vibrant colors and tantalizing scents wafting from nearby food carts intermingled with the sounds of talented buskers plying their craft. Dozens of vendors line the streets around Portland State University with beautiful displays of local vegetables, fruits, meats, seafood, charcuterie, pickles, bread, beverages and cheese just waiting to be taken home, loved and consumed. I could not help from being seduced by the dark purple almost black ethereal eggplants dotting the edges of a favorite farmer’s stand. I had no idea what to do with them, I just knew I needed them. Being a sucker for all things Mediterranean I drew inspiration from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s book ‘Jerusalem’ for a Moroccan spiced baked eggplant topped with bulgur wheat and Greek yogurt.
I have always been drawn to Moroccan cuisine, every bite transporting me to an exotic Marrakesh souk where street vendors offer an ancient cuisine known for it’s sweet, spicy and pungent combinations of preserved lemons, cumin, honey, hot peppers, ginger, and saffron. Moroccan born writer Edmond Amran el Maleh describes it as ‘the perfumed soul of our culture.”
Like other Mediterranean cuisines, Morocco’s cuisine is the culmination history of invaders and conquest, each putting its stamp on the culture of the people. This dish continues it’s evolution blending in elements from other cultures. It makes an excellent vegetable/starch accompaniment to a roast chicken, lamb or fish dish, though I prefer it as a vegetarian main course.
Roasted Eggplant with Freekeh basted with Chermoula
- 4 eggplants
- 1 recipe red chermoula
- 1 recipe freekeh
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1 tbsp chopped mint
- 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
In the meantime, cut four Japanese eggplants in half lengthwise. Score the flesh of the eggplants, liberally brush with red chermoula, and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, or until; tender and cooked.
Spoon freekeh over the top of the baked eggplant and drizzle over plain Greek Yogurt that was previously mixed with a squeeze of lemon, sea salt, chopped mint, and cilantro.
A versatile sauce that tastes great on almost anything.
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp Cumin
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp garlic mashed
- 2 tbsp cilantro chopped
- 1 tbsp preserved lemon chopped
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- pinch Saffron
- ½ cup tomato puree
- 1-1/2 cup olive oil
Mix all the ingredients except the olive oil in a blender and puree until very smooth. Add olive oil slowly with the motor running. If the sauce gets too thick add small amounts of hot water.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 sweet onion peeled and chopped fine
- 2 cloves garlic mashed
- 2 tbsp chopped preserved lemon see notes
- 1/2 cup freekeh
- 2 cups vegetable stock or Chicken stock (obviously no longer vegetarian)
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup chopped green olives
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh Cilantro
Heat olive in a heavy pan. Add onion and cook till translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chopped garlic and preserved lemon and continue cooking, stirring often, till the garlic just begins to brown. Stir in freekeh, stock, almonds, raisins, olives and fresh herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender, about 25 minutes. Add water if it gets too dry. When the freekeh is tender and plump add herbs and reserve.