Zaalouk, our preferred Moroccan salad
Half dip, half side dish zaalouk is one of the best of all cooked Moroccan salads. It’s a naturally vegan dish but with a new dimension of flavors. It might remind you of a ratatouille but this one is much more seasoned, with a smoky flavor and does not have any zucchini. The main ingredient in zaalouk are aubergines, together with white beans they are some of the most popular elements of the Moroccan diet.
What are Moroccan cooked salads?
In every Moroccan restaurant you will have a chance to order cooked salads or Moroccan salads listed among the mezzes (starters). Wait, they also have fresh salads with green lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber all of it seasoned with lemon, parsley and olive oil, but given it is better to avoid tap water while in Morocco, unless it is filtered like in fine restaurants and hotels, cooked salads have become more popular.
Served chilled during summertime and at room temperature in cooler days, cooked salads are placed in the middle of the table to be shared, and can consist of beet salad with onion and fresh herbs, taktouka consisting of cooked tomatoes and green peppers mashed into a purée, carrot salad with garlic, cumin and olive oil, and marinated olives. Zaalouk is one of them. Definitely, a beautiful and colorful array of small plates that are hard to resist.
How to make zaalouk
There are as many zaalouk recipes as dadas (traditional woman cooks) and we share with you the one we make at home and love.
1. First, grill the aubergines on the fire, you can also roast them in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350º F. To facilitate peeling you can insert them in a plastic bag for some minutes, the natural steam will soften the skin and will give a much tender texture to the flesh.
2. In the meantime, crush the garlic cloves and the tomatoes, we use a grater, it’s easy and leaves all the skins aside.
3. Peel the aubergines, the skin should peel off easily leaving the wonderful flesh behind. Dice the aubergine.
4. Wash and chop the coriander.
5. In a medium sized pan, heat the olive oil and add the tomato pulp and the crushed garlic with all the spices, and leave over medium heat until all liquids evaporate.
6. When you have a consistent tomato sauce, add the aubergine, stir gently and cook for about 15 minutes, crushing the the aubergine with a fork time to time to mix all the ingredients and amalgamate all the splendid flavors.
7. Add the chopped bunch of coriander at the end.
8. When serving, you can add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
All these different flavors combine to achieve a delicious balance on our taste buds. It is a best made the day before and can keep in the fridge for several days. If we were in Morocco, zaalouk would be served with a delicious home-made flatbread and eaten with the hands using the thumb and the first two fingers of your right hand. Oops, can be eaten either hot or cold, so it is perfect any time! In our Morocco trip we’ll make one.