Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Baked Eggplant Chermoula with Grain Salad & Yoghurt

Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's Chermoula Aubergine with Bulgar and Yoghurt from his newest cookbook Jerusalem, I made this easy and delicious vegetarian dish which I served with Grilled BC Red Snapper. Served separately, both the aubergine and the bulgar salad are excellent with the Greek yoghurt, but all three together are a match made in food heaven. Chermoula is a mixture of spices used in North African cooking, often to season fish. Here it’s rubbed over eggplant, which is then roasted and topped with a Middle Eastern salad of bulgur wheat and herbs, something like tabbouleh. "It’s a hybrid that could only happen in Jerusalem."

A fascinating cookbook which explores the history, 
culture and people of Jerusalem through its varied cuisines

The unpredictable and exciting culinary combinations of the city's diverse Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities are at the heart of Jerusalem, which Ottolenghi wrote with his friend and business partner Sami Tamimi. Both men grew up on opposite sides of the city in the 1970s: Tamimi as a Palestinian in East Jerusalem and Ottolenghi in Jewish West Jerusalem, but didn’t meet until years later in London. Away from their birthplace for 20 years, they began to reminisce about the foods and flavours of their childhood, and the resulting cookbook is an exploration of their cross-cultural childhood. Although food in Jerusalem is influenced by the incalculable number of cultures and subcultures that make up the city, there are some distinct food traditions. Everybody uses chopped cucumbers and tomatoes to make a salad; stuffed vegetables are eaten regularly; and olive oil, lemon juice and olives are ubiquitous. Popular local ingredients include okra, cauliflower, artichokes, beets, eggplant, figs, lemons, pomegranates, plums and apricots. So in keeping with these diverse culinary combinations, I created this Baked Eggplant and BC Red Snapper Chermoula with Mediterranean Grain Salad and Yoghurt finished with a Greek Kalamata Balsamic and Fig Glaze, for my sensational cross-cultural feast!

The dry ingredients of the Chermoula rub: garlic, cilantro, salt, paprika, 
ground coriander and cumin

Olive oil and lemon juice are then added to the mixture and puréed

The Chermoula marinade is simply whizzed together in a small food processor then slathered over the snapper and chilled for an hour or so, to let the flavours develop. Meanwhile, a small eggplant is sliced in half and scored in a criss-cross pattern, and brushed with the remaining marinade. The eggplant is simply roasted in a 425°F oven for 45 minutes. While the eggplant is baking, you can make the Mediterranean Grain Salad, or cheat as I did and buy some good quality store-bought grain salad. 

Two BC Red Snapper Fillets

The snapper is coated with the Chermoula marinade and chilled for a few hours

An eggplant is sliced in half then scored in a criss-cross pattern

The tops of the eggplant are brushed with the remaining marinade

Eggplant Chermoula with Greek Yogurt and garnished with cilantro and chive blossoms

Greek Kalamata Balsamic and Fig Glaze

I finished the dish with Kalamata Balsamic Glaze, which is a delicious smooth cream with a distinct sweet and slightly sour taste, that's perfect for drizzling over salads, vegetables, poultry or seafood, as a great for a final flourish when plating a meal. It's one of my favourite new discoveries.

Moroccan Red Snapper & Baked Eggplant Chermoula
Serves 2

2 fillets BC red snapper
1 cup Greek yoghurt

1 medium eggplant
Balsamic & Fig Glaze, for garnish

Chermoula Marinade:
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 cup cilantro, plus more for garnish
1/2 tsp kosher sea salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F. To make the chermoula, mix together the garlic, cilantro, salt, cumin, paprika, ground coriander and lemon juice in a food processor and blend until combined. Gradually add the olive oil while the machine is running until the mixture emulsifies.

Place the snapper fillets in non-metallic baking dish, and coat with half of the marinade, ensuring that the fish is coated well on both sides. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthways and score the flesh of each half with diagonal, crisscross lines, making sure not to pierce the skin. Spoon the remaining chermoula over each half, spreading it evenly, and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, or until the aubergines are very soft.

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high or set the oven to 425°F. Cook the fish 15-20 minutes, or to your desired level of doneness. Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve with the Baked Eggplant.

Serve the aubergines warm or at room temperature. Place one half-aubergine per portion on a serving plate, spoon some homemade or store-bought grain salad on top, allowing some to fall over the sides, spoon over a little yoghurt, sprinkle with chopped coriander and finish with a dribble of olive oil or Kalamata Balsamic & Fig Glaze.

Mediterranean Grain Salad
Serves 4

1/4 cup barley
1 cup wheat berries
1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup pitted, halved kalamata olives
1/2 cup finely grated feta cheese
1/2 cup small diced cucumber
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes slicked in half
1/4 cup red onion thinly sliced
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped dill

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the barley and cook for 15 minutes. Add the wheat berries and quinoa and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 30 minutes until done. Drain and transfer to a large bowl, and allow to cool down. When cool, combine with the remaining ingredients and toss gently. To make the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, garlic and lemon juice in a small food processor. Gradually add the olive oil while the machine is running until the mixture emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour half of the dressing over the salad and toss to combine thoroughly. Serve with the remaining dressing on the side.