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I hate to say it, but it is past the middle of August and so we all must face the reality that for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is coming to an end. Even though I live in Florida where it is always summer I can feel the change at an instinctual level. I have started craving heartier meals, with autumnal ingredients, like squash and herbs like sage and there has been this urge in me to drink hot chocolate. I have even been having dreams about snow and our old house in Vermont…So even though the temperatures are still hot and humid, there is something about the air that is changing and it is creating in me the need to use up the summer surplus – do something with all those eggplants, peppers and tomatoes. Preserve them from rotting in my fridge now that my taste buds have shifted.

I have made a lot of grilled vegetable dishes over the summer and for me it is essential to have them – they are great for sandwiches and wraps, wonderful stirred in pasta and perfect just as is. The grilling of the vegetables brings out the natural sweetness in the vegetables and the marinade adds tang. It is best to prepare the vegetables a day ahead so they have time to marinate overnight. Leftover grilled vegetables go great in a wrap with a dressing made of Tahini, Greek Yogurt, Olive Oil and Sumac, which has become my condiment of choice this season! I use it in place of mayo.

This recipe is a wonderful Tunisian dish which is served alongside of hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, olive oil packed tuna and green olives. It is great as a meal served with warm pita bread.

I featured it in my Mediterranean Cooking Class that I taught last week. It was perfect as we had some vegetarians in the group and they could still eat this dish, by passing on a few of the garnishes! They loved it! So this dish is also very versatile.

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INGREDIENTS:

3 medium bell peppers
3-4 fresh chilies to taste (I like anaheims and poblanos)
1 medium eggplant
a little olive oil for baking
3 medium tomatoes
2 medium onions, unpeeled
4 cloves of garlic
½ TBS ground caraway seeds
½ TBS ground coriander seeds
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 TBS fresh basil, chopped

OPTIONAL garnishes: hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped olives, chunks of well-drained tuna or anchovies.

METHOD:

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Preheat grill or broiler. Rub peppers, chilies and eggplant with olive oil. Place on grill or under broiler until skins are charred. Keep turning vegetables until all the skin is black on each side. Place vegetables in a paper bag and set aside for about 5 minutes so they can steam in the bag. Remove vegetables and peel the skin away. Cut the peppers and eggplant into a small dice and place in a large bowl with all their juices.

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Preheat oven to 450 F. Brush olive oil over the bottom of a small roasting pan. Then pour a little more olive oil on your hands and rub the tomatoes and onions. Place veggies in roasting pan and roast for about 10 minutes, turning pan halfway through. When tomato skins are cracking and easy to peel, remove them from the pan, but allow the onions to continue roasting for another 15-20 minutes.
Remove peels from tomatoes and slice them in half, letting the juice run out. Dice them and toss them in the bowl with the peppers and eggplant. Remove the onions from the oven, discard the skins dice them and add to the bowl of diced veggies.

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Pound the garlic with a bit of salt in a mortar, or use the back of a spoon until it has become a paste. Add the caraway and coriander and mix this paste into the vegetables. Set aside for at least an hour before serving.
Just before serving, mix olive oil with lemon juice and stir into the veggies, adding chopped basil and fresh black pepper if you desire. Garnish with optional ingredients if you choose.

Here is another great marinade for grilled veggies:

equal parts of extra virgin olive oil and vinegar of your choice
1 clove crushed garlic
1 small container of olive oil packed anchovy fillets – if you do not like anchovies, you can add about 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil to a TBS of capers.
1 TBS fresh thyme, or herb of your choice

Mix all together and pour over vegetables. Allow to marinate for at least 1/2 hour before serving!