What is zaalouk?
In Arabic, zaalouk means “purée” or can also be translated as “something soft”.
The most popular zaalouk is aubergine-based, but there are several adaptations:
- Pepper zaalouk: zaalouk alfilfil.
- Cauliflower zaalouk: zaalouk alqarnabit.
- Zucchini zaalouk: zaalouk alkusa.
- Carrot zaalouk: zaalouk aljuzur.
- Pumpkin zaalouk: zaalouk alyaqtin.
Eggplant salads around the world
Eggplant caviars and eggplant salads are quite popular throughout the Middle East, North Africa or Southern Europe. Among the most popular, baba ganoush (or mtabal) originally from levantine cuisine, melitzanosalata from Greece, ajvar from the Balkan countries which is often prepared with eggplant in addition to tomatoes, badingian bi ruman from Egypt or kyopolou from Bulgaria just to name a few.
How to make zaalouk
The Moroccan version of this eggplant zaalouk salad is being prepared with cumin and olive oil that are added at the end of cooking. Depending on the zaalouk recipe, the eggplant can be roasted or not before being cooked. In all cases, it is possible to keep the skin or remove it.
In some areas of Morocco, as in the regions of Fez or Taza for example, people will add grilled and diced red peppers to the pan. Everywhere else, people add black olives.
Zaalouk is often served at the beginning of the meal as a salad or dip but it can also accompany grilled meats or fish, kebabs or tagines. The salad is almost always eaten with flat bread such as matlou3, khobz tajine, or kesra matlou3.
The different zaalouk recipes have been passed on from generation to generation; they are the recipes of a mother, a grandmother, an aunt or … those of a dada!
What is a dada?
Moroccan culinary art has been perpetuated by dadas, silent and very talented cooks, descendants of slaves from Sudan.
With the dadas, no cookbook, no tablet, and no computer.
They are the authors of marvelous century-old recipe books, books that perpetuate their memory, full of a certain art, passed down from mother to daughter.
They are female cooks, who were employed by wealthy families.
There are still many of them today and they continue to transmit, from generation to generation, all their art and know-how.
Every wealthy family, even today, must have one, two or even several dadas. The dada is one of the pillars of the house and occupies several functions. She is at the same time the cook, the nanny, the maid, the confidante and the guardian of all the family secrets.
We prepared and tasted this zaalouk at a Moroccan cooking class I co-hosted with my friend Yasmina. Keep in mind that this delicious salad can be stored in the refrigerator up to 5 days and it will only be tastier… that is if you manage to have any leftover, which rarely happens!
- 2 eggplants
- 2 tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- A pinch of chili powder
- Preheat oven to grill setting.
- Cut eggplants in half and brush with olive oil, then broil until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
- Dice the tomatoes and sauté on high heat in olive oil. Add minced garlic, cumin and paprika.
- Dice the eggplants (with or without the skin) and finely chop the parsley, then add to the tomatoes.
- Keep stirring and cook until eggplant is tender for about 15 to 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Drizzle olive oil and add a pinch of chili powder.