Zaalouk is a simple Moroccan salad made with eggplant, tomato, simple spices and olive oil that is packed with flavor. You can make it chunky or smooth, use it as a dip, side or spread. Whichever way, it's easy and delicious.
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I'll admit, this slightly brown plate may not look the most appetizing, but bear with me. Hidden in there is one truly delicious mix of flavors. It's perfect if you have a glut of tomatoes and/or eggplant (aubergine) or just because.
When you think of Moroccan food, you probably first think of hearty tagines with couscous. But salads are also a huge part of eating in Morocco.
You'll often find a number served as a side to whatever main you are having. They look a little different from the typical leaves you might see elsewhere - they can be hot or cold and are typically made with one or more dressed vegetable.
I've shared other favorites before - Moroccan carrot salad and eggplant with chermoula - but this one is even more versatile. You'll often find this served as a side/dip with bread, but you can just as easily use it as a spread. Then top it with whatever else you feel like for a tasty sandwich.
While zaalouk is a relatively simple combination of eggplant and tomato, it can vary quite a lot. Some of this is in different areas, but even one cook may make it different ways depending on how they plan to use it.
The main differences are how the eggplant is prepared - you'll see frying, roasting, grilling and boiling - the seasoning and texture. Some versions are more chunky, others very smooth.
Here I've gone with broiling/grilling as for me it gives the nicest balance of time, texture and healthiness. I do love how fried eggplant taste, but they can absorb a lot of oil. Roasting is good too, but takes longer and can be dry or crisp, which is not really what I would want here.
This method uses only a little oil (and really just so it doesn't stick) and leads to silky-smooth, tender eggplant. This then makes the end dish a lovely slightly creamy texture as well.
Steps to prepare this Moroccan salad
- Prick the eggplant all over and rub the skin with a little oil. This is important as the pricks save it exploding and the oil stops it sticking to your grill/baking sheet.
- Place it over a grill/under the broiler and cook a few minutes, turning as it softens. Once it is completely soft (you can test with a skewer) remove from heat and cover to let it steam a little. You can do this ahead of time, if that suits better.
- Chop up the eggplant flesh, with or without skin, and chop the tomato and garlic.
- Warm the oil, add the garlic and spices for a minute to get fragrant then add the tomato and salt. Once softened, add the eggplant and cook down to evaporate some of the liquid.
- Stir through the cilantro and serve warm or cold.
I've left it a little more chunky than I'd break up the eggplant for baba ghanoush, for example, but it's still relatively smooth. This makes it pretty flexible in how you use it.
It's great simple served with some crusty bread to dip in it, as you'll often find it, but as I say it can be used as a spread or simply as a side to whatever else you have.
This dish is similar to some other dishes in the Mediterranean region but with it's own unique flavors too. And whether you have it with other Moroccan dishes or mix it up, the simple flavors pair well with many different dishes.
Zaalouk is a lovely way to prepare eggplant that's easy to make, versatile and just happens to be vegan too. It's perfect for a glut of summer produce, to add to a meze table or to change up your pre-dinner dips. However you serve it, it'll be a tasty addition.
Try these other tasty eggplant recipes:
- Caprese eggplant roll ups
- Roasted eggplant with tahini
- Pasta alla Norma (tomato eggplant pasta)
- Plus get more North Africa recipes in the archives.
Zaalouk (Moroccan eggplant salad)
- 1 eggplant aubergine, approx 14oz/400g
- 2 tomatoes (medium/large - make sure they're ripe)
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tbsp chopped cilantro coriander
- Prick the eggplant all over with the tip of a knife and rub the skin with a little olive oil.
- Place it over a hot grill (BBQ) or under the broiler (grill) and cook a couple minutes each side, turning as it softens. Once it is completely soft (you can test with a skewer) remove from heat and cover with foil to let it steam for around 20 minutes, ideally. You can cook the eggplant ahead and leave to cool completely, if that suits better.
- Chop up the eggplant flesh, with or without the skin as you prefer. If you like, peel the tomatoes or simple remove core and dice. Finely chop the garlic.
- Warm the oil in a medium pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic, cumin and paprika and cook for a minute to get them fragrant then add the tomato and salt. Cook for a minute or two to soften then add the eggplant. Cook the mixture down, stirring regularly, to evaporate some of the liquid (around 15 minutes or so).
- When it reaches the thickness you prefer, stir through the cilantro and serve warm or room temperature.
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