Moroccan Meze, Part 2

From what I can tell, communities surrounding the Mediterranean each have their own variation on an eggplant dip. I have yet to meet one I didn’t like. This version is seasoned in a Moroccan style and pairs quite nicely with my date and lamb kaftah, but you could easily use the same technique to very different effect by altering the spices.

Roasted Eggplant Dip

  • 3 large eggplant
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon harissa (sriracha or other chile paste would do in a pinch)
  • 1/2 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried sumac (or some lemon zest)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon smoked salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prick eggplant all over with a fork and place in jelly rolls pans or roasting pans in oven. Roast until the eggplant start to collapse (approximately 45 minutes to one hour), flipping occasionally. When cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh out and set in a fine mesh strainer for at least one hour.
  2. In a small baking dish, combine sliced onion and tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Roast in oven, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft with crispy edges. Chop this mixture so that it is almost a paste.
  3. Add the drained eggplant, onion and tomato mixture, olive oil and spices to a bowl and mash well with a potato masher. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and red wine vinegar to taste.

The kaftah and eggplant were both unctuous and a little spicy, so I decided to make a quick yogurt dip to balance out the flavors. I combined a cup of labaneh (full-fat strained Greek yogurt would work) with the zest of two lemons and the juice of one. It worked like a charm.

Sadly, I failed to take a proper photo of either of these dishes, but that’s them, along with the kaftah, in the upper right quadrant of my refrigerator.

Portable Moroccan Meze

Last Monday’s class included a discussion of Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco, which chronicles Paul Rabinow’s experience conducting anthropological research in Morocco in the late 1960s. This particular course is from 6:45pm to 8:25pm–prime eating hours. At the beginning of the semester, we agreed to take turns bringing snacks to help us power through. I was up last week.

Some of my fellow students in the NYU Food Studies program are professional chefs. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel a certain amount of pressure. Clearly, it needed to be Moroccan or, at least, Moroccan-ish. I’ve had success with a few variations on a tajine, but this seemed highly impractical given that I had to put in a full day at the office and would not be able to reheat anything. I also did not want to endanger my classmates’ notebooks and iPads.

I studied in Jerusalem for six months when I was an undergrad and have fond memories of meze–elaborate spreads of small dishes that are common throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. Think hummus, olives, stuffed grape leaves, falafel and yogurt-based dips. Meze can be the precursor to a meal or, as is my preference, a meal unto itself.

Lamb and Date Kaftah

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup bulgur
  • 20 pitted, minced dates (currants or raisins would work too)
  • 1/2 cups toasted pine nuts
  • 1 bunch curly parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 1/2 tablespoon toasted coriander seeds, ground
  • 1/2 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • 1 tablespoon dried sumac (lemon zest could be substituted) 
  • 1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper and 1 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tablespoon turmeric
  • 2 whole allspice, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • canola oil
  1. Pour 2/3 cups boiling water over the bulgur in a small bowl and let sit while you prep your pine nuts, dates, onions, herbs and spices.
  2. Add everything except the canola oil to a medium work bowl and mix gently with you hands. Let this chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
  3. Fill a large cast iron skillet with canola oil to approximately 1/4 inch and bring to medium-low heat. Working in batches, form the lamb mixture into small patties and add to the skillet. Cook until nicely browned on one side, flip and repeat. Drain on paper towels.These would make great sliders. Formed into balls and served with toothpicks, they would be a delightful hors d’oeuvres for a cocktail party. A couple of months ago, I made a similar version and served them hot over a Moroccan-seasoned ratatouille.In this case, I packed the kaftah in additional layers of paper towels and stashed them in the refrigerator along with a roasted eggplant dip and a labeneh-lemon dip. Another classmate brought a spicy carrot salad, mint tea, dates and almond cookies. We served it all with white and whole wheat pitas. It was a delightful feast.