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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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By the Book: Mourad Lahlou’s Eggplant Purée

January 17th 05:01pm, 2012

coverWelcome to By the Book, a new weekly online column in which we try our hand at recipes from some of the many amazing cookbooks that come across our desks. We thumb through, pick a dish and then get cooking – revealing the recipe we chose and the results of our culinary journey. Scroll to the bottom of the post to find out how you can win a copy of the featured book and to see last week’s By the Book winner

Mourad New Moroccan is a hybrid of a coffee-table book and a detailed cookbook that successfully explains the flavors, methods and customs of Moroccan cooking. Chef Mourad Lahlou was raised in Marrakesh. He didn’t go to culinary school; instead he received his training in his home kitchen in Morocco watching his mom, aunts and nanny cook. This later became the foundation for the food he makes at his Michelin Starred restaurant, Aziza in San Francisco, which is the first Moroccan restaurant to be awarded this honor. The recipes in this book are complex, yes, but Lahlou does a great job of explaining each layer of his dishes – from the spice blend you need to make before attempting the recipes to the tradition behind the dishes themselves.

For my first crack at Moroccan cooking, I thought I’d try my hand at something I’m somewhat familiar with and already love: baba ghanoush. Except this Charred Eggplant Purée dish isn’t that, as Lahlou explicitly states in the description of the recipe since the method and flavors are different.

charringeggplant

Though it’s a simple dish, this recipe takes time to go through all of the steps – from making your own garlic purée with confited garlic cloves to charring the eggplants on the stovetop and then steaming and peeling the eggplant. Lahlou also loves to use sieves for making his purées super smooth, which he recommends when making the garlic purée. It took quite a while to push those cloves through the strainer though; next time I would probably just make a garlic paste with the back of my knife. He also instructs us to use a sieve on the eggplant purée after it’s already taken a spin through the food processor in order to remove any charred bits of eggplant. I skipped this step. I just ran my food processor on high for a while until the mixture was silky smooth. Call me inpatient, but I just couldn’t take the sieve at that point.

One quick tip: Save the oil that you simmered the garlic in to use in the eggplant purée. It adds even more garlic flavor to the final dish and keeps you from wasting perfectly good oil. (It won’t take care of all the oil you need for the eggplant, so you’ll have to supplement it with unused oil as well.)

garlicconfit

The flavors are spot on, warm and flavorful from the cumin and charred eggplant with just enough bite from the lemon juice. This purée adds a burst of flavor to a wide range of dishes. Lahlou suggested using it for any lamb dish: smeared on a plate with grilled lamb chops, served atop slices of roasted leg of lamb. I suggest putting it on anything you like hummus with: crudités, roasted vegetables, sandwiches and pita chips are all great vehicles for it.

puree

Eggplant Purée
Makes about 2 cups

2 lbs. eggplant, preferably Rosa Bianca or globe
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for finishing
¼ cup garlic purée (recipe follows)
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, or to taste
2 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
1 tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. sweet paprika
1/8 tsp. ground white pepper, or to taste
Pinch cayenne
Pinch smoked paprika
Marash pepper
Grilled flatbreads or pita chips

For the eggplant purée:
Cut off and discard the ends of the eggplants. Cut the eggplant crosswise into ¾-inch slices.

The eggplant is best if charred in a large, dry cast-iron skillet. Turn the fan over the stove to high and set the pan over medium-high heat. Let it heat for about 5 minutes. Add as many eggplant slices as you can fit without crowding the pan. Char for about 10 minutes, using a spatula to press down on the slices and rotate them in the pan as necessary until the bottoms are blackened and burnt. Turn each piece over once it is charred and repeat on the second side. As the pieces are charred, move them to a large bowl. Repeat with the remaining slices. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow the eggplant to steam for about 10 minutes Pull away and discard the peel from each slice of eggplant. Chop the eggplant and put in a colander in the sink to drain for 20 minutes. Put the eggplant in a food processor and add all the remaining ingredients. Process to a smooth purée. Pass the purée through a fine-mesh strainer to strain out the charred bits (there will still be small dark flecks in the purée). Taste it and adjust the seasoning, adding more lemon juice, salt and/or pepper if you think it’s needed.

The spread is wonderful when just made but it can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Bring to room temperature before serving.

To serve: Put the purée in a serving bowl, drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle with marash pepper. Serve with warm flatbread or pita chips, if desired.

garlicpuree

Garlic Confit Garlic Purée
Makes about 1 cup

3 cups garlic cloves
About 2½ cups extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for storing

Put the garlic cloves in a small saucepan and add enough olive oil to cover them. Bring the oil to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and golden brown. At this point you have garlic confit, which can be stored in its oil for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

To make the garlic purée, use a skimmer or slotted spoon to remove the garlic from the oil, and pass it through a fine-mesh strainer or tamis.

Put the purée in an airtight container, smooth the top and cover with a thin layer of fresh olive oil. The purée can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 weeks.

Excerpted from Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2011.

For a chance to win a copy of Mourad: New Moroccan, tell us about your favorite Moroccan dish to make in the comments section below.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Ann whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won her a free copy of Bocca. Ann, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew regarding your prize!

By Meera Nagarajan

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5 Responses to “By the Book: Mourad Lahlou’s Eggplant Purée”

  1. Deanna Parrish Says:
    January 17th, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Traveling home from an incredible semester abroad in Morocco, my suitcase was stuffed with spices, whose smells would never leave my clothes, and recipes, whose tastes would never leave my memory. One particularly delicious dish was Zaalouk, a cooked salad made with eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, lemon and those incredible saffron and cumin spice blends. Although in name it may remind you of the eggplant puree Chef Mourad Lahlou described above, it was a meatier dish, often served on its own, or as a side to a protein. What’s so special about this dish is that it gets better with time; stored over night in the fridge, it can be served cold as a topping on crostini or a chilled first course salad. I definitely suggest you all try it!

  2. Nupur Says:
    January 18th, 2012 at 10:06 am

    The eggplant puree looks fantastic! May I ask- where do you find good eggplants in St. Louis during winter? I seem to find aging seedy ones.

    To answer the question- the only Moroccan dish I’ve ever made is couscous with vegetables. I hope to win the cookbook and learn some new recipes ;)

  3. B.J. Says:
    January 18th, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    I received a Tagine for Christmas and have made chicken with preserved lemons and couscous. However does anyone know where in St. Louis I can purchase Moroccan spices? Several recipes call for specific spice blends, I tried Jays on Grand but did not see any. Are there any Moroccan grocery stores in the area?

  4. Joe Says:
    January 23rd, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    I like to make my own Ras El Hanout blend and will use this to season lamb and pork meatballs. We usually serve these with couscous mixed with onion. Add a dollop of minced garlic and citrus spiked yogurt and enjoy! Alternatively, we serve the meatballs with a tomato sauce that includes the spice blend along with the addition of some apricot preserves for sweetness.

  5. Sauce Magazine Blog » Blog Archive » By the Book: Colby and Megan Garrelt’s Celery Root Soup Says:
    January 24th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    [...] now, we’d like to congratulate Deanna whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won her a free copy of Mourad: New Morroccan. Deanna, keep an eye out for an [...]

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