We have long taken advantage of Atlantic Avenue’s plentiful collection of Middle Eastern shops for our recipes. That is why we were delighted to finally start making recipes from the critically acclaimed cookbook, Jerusalem.
There is no vegetable more prevalent in great Middle Eastern cooking than the eggplant (make our smoky baba ghanoush and you’ll understand why). And there is no better accompanying grain than moghrabieh. Moghra-wha? Perhaps deriving its name from Maghreb, the Arab region in North Africa, moghrabieh is extra large couscous. It provides great heftiness to the smoky eggplant soup base.
The key, just like we did with our baba ghanoush, is to burn the eggplants directly on an open fire. Charcoal is best, but you can do it easily right on the stove top (or, less messily, in the broiler). This dish can versatilely serve as an appetizer to any Middle Eastern meal or as a meal all to itself.
Burnt Eggplant & Moghrabieh Soup
- 5 small eggplants about 2 1/2 pounds
- Sunflower or other neutral cooking oil
- 1 medium yellow onion sliced
- 1 tbsp freshly ground cumin seeds or ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
- 2 large tomatoes diced
- 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 2/3 cups water
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 1/2 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup moghrabieh or giant cous cous
- 2 tbsp shredded basil
Burn three of the eggplants. If you have a charcoal grill, poke a few holes in each eggplant with a fork and place them directly on glowing charcoal. Or to do it inside, carefully line the base of a gas burner with tin foil, leaving only the burners exposed. After poking a few holes in each eggplant place them directly on the burner for about 7 minutes per side, until the skin is black and flaky. (Alternatively, broil the eggplants close to the flame; it’s almost as good, and less messy).
Cut the remaining eggplants into 1/2-2/3 inch pieces. Heat 2/3 cup of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the eggplants and fry for 10-15 minutes, stirring often, until the eggplants are colored on all sides. Remove the eggplants, place in a colander to drain, and sprinkle generously with salt.
Make sure you have about 1 tablespoon of oil left in the pan (add more if you don’t), then add the sliced onions and ground cumin. Saute for about 7 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato paste and cook another minute before adding the diced tomatoes, stock, water, garlic, sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Gently simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a small pot or saucepan of salted water to boil and add the moghrabieh. Cook until al dente, about 12-18 minutes, depending on the brand. Drain and rinse with cold water to remove excess starchiness.
When they have cooled slightly, remove the flaky skins from the burnt eggplants and place the eggplant flesh into the soup. Blend smooth with a handheld blender. Add the moghrabieh and fried eggplant and simmer for another 2 minutes, reserving some for garnish. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into 4 bowls and serve hot with the reserved moghrabieh and fried eggplant on top, and garnished with the shredded basil.