The Arab TableRecipes and Culinary Traditions
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 May Bsisu
All right reserved.ISBN: 0060586141
Tahini Onion SauceMakes 3 cups
The secret to making delicious Tagen is to very slowly cook, or caramelize, the onions until they are golden brown and almost melting. I prefer Spanish onions because they caramelize so well. Serve Tahini Onion Sauce with Fish Kibeh, Warm Lentils with Rice, or any grilled fish.
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sesame paste (tahini)
¾ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil 2 pounds onions, halved and thinly
sliced ¼cup fried pine nuts
Salt, to taste
Combine the garlic, salt, and sesame paste in a medium bowl. Add the lemon juice and whisk until the mixture becomes a firm white paste. Gradually add up to 1 cup cold water, whisking constantly, until the mixture has the consistency of heavy cream. Set it aside.
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and stir to coat. Then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Slide a heat diffuser under the skillet and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent and all the liquid has evaporated, 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to paper towels to drain.
Add the drained onions to the tahini mixture and stir well. Add the pine nuts, reserving a few for garnish. Season with salt.
Spoon the sauce into a serving bowl, and scatter the reserved pine nuts on top.
Roasted Eggplant Spread
Serves 6The distinctive flavor of this dish comes from getting a good char on the eggplants. The intensely smoky flavor of Betinjan Mutabal makes it an excellent accompaniment to grilled meats and chicken. It is thick and creamy enough, too, to spread on Arab bread or to scoop up with crudités. My mothers version, which I give here, is particularly smooth thanks to the addition of yogurt as a secret ingredient.
The spread can be prepared 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Alternatively, you can prepare the eggplants only: Roast, peel, and seed them. Submerge them in a bowl of lemon juice, then drain, and freeze in resealable freezer bags. Defrost at room temperature until soft.
2 pounds medium eggplants
½cup sesame paste (tahini)
2/3cup fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
¾teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon mashed garlic
2 tablespoons full-fat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Sliced radishes, for garnish
Chopped scallions, for garnish
Julienned red or green chiles, for garnish
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 400°F.Pierce the eggplants in a few places with a sharp paring knife, and place them on an aluminum foillined baking sheet 4 inches from the heat source. Roast, turning the eggplants a quarter turn every5 minutes, until the skin blisters and cracks all over.
To determine doneness, press the top of an eggplant between your index finger and thumb. If it is soft, they are cooked. Let the eggplants cool until they are comfortable to handle. Then, holding the still-warm eggplants, at the stem end, peel them from the top down. Cut them in half and gently scrape out the seeds with a spoon, leaving as much flesh behind as possible.
Place the eggplant flesh in a bowl, and mash it with a potato masher or a pestle until smooth. Mix the sesame paste with the lemon juice, salt, garlic, yogurt, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Add this to the eggplant and stir until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Season to taste with additional lemon juice and salt if needed. Spoon the eggplant spread onto a serving plate and garnish with the radishes, scallions, and chiles. Drizzle with olive oil, and serve.