Growing up, I thought everyone's Shabbat table boasted a variety of Middle Eastern cooked salads. I got my culture shock when I went to college and got invited to various homes from different backgrounds. Some homes served the standard hummus and tahini, store-bought nonetheless. Some had nothing but horseradish. And then some had an assortment of doughy appetizers. I couldn't help wonder, what do they eat their challah with?
Taking that first bite of fluffy, airy challah smothered in a little bit of babaganoush and (a lot) of madbucha is something I look forward to every single week. The different colors and flavors, as well as the textures and spices make these salads a weekly staple on my Shabbat table.
In the next few posts, I'll share with you the recipes to some of my favorite Middle Eastern salads. From homemade tahini, to roasted eggplant and spiced beets. If you've never made them, I hope you will push yourself to. Some are easy and others more "laborious," but all are absolutely worth it.
I'll start with my favorite of all: Matbucha
What are your favorite Shabbat salads? What do you like to eat challah with?
This salad involves numerous steps and requires a long cooking time on a low fire. Therefore, I usually make a large batch and freeze half, so I only have to make it every other week.
24 roma tomatoes, roasted, skin peeled off
6 red bell peppers, roasted, skin peeled off
2 jalapenos, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup of oil
3 TB paprika
salt and pepper
1. With your oven on broil, roast the tomatoes and bell pepper until skin is blackened. Make sure they are fully roasted on all sides. Remove from the oven and cover to let the steam facilitate the removal of the skin. Peel and dice the tomatoes and peppers as small as you can.
2. Heat the oil in a 4 quart pot on medium heat, add the jalapeno and sautee for a minute.
3. Add the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and spices.
4. With a potato masher, smash everything together so you get a pureed mixture. Don't worry if there's a lot of liquid.
5. Let the mixture bubble and boil, and reduce the heat to medium low for about 45-60 minutes, stirring at frequent intervals to ensure the bottom doesn't burn.
6. The madbucha is ready when the mixture becomes a thick paste and no liquid remains.
exhausted yet? yes, there are many steps. But there are also a few shorcuts:
1) instead of using fresh tomatoes, you can use canned tomatoes that are already peeled and diced
2) instead of roasting the peppers, you can leave them raw and sautee them in the oil for a few minutes with the jalapeno
but sadly, these shortcuts do not yield the same results. If you have the time, I do suggest making it the longer way. The difference is discernible.
1 large eggplant
1 garlic clove, minced
2 TB of mayonnaise
juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper
1. Either directly over a fire or under the broiler, char the skin of the eggplant until black. You will think it's totally burnt, but really the inside is nicely cooked and roasted.
2. Cut the eggplant lengthwise and spoon out the meat inside into a sieve. Let most of the liquid drip out.
3. In a small bowl, mix the eggplant, garlic, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Tip: if you like it very creamy, you can also put everything into a food processor and mix until pureed.