Vegetarian Grilling: Charred Whole Eggplants, Couscous and Confit Peppers
From time to time we offer guest blogs on Barbecuebible.com. This one comes from Alice Hart, author of The Way to Eat Now: Modern Vegetarian Food. Alice Hart is a master at crafting seasonal vegetarian recipes, inspired by her travels around the world, that celebrate produce and other whole foods, as well as spices and herbs by the handful. Alice Hart’s Whole Eggplants, Couscous and Confit Peppers recipe is a reminder that grilling is one of the healthiest (and tastiest) ways to cook. Fire up the grill for a delicious vegetarian meal.
A stunner. Sweet peppers, charred eggplants, toasted giant couscous, a spiced dressing, mint and spoonfuls of cool labneh. It is important to choose the longest eggplants you can find. Plump eggplants will need to be sliced in half, or given a good 10 minutes longer if left whole. You could forgo the broiler entirely in favor of a grill; the extra smokiness would be very welcome.
Whole Eggplants, Couscous and Confit Peppers
- 4 large, sweet peppers
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 red onion, halved and sliced
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (135 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons good sherry vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons ras el hanout
- 4 large, long eggplants
- Good squeeze of lemon juice
- Small handful of mint leaves, chopped, plus more to serve
- ¾ cup (150 g) Israeli whole-grain couscous
- 1½ cups (350 ml) vegetable stock or water
- 4 heaping tablespoons labneh, store-bought
- Up to a week ahead of time, make the pepper confit. Deseed the peppers, cutting them into chubby strips and removing any pale ribs from the insides as you do so. Finely slice 3 of the garlic cloves and add to a frying pan with the peppers, red onion and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sauté over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes, until softened. Once they have started to color at the edges, add 1 tablespoon of the sherry vinegar and stir well, scraping at the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze. Stir in the paprika, reduce the heat to low and cover. Leave to cook, stirring now and then, for a further 15 minutes, until sweet and very soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Use immediately, or cover and chill for up to 7 days.
- To cook the eggplants, preheat the broiler to medium. Combine 1 tablespoon of the ras el hanout with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Prick the eggplants all over with a fork. Rub with the spiced oil, turning to coat; the hope is that each eggplant absorbs oil and spice through the holes. Arrange on a baking sheet and broil for 25 to 30 minutes, turning with tongs every 10 minutes.
- To make the dressing, crush the remaining garlic clove with a fat pinch of salt to make a paste. Combine it with the remaining ¼ cup (60 ml) of olive oil, remaining vinegar and ras el hanout, lemon juice and chopped mint. Make the dressing directly with a mortar and pestle if you have one, muddling the mint slightly. Otherwise, just combine everything in a bowl.
- Toast the couscous until golden in a dry frying pan set over medium heat, stirring. Add the stock, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often, until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is cooked through. Fold half the dressing through and season to taste.
- Serve the whole eggplants and confit peppers with the couscous, pouring the remaining dressing over with spoonfuls of the labneh. Scatter more mint leaves over the top.
Recipe from The Way to Eat Now: Modern Vegetarian Food © Alice Hart, 2016, 2017. Photographs © Emma Lee, 2016, 2017. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. theexperimentpublishing.com