Friday, October 26, 2012

Grilled Eggplant with Saffron Couscous and Charmoula

Grilled Eggplant with Saffron Couscous and Charmoula

This dish may be the one to turn the most serious of carnivores  into Meatless Monday fans.  Eggplant, chickpeas and couscous are filling and rest assured anything Moroccan is incredibly fragrant and satisfying. If you have never tried the cuisine, this is an excellent introduction. The recipe takes a bit more time than most (a little over an hour) but the payoff is an exotic, memorable entree. If an outdoor grill is not an option, an indoor grill or cast iron grill pan will work well.

Grilled Eggplant with Saffron Couscous and Charmoula
2 lbs eggplant
1 lb scallions
1c olive oil
2 t fresh thyme leaves
2 c couscous
2 large shallots, minced
generous pinch of saffron, crushed
1/4 t cumin seed, pan roasted until fragrant and then ground with a mortar and pestle or in a grinder
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cinnamon stick
1 c cooked chickpeas, drained
1/2 lb baby arugula
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- and for the charmoula -
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 t cumin seed, toasted
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 t paprika
1 c coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
1/3 c coarsely chopped parsley leaves
1/2 c olive oil
1 t fresh lemon juice
To prep:
Slice the stems off the eggplant and discard.  Cut eggplant lengthwise into 1/2" slices.  Score both sides of each slice and sprinkle with salt.  Set aside for 10 minutes.
Trim the roots from the spring onions and cut a portion of the green ends off leaving 5" onions for the dish. Cut onions in half lengthwise. Brush with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and thyme.
To make couscous:
Place the couscous and 1 t of salt in a bowl.  Heat 2 T olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and, add the shallots and saute until translucent. Add the saffron, cumin, cayenne and Cinnamon and cook one minute longer. Stir in 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Slowly add boiling water to couscous, distributing evenly.  Cover bowl immediately with plastic wrap or foil creating an airtight seal. Let mixture steam for 20 minutes.
While the couscous is steaming:
Blot the eggplant slices to remove water on the surface and then brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Light the grill if you are using an outdoor grill and heat to 375-400 degrees.
While the grill is heating, make the charmoula by processing all of the charmoula ingredients in a food processor and process until you have a consistent thick paste.
Place the eggplant and onions on the grill cook for 4 minutes on each aside. Remove from grill and set aside. (If an outside grill is not an option, you can use an indoor grill or a grill pan over medium-high heat).
Fluff the couscous.
Prepare the chickpeas:
Pour 2 T olive oil in a pan and heat over medium for 2 minutes. Add the chickpeas and then fry 4-5 minutes, until crispy. Drain on paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
To assemble:
Divide the couscous onto 6 plates. Arrange eggplant, arugula and onions on each plate. Spoon the charmoula over the vegetables, then scatter the chickpeas on top.

Serves 6.

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