Friday, October 10, 2008

Zacusca - Vegetable spread

When I think of Romanian cuisine, the words "slow" and "arduous" come immediately to mind. No wonder I've always been more attracted to Asian cooking, with its promise of lightning-fast stir fry meals. But I'm learning that some Romanian foods can be quite easy, especially if you prepare extra quantities of time-consuming items and freeze them.

Say, for example, that you made salata de vinete, but you roasted two eggplants and froze one in a ziploc bag. Say you roasted some red peppers too, and froze some of those. You're basically ten minutes away from making your own zacusca, a spread very similar to ajvar.

This recipe comes from my grandmother, and she advised using four peppers to one eggplant. I should say that this made way too much, at least for me to consume, but I found another use for it. If I were making it again, I would make half the quantity at most.

So -- coarsely chop an onion, and sautee it in oil. Cut the red peppers into little squares, and add them to the pan:

Add the mushed up roasted eggplant, salt, pepper, and about a spoonful of tomato paste. That's it!

Let it cook for a bit, and the flavours will bind nicely together. I should add that I put some chili powder in this, and I don't think that was a good idea. I think the heat needs to come from the peppers or not at all, and the Romanian version is definitely mild.

In the end, I only managed to eat about half of this, even though it was nice to have in my fridge. (Unfortunately, I made it at the same time as the salata de ardei copti, so it was a bit of a red pepper overload.) But, I "recycled" the rest by frying a bit of garlic and ginger in a pan, some Indian spices (turmeric, cayenne, coriander), and then adding the zacusca (which already had onions). With some rice it made a quick, pseudo-Indian lunch.


Mrs. M. said...

Hey, that's known in Russia as eggplant caviar. Looks good!