Thursday, July 26, 2007

red and delicious

this very popular appetizer dish is found on many a sephardic table, especially those of jews having spanish descent, such as moroccans. it is a staple dish on the sabbath and at (almost) all holidays throughout the jewish calendar.

called la salade cuite (matboucha) or ensalada cocha, this dish is not a salad as we know it in north america. a "salade" {saw-lahd} in sephardic terms is more a kind of starter, of which there are several [such as this one]. a majority of them are composed of everyday vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini, beets and eggplant which are quickly cooked or slowly stewed, the latter method serving to concentrate and intensify their flavours. these salades are then served at either room temperature or slightly warm.

the way i am presenting it here is a very easy and quick way to do it and is the way many people prepare it. using fresh tomatoes, in my opinion, just doesn't pay as it takes tremendous time and effort to wash, peel, cut and cook them — using the canned variety gives just as decent results. note that for as many cooks as there are, equal numbers of versions and manners of preparing this appetizer exist.

this is la salade cuite in its most basic form. it is customarily eaten with challah or pita, like a spread. this also helps to sop up any of the wonderful juices.

ensalada cocha or la salade cuite (matboucha)

a tasty appetizer dish most commonly seen on the sephardi sabbath & holiday table, this is always served at room temperature with bread like challah or pita. because of its acidity, it can be kept for at least a week in the fridge and gets better over the course of a few days.


1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
4 - 5 cloves garlic
1 or 2 green bell peppers
4 - 6 tbsp vegetable or mild olive oil

1 - 1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 - 2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cumin (optional)
2 tsp paprika

*some people like to add a (hot) green chili, or some harissa paste, for "une salade piquante" (spicy salade)

2 - 3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (optional)


the first step in making this is to grill your green pepper(s). i do it in a grill pan on the stove top until all sides are charred, which takes about 30 to 40 minutes. you can also do it at 450F in the oven or toaster oven turning the pepper(s) every once in a while until they are blackened.

once it has charred, place it in a bowl and cover the bowl. let the pepper cool down and then peel away all of the skin.

remove the top and cut in half. discard the seeds.

cut the pepper into 1/4" strips lengthwise and set aside. keep the juices to add later; they are not bitter. cut the strips in half. they should be about 1 1/2 to 2 inches.

the second step is to cut the garlic into 1/8" slices and sauté them in 4 tbsp oil over medium low heat. cook them until they are softened. if they blacken, throw them out and start again.

add the whole can of diced tomatoes to the pan and the salt (start with 1 tsp and adjust at the end if needed), pepper, sugar and paprika. you can also add the green peppers now. add the harissa paste, to taste, or the hot green chili, if using.

bring it to a boil. once boiling, turn the heat to medium high. cook the mixture, covered, for a good 10 minutes and then remove the lid. the mixture should have thickened up.

at this point you can also keep the lid on half way to reduce splattering. i like to cook it in a wide sauté pan but you can also use a dutch oven casserole pan.

let the mixture cook for about 40 to 45 minutes or until there is very little, or almost no liquid left and the tomatoes are starting to look shiny.

the salade is cooked. remove from the heat and let it cool a bit. taste it and adjust the seasonings. add the chopped coriander, if using. i usually add a tbsp or two of extra virgin olive oil at this point but that is optional.

let it sit for a few hours for the flavours to settle.

serve at room temperature with challah or other bread like pita.



Maninas: Food Matters said...

sounds delicious!

btw, my mum always uses peppers when making tomato sauce. She adds them a little after the onions and grated carrots. It adds a lovely depth to the sauce. yum

burekaboy — said...

thanks maninas; it is very popular where i live.

your mom's tomato sauce sounds very similar to one i make. international flavouring, i guess :)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Oh, that is something I would surely enjoy! This dish is a bit similar to the French "Ratatouille"...

Emily DeVoto, Ph.D., said...

Interesting that Rosa mentioned ratatouille - I am about to make some, and somehow (given the new post on male vs. female eggplants) expected that there would be eggplants in this recipe.

burekaboy — said...

rosa - would be good with all those breads you make ;)

emily - haha, tricked you! LOL. nope, definitely never any eggplant in this recipe. i was never big into ratatouille come to think of it. ;o maybe i'll retry it some time this summer.

Anonymous said...

You've inspired me to make this for Shabbat. Haven't done it in a while--my hubby will thank you. It is bubbling away right now. Our family calls it "cooked salad" and my mother-in-law makes it regularly. I love having your precise instructions as a Moroccan maman does not use measurements. My inner uptight nature that likes to follow instructions, appreciates your excellent direction and photos.

Shabbat Shalom! Deanna

burekaboy — said...

hey deanna - hope you enjoy it and you like how it tastes — it's really just a "bare bones" and basic version, albeit a good one. you can, of course, season it to suit your family's tastes. i usually add harissa too but that's my preference for more spicy foods. i had to laugh when you talked about la maman's non use of measurements -- i know all about that (lol, "tu le fais comme ca" or "c'est avec la farine que ca prend, comment je sais??"). i'm kind of uptight too about being exact :)) thanks for the comment & shabbat shalom.

Dan said...

i've had this at shabbat meals so many times that i really wanted to make it myself but all the other recipes i found called for fresh tomatoes. thanks for the recipe, i'm glad i found it. it's exactly what i was looking for! i agree with you in that using fresh tomatoes just doesn't pay when you have to cook them down so much like in this dish. canned ones are so much easier (not to mention cheaper) and you don't have to worry about them being out of season.

i made this last night and it came out really great. i put my own spin on it by adding a sliced onion (perhaps not traditional but it seems like a welcome addition) after sauteeing the garlic. after sweating the onion is when i added the paprika and cumin, the same method used in making a curry paste mixed with the oil and onions. i think this helps the flavor of the spices to become integrated better, as they are most soluble in fat. do you used smoked or regular paprika? i also used one roasted green bell pepper and one roasted poblano peppers. i like poblanos because they give you a nice mild heat. i also made your harissa recipe and added a spoon of that.

the matboucha cooked down much quicker than i expected...maybe the heat was too high. it reduced so fast that i think i might have cooked it down too much because it was really thick, so i took your suggestion and added a bit of olive oil, still too thick. then a splash of white wine, still too thick. then a splash of red wine, still too thick. finally, a couple glugs of unchicken stock and it was the right consistency :) i say why add water when you can add so many other liquids that have a lot more flavor? you go through all that trouble to take the water out, you don't want to put it back in! in the end it turned out great and i love the stuff! sorry for rambling so much, thank you for posting the recipe.

burekaboy — said...

hi dan - happy to hear you liked it and it worked out in the end! you may have had the heat a little too high but that is what trial is all about -- if you make it again, you can adjust the heat and cooking time. usually, the salades cuites made with fresh tomatoes take longer and there is more water. the canned tomatoes are precooked during their processing and more concentrated.

this way of making matboucha, with canned tomatoes, is how it is usually made where i live (we have a huge moroccan jewish community). it does cook fairly quickly but the idea is that the tomatoes are already cooked so there is a faster cooking and reduction time. some people here even drain the tomatoes completely to eliminate excess liquid and therefore cut the time. i don't necessarily agree with this; the process is really to cook down the juices, retain the flavours and concentrate the tomatoes and everything else that's in it.

i'm sure your way came out great. you may want to reduce it over medium low heat next time. i doubt the wine & stock did it any injustice though it's not traditional! LOL. if you do use wine again, just add it at the beginning to cook off the alcohol.

i often put smoked paprika (i get from spain). different brands have varying degrees of 'smokiness' so use with caution. i'm sure you know that already ;) the olive oil is really just to add extra flavour. also, the whole thing will thicken more upon cooling; it actually looks deceiving as it cooks because it appears there is more liquid than has actually cooked off.

now that you have a feel for it, you can tailor it to suit your taste. by the way, you can freeze it perfectly if you have any left. i make it 2x a month. enjoy! email me or leave comments if you have any other questions about stuff.

happy new year :)

Dan said...

cool, thanks for the info. i think next time i might try it with the canned diced tomatoes with green chiles, well-known for its use in tex-mex cooking as rotel tomatoes...and simmer it on lower heat :) the publix store brand is OU.

burekaboy — said...

dan - no problem ;) good luck with the next experiment! haven't tried using that kind for matboucha but sounds like it would work nicely.