Citizens, in our continued 3-day celebration of National Jewish Appreciation Month, we turn to the east and south to the fabled shores of Morocco for today’s recipe!
Matbucha (Arabic: مطبوخة maṭbūkhah) is a cooked dish of tomatoes and roasted bell peppers seasoned with garlic and chili pepper.
The name of the dish originates from Arabic and means “cooked [salad]”. It is served as an appetizer, often as part of a meze. Despite being called a salad, it is actually a dip (and an extremely tasty one at that!).
Matbucha is very popular across the Maghreb and especially in Israel, to where it was brought by Jewish immigrants from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya.
It is not clear how old this dish is, since tomatoes were brought to Africa through Europe from America (c. 1492) and weren’t used in the Middle East until the 1800’s!
Citizens, it is not off-base to think of this as a Moroccan salsa – regardless of what you call it, you and your guests will love this taste of North Africa! 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
2 red bell peppers, (3/4 lb total)
1 medium jalapeno, minced
1 small serrano pepper, minced (optional)
8 large tomatoes (preferably heirloom) peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp Aleppo chili pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly-ground pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp smoked paprika
Peel the tomatoes with a sharp knife or a tomato peeler, quarter them and put them in a heavy bottom pot. Put the pot on medium heat and bring to boil.
Meanwhile, roast the bell peppers until the skin is blackened, then put in a paper bag and close. Let them steam for 10 minutes. Seed the peppers and peel off the charred skin. Chop the roasted skinned pepper flesh.
In a medium saucepan, combine diced tomatoes, roasted peppers, minced jalapeno and serrano, garlic, sugar, chili pepper flakes, ground pepper and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour – stirring occasionally to prevent the tomatoes from scorching.
When most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is quite thick, you are ready to add your oil.
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and paprika.
Pour the seasoned oil into the pan and stir.
Continue to simmer, but now, instead of stirring, use a potato masher or a big fork to mash the tomatoes occasionally. Simmer for 1 hour until all of the liquid has evaporated completely and the texture resembles an oily jam.
Towards the end of cooking, taste the mixture and adjust seasoning as desired– more sugar for sweetness, chili pepper flakes for spice, and salt if needed.
Remove the matbucha from heat and allow to cool completely. The “salad” is best served at room temperature or chilled.
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