Citizens, mechouia (sometimes spelled mishwiyya) is a classic and delicious Tunisian hors d’oeuvre salad of grilled sweet peppers, tomatoes and onions mixed with oil and lemon. It is also frequently garnished with tuna, olives, capers and hard–boiled eggs for a main course dinner.
A good mechouia gets its intense flavor from roasting. Mediterranean foods author Paula Wolfert takes a very direct approach to roasting her vegetables. She buries them whole among the coals of her hardwood barbecue. The vegetables can also be roasted in a very hot oven, but you will miss the smokey flavor.
A good compromise is to grill the peppers and onion on a barbecue grate and roast the tomatoes and garlic in a hot oven, as I’ve done here.
Why do I post this today – because it is a necessary component of tomorrow’s recipe classic from Israel, where the Tunisian Jews brought the dish with them decades ago during their exodus. It is now a de rigeur accompaniment to Falafel! 🙂
Battle on – The Generalissimo
4 medium sweet red bell peppers — roasted, then seeded and peeled
1 small red Fresno or jalapeño chili pepper — roasted, then seeded and peeled
6 medium plum tomatoes — roasted, then seeded and peeled
1 medium sweet onion — thickly sliced and roasted
1 head garlic — roasted
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper — to taste
1 teaspoon coriander — ground
1 teaspoon caraway — ground
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
Sliced limes, capers, olives (black or green), hardboiled egg halves, canned tuna and/or anchovies (TFD note – the best anchovies – by far – are the Ortiz brand, sold at Whole Foods).
Place clean, dry, whole peppers on a BBQ grill along with thick (one-inch) slices of onion. Turn the peppers frequently until they are charred black.
Drop the roasted peppers into a bowl, cover with a cloth or plate, and leave them to cool. The sliced onions prefer much less handling. Turn them only once or twice until they soften and are marked with a deep brown or black color.
Roast the tomatoes whole in a hot (450 degree) oven. Remove the tomatoes when the skins begin to brown and wrinkle. Don’t overcook.
Prepare the garlic by slicing the top of the unpeeled head so that each individual clove is exposed. Drizzle the cut end with olive oil and wrap the head tightly in foil. The wrapped garlic can be grilled or oven roasted until it is tender. (This will take about 30 minutes. Test with a skewer to be sure.)
With all your vegetables roasted and the peppers cooled, it’s time to assemble the mechouia.
Clean each roasted pepper by peeling off the blackened skin. Remove the stem and scrape off the seeds. (Resist the temptation to rinse the peppers in water. You will lose too much of the flavorful juices.)
Peel the roasted tomatoes and remove any hard stem ends. Slit the side of each tomato and squeeze lightly to remove seeds.
Finely dice the peppers, tomatoes and onions, and optional hot pepper.
In a small bowl, prepare the dressing. Squeeze the roasted garlic head to remove the softened cloves. Add the salt and mash the garlic and salt well with a fork or the back of a spoon. Add black pepper, coriander and caraway. Whisk in olive oil and lemon juice.
Combine salad and dressing. Set aside for an hour to allow the flavors to develop.
Garnish appropriately. Serve as a dip with bread and vegetables or a main meal salad with the addition of a good-quality canned tuna.
A note about heat: Mechouia usually includes hot peppers as well as sweet. Roast a hot pepper or two, to your taste, along with the sweet peppers or use a touch of ground red pepper. Add fresh roasted peppers a little bit at a time so you don’t overdo it on the heat.
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