How to Prepare a Delicious Middle Eastern Soup
My daughter and her friends prepared this recipe for Burnt Eggplant and Israeli Couscous recipe many times during the semester they lived at our Salt Lake City home because of Covid. We purchased the house to retire in but were still living in Philadelphia, getting our house ready to sell, so we let her and her friends stay there.
It worked out great for them, and we appreciated having someone in the house. Maddie's three friends were vegetarian, so once they found a recipe they enjoyed, they would make it often. Maddie is still living with us until she finds her full-time job and likes to make dinner for us once a week, and this is a recipe she knows well.
This recipe can be served as either a side dish or, in our case, the main course. We served a salad with it.
The recipe is adapted from Ottolenghi Yotam's famous cookbook, Jerusalem. It features eggplant and burnt eggplant according to the recipe, but ours is more roasted. Finally, I'll explain some techniques you can try to prepare the eggplant.
Charcoal Grill - If you like using a charcoal grill, you can make a fire and place the eggplant directly on the hot coals. Be sure to poke the eggplant a few times with a fork, so they don't explode.
Using a long pair of tongs, burn the outer skin of each eggplant until it turns black and flaky. The eggplant is already shiny black, but you're looking for the burnt black color.
Gas Grill - You're doing the same technique as in the charcoal grill but positioning the eggplants over the burners on the grill grate. Again you're looking to blacken the skin until flaky.
Inside Gas Stovetop - After poking the holes in the eggplant, using a long pair of tongs, place the eggplant on top of a burner and rotate until you get that charred black color and flaky skin. Ensure your fan is on, so you don't set off your smoke alarms.
Oven Broiler - Lastly, you can use your oven broiler to char the eggplant by putting them on a tray and placing them close to the heat source, either gas or electric. They may be called burnt eggplant, but you must watch them, so they char and don't burn up. You also have to keep rotating them for the same reason.
Maddie opted for the gas grill, and it worked out perfectly.
The actual recipe uses a grain called moghrabieh. It is an extra large couscous that I'm sure we could find if we shopped at a local Middle Easter grocery store. Still, Maddie and her friends opted for Israeli couscous.
Israeli couscous, also called Ptitum, is made with hard wheat flour and was a substitute for rice when rice was scarce in Israel. It is much larger than North African couscous that you may be more familiar with in the United States.
Burnt Eggplant and Moghrabieh Soup
- 1 saucepan large
- 1 outside grill gas or charcoal
- 1 small pot to boil couscous
- 5 small eggplants
- light oil Canola, sunflower
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds freshly ground
- 1½ teaspoons tomato paste
- 2 large tomatoes diced
- 1½ cup vegetable stock
- 1⅔ cup water
- 2½ teaspoons sugar
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice fresh
- ½ cup Israeli couscous
- 2 tablespoons basil shredded, for garnish
- Prepare three of the small eggplants using one of the methods described above. We prefer using our outdoor grill for charing the eggplant, so it doesn't produce a lot of smoke in the house.Be sure to poke the three eggplants with a fork before grilling.Still, determining how long it will take depends on how high the heat is on your grill. It should take at most 10 minutes, though.
- With the remaining 2 eggplants, cut them up with skin on into ½ inch pieces.
- Heat your large saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add ⅔ cup of light oil to the pan. As soon as the oil is hot, add the cut-up eggplant and cook for 14 minutes. Be sure to stir often to prevent burning. At this point, the eggplant pieces should be darkened on all sides.
- Transfer the cooked eggplant to a colander to drain any remaining liquid and season with salt. Reserve for later.
- Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, and when hot, add the onion and ground cumin. Sauté the onions and cumin for about 8 minutes, and stir often. Stop and smell the onions and cumin cooking in the pan. Hmmm.
- At this time, add the tomato paste and continue cooking for about 1 minute.
- Now add the stock, water, garlic, sugar, lemon juice , diced tomatoes and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- While the above ingredients are simmering, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add the Israeli couscous and cook until al dente, about 15 minutes.Drain the couscous and rinse with cold water.
- Back to the burnt eggplant. When they have cooled enough to handle, remove the charred skins and discard. Add the burnt eggplant to the saucepan of soup.
- Using a hand blender, process the soup until it is smooth. If you don't have a hand blender, try using a stand blender or food processor.
- Reserve some of the Israeli couscous and reserved sautéed eggplant for garnish. Add the rest to the soup and simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
- To serve, add the reserved Israeli couscous and sautéed eggplant to 4 bowls and ladle the blended soup on top.
- Garnish with the shredded basil and serve.