Though originally Mexican in origin, tacos are quickly being adapted to other cuisines. You can find Korean, Indian, and even French tacos, particularly amidst the popular food truck scene. So I'm not reinventing the wheel here, I'm simply applying a familiar style of eating to a different set of flavors. And man is it good.
On our trip to Morocco I was introduced to Zaalouk, a very flavorful cooked eggplant and tomato salad. It is stewed until thickened and is usually served alongside other vegetable salads and bread. The flavor is deep and complex without complicated preparation. It is smoky from cumin and paprika but lifted up with fresh herbs and lemon. It is one of those dishes that is way more than the sum of its parts. But it's hard to describe the exact flavor, and I urge you to make it and see for yourself. It's a popular and authentic Moroccan recipe, and I credit my recipe to the many versions floating around the web.
I layer this spread on flatbread and top it with a raw, zesty zucchini salad and feta marinated in extra virgin olive oil and harissa. The crunchy zucchini balances the soft eggplant spread, and the marinated feta adds a fresh zesty, smoky layer that pulls all the flavors together. I like to make a Greek yogurt flatbread (recipe below) because it's easy, delicious, and it holds up to the toppings without feeling heavy or bready. If you're short on time you could instead use store-bought flatbread such as pita, naan, or flour tortillas. But remember, in a dish like this where there are only a few components, it's important to use good quality ingredients because each ingredient is front and center.
Set the taco components out on the table and allow diners to make their own taco. Lay flatbread on a plate and top with the eggplant-tomato spread, zucchini salad, and feta.
Zaalouk (Stewed Eggplant-Tomato Spread)
1 large eggplant, peeled and chopped
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup cilantro and parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Few pinches cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp. mild olive oil
1/3 cup water
Squeeze of lemon
Mix all ingredients except for lemon in a medium saucepan or deep saute pan. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the bottom does not stick.
Remove lid and lightly mash the eggplant and tomatoes with a fork or potato masher. Simmer for another 10 minutes, uncovered, until the mixture has thickened and is the consistency of a spread. Stir in lemon juice.
Serve warm or room temperature.
Lemony Zucchini Salad
Notes: Leftovers keep in the fridge for 1-2 days. Thanks to the zesty but bright, clean flavors, leftovers can be used as a stand-alone salad or mixed into other dishes that need to be brightened or could benefit from extra crunch (think grain salads, a bruschetta-like topping, or stirred into a frittata or omelet).
2 medium, firm zucchini
Juice from 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt and pepper
1 red chili (or red pepper flakes)
Shred zucchini using the shredder attachment of a food processor or the large side of a box grater. Set aside.
In the bottom of a medium mixing or serving bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients to make the dressing. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add zucchini to the bowl and toss to coat. Taste for seasoning, more salt may be needed.
Notes: The heat level in harissa sauces varies depending on the brand. My favorite brand is a blend of dried chilies, cumin, and tomato paste, so it's not as spicy. But taste yours before adding the full amount. The feta will keep in the fridge for several days, but I'd be surprised if you have much left. It's so good.
1/2 cup (100 gr) feta, crumbled
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping tsp. harissa sauce
1/8 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. za'atar (optional)
Juice from 1/4 lemon
Gently stir everything together in a small bowl and set aside to marinate.
Greek Yogurt Flatbread
Adapted from Plenty
Makes ~ 6 flatbreads (serves 4-6 as a starter, 2-3 as a main)
Notes: The dough can be made a day ahead of time and kept in the fridge. I usually double the recipe because these tend to disappear rather quickly!
1 cup + 2 tsp. spelt flour (or whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil, or other oil with a high smoke point
In a large mixing bowl use a fork to combine all ingredients except for the ghee. When everything is mixed use your hands to work it into a dry dough, adding a little more flour if it seems too wet. Knead the dough in the bowl until smooth and uniform (~1 minute). Wrap it in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.
To make the flatbreads, divide the dough into 6 pieces, use the palm of your hands to roll into balls, and with a rolling pin roll out to ~ 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick, or as thin or thick as you desire for tacos. Heat some of the ghee (or oil of choice) in a large cast iron skillet or heavy-bottomed non-stick pan over medium heat. Cook the flatbread for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden in color. If using a cast iron skillet, you will need very little ghee or oil after the first flatbread has been cooked, and you may not use the full amount called for in the recipe.