The smoky smell of vegetables slow roasting over a grill as our cousins hunch over on stools, and fan the flames patiently...the sound of embers popping and crackling underneath. After the vegetables cool, the skins are peeled to reveal tender, juicy delights ready to be drizzled in olive oil. Nothing symbolizes summer in Tunisia more than slata mechouia.
Slata mechouia literally means "grilled salad" as the vegetables are grilled over an open flame. You can find all the veggies you need at your local farmer's market right now as this salad uses the best of summer produce- typically onions, garlic, tomatoes, and hot peppers (giving it that Tunisian kick).
Our cousin, Olfa, in El Kef, Tunisia, patiently roasting peppers.
Recipe for Slata Mechouia
4 whole onions
5 whole tomatoes
one whole garlic bulb, or several whole garlic cloves with the peel
4-5 whole green Anaheim peppers
2 whole bell peppers
2-3 whole jalapeno peppers
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1-2-3 tbs Olive Oil
Hard boiled eggs
*Note: We would like to mention before starting that as with many recipes, this is another one where the ingredient amounts and vegetable types can vary. Use this as a base recipe and adjust as you please. It can be made more or less spicy, more or less tomato-y, more or less garlic-y, etc.
Clean and dry the vegetables that have skin.
Char your vegetables a few at a time. For the best flavor, do this over a charcoal grill. Turn the vegetables every so often to get an even char all the way around.
*Note: If you don't have access to a charcoal grill, a gas grill would work as well. Other methods for charring vegetables are available also such as straight over a gas stove flame, or under the broiler component of your oven. Just be careful with whichever method you choose.
Once all your vegetables are charred, place in a plastic bag and tie it closed, or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. This allows the vegetables to cool and sweat a bit which helps with the peeling process. Let them sit aside for about 10-20 mins.
Begin peeling the outer skin and peel off of your vegetables. Remove any stems as well as any seeds you wish to omit.
*Note: If the vegetables have sweat properly, the skins should be fairly easy to remove; a small knife can also be useful. Also, keep in mind, especially if using spicy peppers, that it may be helpful to wear kitchen gloves to avoid burning your fingers (and eyes!). Remove any seeds and ribs of your peppers if you don't want your final dish too spicy.
Once all of your ingredients have been peeled, place a few vegetables at a time into a food processor and pulse until a little smooth but there are still some small chunks. Place each batch aside until you have processed all of your ingredients. Mix well and add salt and pepper to taste and adjust as needed.
*Note: If you do not have a food processor, you can also use a fork and knife to cut your vegetables down, or a mortar and pestle to further mash them. Make it as chunky or smooth as you like.
Place the finished dish on a serving plate and garnish with slices of hard boiled eggs, good quality tuna, olives, and a healthy drizzle of olive oil. Serve with fresh baguette or homemade bread and dig in!