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Zacusca (Romanian Eggplant and Red Pepper Spread)

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Level: Intermediate

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Description

Zacusca is a slow cooked eggplant and red pepper spread. This traditional Romanian dish is made in autumn when its main ingredients, eggplants and gogosari peppers, are in season. It can be eaten by itself, or slathered on rustic bread.

Ingredients

  • 3  Medium Red Bell Peppers
  • 1  Serrano Chile Pepper (optional)
  • 2  Medium Eggplants
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ½ cups Vegetable Oil
  • 1  Large White Onion
  • 15 ounces, fluid Canned Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • 2  Bay Leaves
  • Ground Black Pepper To Taste

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC).

Wash peppers and eggplant (aubergine). Pierce eggplant several times with a fork to allow steam to escape while it cooks.

Place eggplant and peppers on a greased cookie sheet (cover with foil for ease of cleaning). Roast in the oven, turning them 3 or 4 times to ensure even cooking. Eggplant should take about 45 minutes, 25–35 minutes for the bell peppers, and 10–15 for the Serrano pepper if using.

Remove vegetables when they become soft and their skin begins to blacken. Lightly salt the vegetables and place in a plastic or glass container covered with a lid or plastic wrap. Allow to cool. Remove skins and stems.

Place the eggplant in a strainer and allow liquid to drain for 1 hour. Remove seeds from peppers and set aside (if using Serrano chili, leave the seeds if you want more heat).

Place the eggplant and pepper flesh into a food processor and blend until coarsely chopped.

Place onions in a saute pan with oil and cook until translucent, 10–15 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, cooked vegetables, bay leaves and ground black pepper. Bring sauce to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to cook until sauce reaches desired consistency, which should be that of a thick spread. Remove bay leaf and adjust seasoning.

This recipe can be canned and stored so the sauce can be enjoyed for up to 2 years.

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