Taktouka: a tasty roasted pepper salad
FoodLasts for several weeks sealed tightly in the fridge

Taktouka: a tasty roasted pepper salad

Taktouka is amazing as a dip for pita or challah.

Taktouka (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Taktouka (Photo by Jessica Grann)

Taktouka is one of my favorite salads to prepare and I love my version, which keeps the vegetables chunky but the garlic and spices on the milder side.

There are quick versions of this salad, but I prefer to simmer it longer to get a velvety tomato sauce.

I make this before Shabbat, but we eat it continually during the week. Taktouka is amazing as a dip for pita or challah.

Nobody makes salatim (salads) like the Jews of North Africa, who have so much talent and thankfully shared these foods with the rest of us. It’s not uncommon to have a Friday night meal consisting only of fish and many kinds of salatim — and by many kinds, I’m talking about 10 to 15 different salatim on the table at once. I love a meal where the vegetables take the spotlight.

I especially like to put this salad on a schnitzel sandwich because it adds so much flavor and tastes great at room temperature.

This recipe lasts for several weeks if stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

Ingredients:

5-6 sweet colored and green peppers
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups fresh tomato, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1½ teaspoons sea salt
1½ teaspoons paprika or Aleppo pepper
2 teaspoons cumin

I use a mix of red and green peppers and throw in orange or yellow in place of red if I have them on hand. If you have peppers that are starting to wrinkle, this is a perfect recipe for them. I prefer to use 2 green peppers and 4 sweet peppers for this recipe.

Wash and pat dry the peppers.

Line a baking sheet (with sides) with foil and place the rack in your oven in the upper third, close to the broiler. I broil these on a high setting, but if you don’t have a broiler you can set the oven temperature to 450 F — they will take a few minutes longer per side to cook.

Broil the peppers for about 10 minutes before checking on them. There should be a nice amount of charring on the pepper, but you should flip them over before they are totally blackened.

Cook on the second side for another 10-15 minutes. When the peppers are ready, they will still have some firmness to them, but they will start to deflate when you touch them with tongs. When the peppers are cooked, remove them from the oven.

Put them into a plastic bag and seal it, or use a large plastic storage container to steam. Just pop them in, put on a tight-fitting lid and let them rest until they are cool enough to touch. This is an important step. Steaming the peppers in a sealed container (or any roasted vegetable) is how you get the skin to come off easily. This works for eggplant and tomatoes as well.

Remove the stems and peel off the skin before removing the seeds.

Once the peppers have been peeled, quickly rinse them under cool water to remove any remaining seeds.
I prefer a chunky pepper salad, so I cut them into ¼-inch wide strips, but you can dice these if you want a smoother consistency.

Set aside until the tomato sauce base is ready.

Place a pot or sauté pan over medium-low heat and add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Let the oil warm for a minute before adding the diced onion.

Sauté for 10 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent before adding the garlic, then cook for 1 more minute before adding the salt, cumin and pepper of your choice.

If the pot looks dry, add another tablespoon or two of olive oil and stir the spices into the onion until well combined.

Simmering taktouka (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Add the tomato paste and diced tomatoes at this time, cover the pot and simmer for 10-15 minutes. If your peppers are not yet ready, turn the heat off of the pan and let the tomato sauce sit covered until you’re ready to add them.

When you’re ready to combine the peppers and tomato sauce, put the heat on medium-low, stir in the peppers and cook covered for about 20 minutes.

Uncover the pot, reduce the heat to simmer and cook for an additional 10 minutes. I keep a little bit of liquid in the sauce, but you can simmer uncovered until it’s at your preferred consistency. If you prepare my chunky version but then think that you’d prefer a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender to break down the big chunks, but be careful to not to puree the sauce entirely.

Test the salad and adjust the salt or spices to your taste. Make this recipe to your preference; if you want more paprika or cumin, add it in ½ teaspoons until you reach your desired flavor.

This salad serves beautifully hot or cold. You can drizzle a little extra olive oil on the top and garnish with chopped parsley if desired. Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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