By Greg B. I’ve known a family of Romanians for a while now, but I haven’t seen this particular recipe made in years, so I’m going from memory! Zacusca is a great food, not a meal in it’s own (though you can certainly eat enough of it to make it one) but a spread on bread for sandwiches or even just a nice snack on break of crackers. Here is my version from what I can remember of how it is made!
- 4 Large red peppers
- 1 medium eggplant
- 2 medium onions
- ~ 6-7 cloves of garlic
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- *two medium tomatoes
This recipe involves a lot of grilling, so make sure you have a suitable place to grill. I like to use charcoal to grill food, but you can do this on a gas grill as well. First, take your garlic cloves and remove any of the shell or outside lining. Second, take your eggplant and slice a few “X” marks into it, in places where you will want to shove your garlic cloves into the eggplant. Third, shove garlic cloves into the eggplant! The eggplant should be fairly covered in garlic at this point, and that’s how you know it’s ready for roasting.
Start your coals. This time, I used a mesquite charcoal I had leftover from the end of summer, which is ok by me since it will add an extra smokey flavor to the food. You will want to heat a large area, to roast all the vegetables evenly, so try to cover the base of the grill with about an average or 2 coals on top of each other. You don’t want to concentrate the heat too much in one location, but really give every spot a good chance of cooking evenly.
Wash and dry your veggies, leave the red peppers intact and slice the onions after removing the outer shell. Then place them all on the grill and cook each side until it is blackened. The red peppers should blacken on each side, even the bottoms, and the eggplant should become a very dark and very mushy version of itself. Onions will roast nicely, I keep them to the outside usually, since they cook so fast.
Once everything is blackened, take the eggplant and the red peppers and place them in a brown paper bag for about 15 minutes, rolling the end and sealing it. This bag steaming method will help remove the blistered skin of the peppers. After the time is up, remove the vegetables and start prepping your food processor! remove the red pepper blackened skins, the stems and the majority of the seeds. For the eggplant, remove the burnt skin an the top, but leaving the roasted garlic and internal portion of the eggplant. Place everything in a food processor, add salt and pepper (adjust later to taste) and some olive oil, and process!
The end result should be a nice red, slightly chunky, thick hearty spread. Some bits of blackened skins will remain and give this dish a nice smokey, roasted flavor. At this point, while it’s hot, I like to eat as much as I can. With a baguette, or wheat thins, or baby carrots, basically any vehicle to eat this zacusca is great.
And that’s how easy this awesomely delicious food is. It works great as an appetizer, great as a spread on sandwiches and great on just about anything you can think of to use it on. At this point, I should note that while making this today, I totally forgot the tomatoes (why they’re starred in the ingredients list). Basically roast them along with the rest of the vegetables, and you’ll be golden. I fortunately had a can of tomato paste, and while not ideal, I added some of it to the food to give it a bit of tomato acid to balance out how sweet the peppers are. At this point, I’d like to ask Mike would wine would best go along with this food, in just a baguette + zacusca serving. Any recommendations? For beer, I’d keep it simple, a nice pale ale, like Anderson valley’s. Something that is refreshing, but wont overpower the more subtle sweet flavors and smokey aromas