Adapted from a America’s Test Kitchen recipe
Miriam requested grilled vegetables for her birthday dinner and gave me a list of vegetables she wanted. I could have just thrown them on the grill, but ATK recently did a show on Tunisian Mechouia. Looking at other recipes on-line, this dish can vary from a vegetables puree to the chunky salad produced by chef Julia Collin Davison at ATK.
The spice mixture for Mechouia is Tabil (pronounced “table”). This is a varying blend of coriander and other spices, but it usually includes cumin and caraway seeds. Other spices that may be added are fresh or powdered garlic and chili powder or paprika. I am using my favorite Indian red chili powder.
Note: I get this from the Indian store in the neighborhood. It is coarsely powdered whole chilies—chili pods, ribs and seeds. It has an intense heat and chili flavor.
The problem with grilled vegetables that the ATK chef was dealing with is that when you just throw vegetables on the grill and then chop them up and throw them in a bowl, they quickly become a waterlogged unappetizing mess. When you grill some vegetables the surface sears and traps in much of the vegetable’s moisture. When you cup them into pieces this liquid is released to make your dish soggy.
The chef discovered that if you score the cut side of the guilty vegetables—squash and zucchini then start grilling it with the cut side down, the excess moisture is released. Even if the surface of the cut side is seared tight the scoring give the liquid an avenue of escape. Once the vegetables has dried out you can then turn them over and grill the uncut side to semi-charred perfection.
Another trick that the ATK chef used was in not over-prep-ing her vegetables. She left the skins on her shallots, tomatoes, and bell peppers. After they had fully cooked, it was easy to peel away the tough skins of the vegetables and burned outer layers of the shallot.
I had to make some changes because I cannot digest eggplant or—I have newly discovered—shallots—I love the taste, but cannot take the gas. I adapted the vegetable list to the ones that Miriam requested for her dinner. Finally, looking at other recipes, I decided that the ATK chef was way too heavy handed on her spicing—a little caraway goes a long way.
Note: Miriam specifically asked for butternut squash and corn. While I am roasting them with the same oil and spices, for this meal I am serving them as small side dishes. One dinner dislike the one and another is not eating starches.
Karl’s Tunisian Mechouia (Grilled Vegetable Salad)
2 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
½ tsp. caraway seeds
½ tsp.+ black pepper, separate uses
6 Tbs. olive oil
¼ cup+ flat-leafed parsley, chopped
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. sweet paprika
⅛ tsp. Indian red chili powder
1 clove Elephant garlic, minced
6 artichoke hearts
5 small white onions (about 1” across)
4 large crimini mushrooms, stems removed
3 bell peppers (green, red and yellow)
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise
1 yellow gooseneck squash, halved lengthwise
2 Roma tomatoes, cored and halved lengthwise
1 small butternut squash, halved lengthwise
1-2 ear(s) white corn, shucked, strings removed
1 head Elephant garlic (optional, I am using this for other dishes I am making)
Pinch Kosher salt
1. Lightly toast and grind the coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds.
2. Put the spices in a small pot and mix in the pepper and oil.
3. Transfer four tablespoons to a cup and reserve to baste the vegetables.
4. Bring the remaining oil mixture to a boil and simmer for two minutes.
5. Remove it from the heat and cool it completely.
6. Stir in the remaining dressing ingredients, cover and set aside.
Tip: Reserve a bit of the parsley for a garnish.
7. Use wooden skewers on the artichokes, onions and mushrooms.
Tip: This makes it easier to turn these vegetables and prevents them from slipping between the grill bars.
Note: Do not peel the onions.
8. Cut the bell peppers in half and remove the ribs and seeds.
Tip: Save the end pieces to use as garnish on your other dishes.
Note: I did not use skewers on the peppers, but I wished that I had. They also had a tendency to want to “slip through the cracks.”
9. Use a sharp paring knife to cut scores every ½-¾ of an inch on the cut side of the squash and zucchini.
Tip: Try not to cut the skins of the vegetables when you are making your scores. Use the tip of the knife to cut deeply into the flesh at the thickest points, but try not to end up chopping the vegetables into bits.
10. After cutting and scoring the butternut squash, put it on a plate and microwave it on high for five minutes.
Tip: This squash is the thickest vegetables you will probably be grilling. It needs a bit of a head start to grill without burning.
11. Brush the cut sides of the vegetables with the reserves oil mixture in the bowl.
Tip: You will be removing many of the vegetable skins so it is not necessary to waste basting oil on them. If you start to run out of basting oil, simply add a bit more olive oil to the bowl and mix it in.
12. Spread the coals over most of the bottom of the grill and give the grate five minutes to heat up.
13. Lay all of the vegetables directly over the coals in a single layer.
Note: Lay the cut vegetables cut side down.
14. When the first side is just starting to char, turn the vegetables over.
Tip: Every grill has zones that are hotter than others. Keep an eye on each vegetables and shift them around so that they cook evenly.
15. As the individual pieces of vegetables are done, remove them to a plate.
Tip: You want your squash to be lightly charred. You want the skin side of the peppers to be black and blistered, this makes it easier to pull off the skins. The onions should be very soft to the touch and a knife inserted into the thickest part of the butternut should slid in easily.
16. Peel the peppers and tomatoes and chop all of the vegetables into bite sized pieced. Put them all into a large bowl.
17. Crack some fresh pepper, to taste, over the vegetables.
Note: I am keeping the corn and butternut separate. I cut the corn into rings and the squash into eighths. I served them on separate plates.
18. Pour the contents of the small pot over the vegetables and toss to coat.
Tip: Check the seasoning and add more pepper or salt, if needed.
19. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and garnish with the remaining parsley and some diced pieces of the ends of the peppers.