There's a street in Tours near the river that is chock-full of ethnic restaurants. We fell, and fell hard, for one in particular: Beyrouth. A Lebanese restaurant, Beyrouth offers large platters and also smaller appetizer-type plates meant to be shared (think tapas). All were good - the fattoush salad, the stuffed grape leaves, the hummus. But one stood out in particular...mouttabal.
I had never heard of this, much less eaten it. It came along with my lunch sampler plate one day, but my French was so bad it took me a couple more visits to the restaurant before I could even figure out which menu item it was. Once I had narrowed it down to mouttabal, I did some research. I've mentioned before that food I eat in restaurants typically falls into two categories: "I can totally make this at home!" or "I could never make this at home and will continue to pay someone to make it for me." Mouttabal fell into the former category, but you need a grill or an oven - neither of which we had in France.
Fast-forward the better part of a year, and here we are. Now that we're getting settled in the new house, I've been really itching to put our lovely, spacious kitchen to good use making some new recipes. And this one was a success. If you can manage to grill an eggplant, you can make this. Seriously. It's SO easy, requires very few ingredients, and the taste is amazing.
You can serve it with just about any kind of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean food (or, well, ANY food), but because of a long-standing rule from B to only make one new recipe per meal, we cheated a little and picked up some gyro meat, pita bread, and tabbouleh from Pita House to accompany it. And it all was delicious. Our mouttabal is a little chunkier than I remember from Beyrouth, but I kind of like it that way. The taste is the same, from what I can remember.
I miss some things from France so bad my heart hurts, and I know they can never be adequately replicated here (exhibit A: a decent baguette). So it's freakishly comforting to know that if I really start to miss Rue Colbert and its plethora of ethnic restaurants, Beyrouth is only a roasted eggplant away.
E + B
1 medium-sized eggplant
1/2 cup tahini paste
juice of one large lemon
2 cloves garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons of salted yogurt
salt to taste
olive oil to drizzle
Roast the whole eggplant on a grill for about half an hour, turning frequently.
Allow the eggplant to rest about 10-15 minutes, then run it under cold water and peel using your hands.
Remove the stem and place the flesh in a bowl.
Run a knife through the flesh to separate it.
Add lemon juice, garlic, salt, tahini, and yogurt
Mash the mixture and mix well.
Spread on a plate and garnish with a light drizzle of olive oil.
Serve with pita bread.
This makes at least four servings, probably more. But if you go with four, each serving is 279 calories apiece, to say nothing of the pita bread and other meal items you might have. It's not the healthiest thing ever - tahini paste is high in calories - but it's worth it every once in a while. Trust me here.
Recipe adapted from this recipe from InternationalCuisine.com.