Thursday, March 8, 2012


To say A is particular is like saying it's a little on the chilly side in Siberia in winter.  Or that it's kind of damp in the ocean.  You get the picture. 

A few months ago, A's parents brought us a jar of zacusca.  It sat in the cabinet for a while, with A saying he hated zacusca.  his father stayed with us one weekend and wanted it for breakfast, so we popped open the jar ... and the 2 of them proceeded to devour the entire thing in a few minutes flat.  Apparently A does not, in fact, hate zacusca.  It's just that he only likes this *one* zacusca.  This week he even tried another at his parents' house and hated that one too.

So I had an eggplant.  And some peppers.  Carrots.  Onion.  Which means *I* should make zacusca, right?

There are abotu 5,987,492 recipes for zacusca on the internet.  Eggplant, pepper, mushroom, fish (anything that involved fish and a food processor is not happening in this house, no matter how traditional it may be), summer, winter, harvest ... you name it.  And the recipes are all contradictory - for the same amount of eggplant and peppers, the oil amounts differ from 1/4 cup to 1 litre.  So I did what I normally do ... I made it up as I went along. 

I printed out what I would use as the method.  Then I commandeered the remains of the jar of zacusca we had in the fridge and used the order of the ingredients list to determine how much of everything to put in.  This is what I came up with:

1 eggplant (1 lb 8 ounces)
3 red peppers (1 lb 8 ounces)
3 medium sized carrots, peeled and chopped into coins (about 10 ounces)
11 ounces of chopped onion
1 tomato (8 ounces)
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper
oil (preferably sunflower, but we were out, so I used olive, which gives it a different taste)

Roast eggplant and red peppers.  Remove skins; let eggplant drain. 
Sweat the onions in oil with the bay leaves until translucent.  Remove bay leaves.
Boil carrots for 10-15 minutes, until they are tender but not mushy. 
Put everything (including the tomato) in the food processor and whirl until chopped/combined.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 
* About the salt - I didn't think that the jarred zacusca was very salty.  Until I tried it side by side with the completely unsalted homemade version.  To get my zacusca to the same level of saltiness, I had to add way more salt than I would have liked, about 3 tablespoons.

The verdict? It's *almost* right.  It is so very, very close.  It is liked by A, but not as much as the jarred one we have in the fridge.  So I will try it again.  What will I do differently?
(1) More eggplant.  Even though the jarred version has red peppers as the first ingredient, indicating there is more red pepper than eggplant in their recipe, the eggplant flavor stands out far more than in my version.  So the amount of eggplant needs to be adjusted a bit.
(2) Roast the tomato.  The jarred version has a very tomato pasty smell which mine does not have.  It's March, and the tomatoes are not very good, which is one problem (can't wait to try this when the garden is in full swing!), and the tomato really added no taste.  It needs the richness of roasted tomatoes or of a homemade tomato paste. 
(3) Pulse the carrots, tomato and onion in the food processor first, with the salt and pepper, then add the eggplant and peppers so that there are some small chunks of both in the finished product. 

Overall, I'm happy with it.  It's delicious.  I just have to get it *right*

Zacusca, on homemade bread

No comments:

Post a Comment