Here’s a tip for everyone: bleaching the moldy bathroom walls of your apartment in the desert is best done when you are not severely jetlagged, your A/C is not broken, and your roommates are at home. Otherwise, it becomes a rather sweaty affair.
That being said, let me introduce you to what can best be described as an Israeli/Moroccan version of tomato salsa. Matbucha (the “ch” sound similar to the the “ch” sound in “Bach,” or thereabouts and the “u” sound is pronounced “boo”) is always found in the meze course of Israeli dinners. It means “cooked salad,” and it is made, kind of like salsa actually, by roasting pepper and stewing them with tomatoes and garlic. Matbucha is also sometimes called “salat turki,” that is, Turkish salad, and it comes originally from Northern Africa, eventually making its way, via immigrants, into the Israeli culinary scene.
Eat matbucha like this: serve up a big scoop of the dip and another scoop of hummus onto your plate, tear off a chunk of pita or baguette, and swirl the bread in both the tomatoes and the chickpeas. Eat. Repeat. Perfect appetizer.
Also, if you happen to be in Israel, I suggest that you try making your matbucha at home. This recipe makes a giant batch, and it’s cheaper and tastier than buying it prepared. Plus, it’s easy to make.
Matbucha – Middle Eastern Tomato and Pepper Dip, i.e. Salsa
adapted from The Book of New Israeli Food
Note: Ingredients differ slightly depending on whether you’re in the US or Israel since available pepper varieties are not the same. Be aware of those differences when you’re shopping for the ingredients.
makes 6 cups or more
-4-5 large tomatoes (I used roma tomatoes and doubled the number).
-4 red bell pepper
-IF IN US: 3 green bell peppers
-IF IN US: 1 jalapeño
-IF IN ISRAEL: 4 green hot peppers
-8-1o cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
-1/2 c. olive oil
-1 tbsp. paprika
-1 tsp. cayenne or to taste
-1 tsp. salt
-1 pinch sugar
-1 tbsp. tomato paste
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Peel your tomatoes. To do this, score the bottoms of the tomatoes with an “x,” and drop them into boiling water for 10 seconds. Remove, let cool, and the skin should peel off easily.
Next, put all of the peppers on a cookie sheet, and roast them in the oven, rotating them every 1o minutes or so. The peppers are roasted when they begin to blister and collapse and the flesh is quite tender. Depending on the size of the peppers, this could take 20 – 40 minutes. (Here’s a little tutorial, if that’s helpful).
Transfer the hot peppers to plastic ziploc bags, seal the bags, and allow the skin to separate from the pepper flesh. Once the pepper is cool to the touch, open the bag, and the pepper skins will peel off.
If you’re using a jalapeño, discard the seeds and ribbing at this point – and wash yo’ hands! With soap! Twice!
Dice the tomatoes at small-med size, and transfer into a large saucepan. Cook 5 – 10 minutes, on a medium flame, until the liquid evaporates.
Dice the pepper in the small pieces, and add the peppers as well as all of the remaining ingredients except the tomato paste to the saucepan. Cover, and cook for about 2 hours on a low flame. Stir intermittently.
Add the tomato paste, combine, and continue cooking the matbucha for another half hour.
Matbucha will be ready when thick. Serve hot, cold, or room temperature. You can dip pretty much anything in the matbucha. My favorite is the pita and hummus combo described above. Matbucha also makes a really good base in which to bake chicken.