Tunisia was the breadbasket of ancient Rome, and this wheat-growing country boasts breads of great quality and variety. Succeeding waves of conquest, by Spaniards, Arabs, Turks and most recently the French, brought new foods and ways of cooking, influences now blended into the distinct and pleasing cuisine of Tunisia.
Hot chili peppers, introduced by the Spanish, are most important to this cooking, yet Tunisian cooks are deft seasoners. As might be expected, the French influence is strongest, and the beautiful presentation of all dishes is their direct legacy.
As with all North African nations, couscous is a central dish, but not for the warmer months. Tunisians are seasonal eaters, and as more fresh vegetables become available after the wet and chilly winter the diet changes to foods that are light and cooling to the palate. Note that rice plays no part in this cooking. Crusty French bread is the usual accompaniment to a main course.
by Copeland Marks
Process the zucchini with the thick [6mm] slicing disc of a food processor. Reserve.
Stack the pepper pieces upright in the feed tube and process with the all-purpose [4mm] slicing disc.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet and cook the zucchini, stirring, until tender, about 4 minutes. Reserve. Sauté the green pepper strips in the same skillet, stirring, about 4 minutes. Reserve.
Process half the potatoes with the thick [6mm] slicing disc. Cook them in the skillet for about 10 minutes. Reserve. Repeat with the remaining potatoes, adding oil if necessary to prevent them from sticking to the skillet. Combine all the sautéed vegetables and keep warm in a low-temperature oven.
To make the sauce, mix the water, tomato paste, salt, pepper and coriander in the skillet and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar.
Put the vegetables on a serving platter and pour the sauce over them. Sprinkle with parsley.
Makes 4 servings [about 8 ounces each, 230g].
Shred the cheese with the medium shredding disc of a food processor. Reserve.
Process the parsley and garlic with the metal blade until finely chopped, about 15 seconds. Add the onion and pulse until finely chopped, about 6 times. Add the lamb, salt and pepper and pulse until finely chopped, about 10 times. Add the eggs, pulse 4 times, then process until the mixture is blended, about 5 seconds.
Pour half the lamb mixture into the loaf pan. Arrange the artichokes, cut side down, on the mixture and pour the remaining lamb mixture over them. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese.
Bake in the center of the preheated oven until the loaf is firm to the touch, about 50 minutes.
Remove the loaf to a wire rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn out onto a platter, slice and serve.
Makes 6 servings [about 53/4 ounces each, 150g].
Drop the garlic through the feed tube with the metal blade in place and the motor running. Process until finely chopped, about 5 seconds; reserve.
Cook the carrots in the water with 1/2 teaspoon salt until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to stop further cooking. When cool, pulse with the metal blade to a coarse chop, about 6 times. Set aside in a large bowl.
Toss the chopped garlic, mint, remaining l/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, olive oil, vinegar and capers with the carrots. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.
Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves, garnished with the egg slices and olives.
Makes 6 servings [about 5 ounces each, 140g].
Drop the garlic through the feed tube with the motor running and process until finely chopped, about 5 seconds. Then drop the onion through the feed tube and process until finely chopped, about 10 seconds.
Heat the oil in a skillet over moderate heat, add the garlic-onion mixture and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add the I cumin, coriander and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, | for 1 minute more. Add the chopped parsley and the I remaining ingredients, increase the heat, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Makes 6 servings [about 5 ounces each, 140g].
Process the cheese with the medium shredding disc of a food processor and set aside.
Pulse the lamb pieces with the metal blade until chopped, about 8 times.
Cook the lamb and seasonings in the oil over medium-high heat, stirring, until the lamb is no longer pink, about 1 l/2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature. When cool, stir in the egg yolk and shredded cheese.
To assemble the turnovers, roll 1 piece of dough into a 15 by 11-inch [38 by 28cm] rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Use a 31/2-inch [9cm] cookie cutter to cut out 12 dough circles. Put a generous teaspoon of filling on one side of each circle. Moisten the edge with water, fold the dough over the filling and seal with the tines of a fork. Place the filled turnovers on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Cover lightly with plastic wrap to keep the turnovers from drying out. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
To cook the turnovers, heat about 2 inches [5cm] vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over low heat. Fry the turnovers in batches without crowding until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Keep warm until all the turnovers are cooked.
Makes 24 turnovers [about 1 ounce each, 30g].
Makes about 1 pound of dough [450g].
Drop the garlic through the feed tube of a food processor with the metal blade in place and the motor running. Process until finely chopped, about 5 seconds. Add the onion to the contents of the work bowl and chop it fine, about 6 pulses.
Combine the chicken pieces, tomato paste, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic and onion in a large bowl. Heat the oil in a large skillet over moderate heat, add the chicken mixture and cook, stirring, until the chicken pieces are browned, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper slices, then stir in the water and beans. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat until the chicken is tender, about 50 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces once. If the liquid evaporates before the chicken is cooked, add about 1/4 Cup [60ml] more water.
Makes 6 servings [11 ounces each, 310g].
Drop the garlic through the feed tube with the metal blade in place and the motor running. Process until finely chopped, about 5 seconds.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet over moderate heat and cook the livers, stirring, until they are brown on the outside and just pink on the inside, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and cook the onions, stirring, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the green pepper slices and cook, stirring, until just tender, about 4 minutes.
Add the chopped garlic, Four-Spice Seasoning, salt and pepper and stir well.
Add the sliced tomatoes and fold them into the vegetable mixture. Cook briefly, about 1 minute, stirring gently to retain tomato shape. Stir in the livers and remove the skillet from the heat.
Lightly beat 2 of the eggs and pour them into the skillet. Swirl the pan gently and fold the beaten eggs into the vegetable-liver mixture. Return to the heat and cook until creamy, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside.
Fry the 4 remaining eggs in a separate pan and place them on the vegetable-liver mixture. Serve with the Chopped Carrot Salad.
Makes 4 servings [about 7 ounces each, 200g].