Zacusca is a slow-cooked eggplant and red pepper spread. This traditional Romanian dish is prepared in autumn when its main ingredients, eggplants and gogosari peppers, are in season. It can be eaten alone or coated on rustic bread.
- 3 Medium red peppers
- 1 Serrano pepper (optional)
- 2 medium eggplants
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- ½ cups Vegetable oil
- 1 large white onion
- 15 ounces, liquid Canned crushed tomatoes
- 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 2 bay leaves
- Ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC).
Wash peppers and aubergines (eggplant). Prick the eggplant several times with a fork to allow steam to escape during cooking.
Place eggplant and peppers on a greased cookie sheet (cover with foil for easy cleanup). Roast in the oven, turning them 3 or 4 times to ensure even cooking. The eggplant should take about 45 minutes, the bell peppers 25-35 minutes, and the Serrano pepper 10-15 minutes if using.
Remove vegetables when they become soft and their skin begins to darken. Lightly salt the vegetables and place them in a plastic or glass container covered with a lid or plastic wrap. Let cool. Remove the skins and stems.
Place the eggplants in a colander and let the liquid drain for 1 hour. Remove the seeds from the peppers and set aside (if using Serrano pepper, leave the seeds out if you want extra heat).
Place the eggplant and bell pepper flesh in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped.
Place onions in a sauté pan with oil and cook until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, cooked vegetables, bay leaves and ground black pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer. Cook until the sauce reaches the desired consistency, which should be that of a thick spread. Remove the bay leaf and adjust the seasoning.
This recipe can be canned and stored so the sauce can be enjoyed for up to 2 years.