Monday, April 7, 2008

Recipe: Smoky Tunisian Oven-Roasted Vegetables with Tabil (Τυνησιακό Μπριάμ)

It’s no secret to my regular readers that I favor oven-roasted vegetables.

Roasting vegetables in a hot oven concentrates and develops subtle vegetable flavors that are lost when the same vegetables are boiled, stewed, or fried. Briam (Μπριάμ), a classic Greek medley of roasted vegetables, is one of my favorite ways to serve an abundance of vegetables. (My Briam recipe is in
Tastes Like Home: Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska.)

While Briam is what I make most often, grilled and roasted vegetable combinations are popular throughout the Mediterranean region; I like them all. For example, in Tunisia, tomatoes, onions, and peppers are grilled and mixed with Tabil (pronounced “table”), a spice mix containing coriander seeds, caraway seeds, garlic, and dried red peppers, to make a refreshing cold salad called Mechouia.

This weekend I needed a main course, not a salad, but really had a taste for Mechouia. Inspired by a Paul Gayler recipe in
A Passion for Vegetables, I decided to combine Tunisian Mechouia with Greek Briam. I used a vegetable combination typical of Briam and, as for Briam, oven-roasted the vegetables. However, instead of the herbs used in Briam, I seasoned the vegetables with Tabil and quickly charred them, two essential elements of Mechouia.

The vegetables can be completely cooked on a grill, in which case, the oven-roasting step is unnecessary. However, when I’m cooking on a stovetop grill pan (as I was yesterday due to the snow), it’s much easier to quickly char the vegetables on the grill pan and then finish cooking them in the oven.

A benefit to pre-cooking the vegetables on the grill is this step can be done well ahead. Although you can skip charring them and completely cook the vegetables in the oven, I don’t recommend it because you lose the smokiness, an important flavor element in this dish.

Oven-Roasted Vegetables with TabilSmoky Tunisian Oven-Roasted Vegetables with Tabil (Τυνησιακό Μπριάμ)
Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a side dish
Adapted from
A Passion for Vegetables by Paul Gayler (Lyons Press 2000)
This dish is a combination of Briam and Mechouia; it has Briam’s oven-roasted vegetable medley, with Mechouia’s smokiness and spicing. We like spicy food, so I use the larger amounts shown in the ingredient list for Tabil. If you prefer less highly seasoned food, use the smaller amounts. If you’re unsure, mix up the dry spices and add half to the vegetables along with all of the garlic; when the vegetables are done, taste and add more dry spice mix, as needed. Tabil tastes great with any kind of vegetable (or fish, meat, or poultry), so consider the list of vegetables as only a suggestion. Leftovers may be roughly chopped and added to vegetable or chicken stock for an easy mid-week soup.

1 – 2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
1 – 2 tsp. caraway seeds
1” – 2” piece of dried red pepper or 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 tsp. finely minced fresh garlic

4 medium Yukon Gold or red potatoes
2 medium zucchini
2 red bell peppers
1 large fennel bulb
1 extra large onion
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

For the Tabil spice mix: Mix all the ingredients together.

For the Vegetables: Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Wash all the vegetables. Peel the potatoes, and cut into large chunks. Parboil the potatoes in salted water for 7 minutes, drain, and put them in a large roasting pan.

Cut the zucchini on the diagonal into 3/4” slices. Discard the peppers’ seeds and stems, and cut each into six lengthwise slices. Cut off the stalks and leaves of the fennel, and cut the bulb in lengthwise quarters. Remove most of the core, leaving enough so the layers of fennel stay together. Cut each quarter in half lengthwise. Peel the onion, leaving the stem end intact so the layers of onion stay together, and cut into 3/4” wide lengthwise sections. Put all the vegetables in the roasting pan, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper, liberally drizzle with olive oil, and toss the vegetables to coat them with oil.

Heat a grill pan until it's white hot (or fire up the grill). Quickly char the vegetables on both sides, but don’t cook the vegetables through. Char the vegetables in batches; for me, it's easiest to lay them out on the grill pan one at a time. As each vegetable is done, return it to the roasting pan. (I set the peppers aside, and peel them before adding them to the pan; this step is optional.)

When all the vegetables are done, sprinkle the Tabil over, and toss the vegetables to evenly distribute the spices. If the vegetables seem dry, drizzle with a little more olive oil. Spread the vegetables out into a single layer.

Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes. Serve immediately with couscous, green salad, olives, and plenty of bread for soaking up the splendidly spicy oil and vegetable juices.

Variation: For a saucier version, stir in one 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes (or 2 cups freshly diced tomatoes) just before putting the roasting pan in the oven.

Oven-Roasted Vegetable Recipes

Roast Cauliflower with Dukkah (Dukkah, a Middle Eastern spice mix, enhances roasted cauliflower).
Oven-Roasted Vegetables (Λαχανικά στο Φούρνο) (How to bring out the flavor of vegetables by oven-roasting them).
Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Sweet Potatoes (Oven roasted vegetables are an ideal accompaniment to holiday meals.)
Roasted Beets with Celery Root Skordalia (Roasted celery root is a low-calorie, high-flavor alternative to bread or potatoes in the wonderful Greek garlic spread called skordalia.)

To find more oven-roasted vegetable recipes, Food Blog Search is a great tool.
This is my entry for
Antioxidant Rich Foods/Five-a-Day Tuesdays hosted by Sweetnicks.


Peter G said...

I love Briam Laurie and I like how you have combined it with Mechouia (something I learnt on your blog today). The smoky and spicy combination of these vegetables sound delicious.

Anonymous said...

That is a sure way to bring vegetables to an elevated form!
Delicious. I can taste them now.
I can't wait to get outside and grill again. Very very soon now :)

Lucy said...

They really would make a stunning lunch, Laurie. Beautiful sandwiched between that toasted tortilla.

Haven't make Tabil for years! Must get back to it - another lovely piece.

Peter M said...

Sympatico indeed, Laurie! A testament to how popular and far reaching Briam is...all around the Mediterranean. I guess you got the BBQ going, no Alaskan weather's gonna stop Laurie!

Mike of Mike's Table said...

Funny, I only just happened to learn of Briam at Peter's blog and found it delicious, and now I get a double dose! This also looks incredible and like just the kind of thing I need to try as veggie dishes are a weak area for me.

Ivy said...

Another Briam today. Both versions sound delicious.

Rosa said...

Love the sound of this tabil to spice up roasted vegetables! I'm looking forward to trying this.

winedeb said...

Wow Laurie, I was just over at Peter's site reading about his Briam and now come upon your recipe! Your grilled veggies look supreme! But best of all is finding your spice mixture to add to the veggie's. Going to try this one!

Kevin said...

Roasting vegetables is my favorite way to prepare them as well. That meal looks pretty tasty.

Maria V said...

absolutely beautiful to look at laurie - if we manage to grow vegetables in the garden this year (my husband is still planning on where the hoses are going to go...) i will definitely be trying this one!

Núria said...

Is this the World Wide Weggetables day or what? He, he, I'm seeing veggies everywhere, so I took some small chickens today and stuffed them with veggies :D

I love the way you do them in the oven and agree with you... the flavours stay there :D

manju said...

I love how you manage to bring flavors of the grill to the table when you're still surrounded by so much snow! A lovely meal and harbinger of spring.

Bijoux said...

Hi Laurie! This recipe looks very good. I love my vegetables and I'm always trying to find new and tasty ways to prepare them. And celery root as a genius!

Joanna said...

Love this tabil, great way to make roasted vegetables a little different

Thanks for sharing

I hope you don't mind, I've tagged you for a meme


Lannae said...

All of your recent fabulous veggie posts have made my mouth water, really! I love checking in and it reminds me how much I loved grilled veggies!

Carmen said...

happy weekend

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I feel like summer is here with that beautiful plate of grilled vegetables. I hadn't thought to add caraway seeds, so thanks for the deliciously savory idea!

Cakelaw said...

These vegetables look superb Laurie - enough to convert the most hardened carnivore.

Bellini Valli said...

When I first arrived on the island of Kea in Greece I walked to the top of a hill in the Hora and sat at a small taverna and had their versdion of this dish. Perfect:D

Tay said...

Hi Laurie,

Every time I visit here, it's more wonderful! I haven't been motivated to cook much for months, but you are inspiring! So happy for you with this blog, you've taken to it like a duck to water and it seems to be flourishing!

Think of you often, especially now, as it's one year since I was in Greece. Sending warm thoughts for a happy and healthy spring!

maybahay said...

your twist on roasted vegetables are great. will add this to my dinner repertoire. thanks laurie.

Laurie Constantino said...

I'm back from my birthday break to find a wonderful assortment of comments - thank you all!

Peter G, I pretty much love smoky vegetables any way I can have them, don't you?

Maryann - if you don't have a cast iron grill pan, you should buy one ASAP! I use mine all the time.

Lucy, it's hard to go wrong with any of the Middle Eastern/North African spice mixes.

Peter M, sadly, no BBQ yet. But soon....

Mike, yes, Peter and I are definitely on the same track. I can't wait to start reading about your veggie experiments.

Ivy, funny how it turned out that way - a testament to how good Briam can be.

Rosa, I hope you like it!

Winedeb, caraway has never been one of my favorite spices, but in Tabil, it is really delicious.

Kevin, thank you!

Maria, you WILL have a garden this year, I'm sure of it.

Nuria, WWW - HA! Your stuffed chicken sounds wonderful.

Manju - one thing about living in a cold climate is that you can't let it hold you back - and I need my grilled food no matter what the weather is last night.

Bijoux, that celery root skordalia is really good - and very very healthy. Then again, I pretty much love skordalia, no matter what it is made with.

Joanna, thanks for thinking of me. I've already done that meme. Well, at least I answered one of the questions -- turned out that was enough!

Lannae, if I've inspired you to grill some veggies, that makes me very happy!

Carmen, thanks!

Susan, it really is a surprising use of caraway seeds, but one that works very well.

Cakelaw, just think of it as omnivore training!

Val, you've just described the very best way to enjoy Briam. Lucky you!

Tay, we recently planted some corn poppy seeds and I thought of you when I planted them. A happy and healthy spring to us all and, hopefully, you'll get back to Greece very soon.

Maybahay, hope you like it!

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