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.