Zaalouk (Moroccan Eggplant and Tomato Dip)

1 eggplant, peeled and chopped*
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or pressed
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro and/or parsley
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup water
small wedge of lemon (optional)

Crusty Bread

*Rather than peeling and chopping the eggplant, you might prefer to roast it. Slice the eggplant lengthwise and place it skin-side-up under a broiler. Leave it to roast for about 15 minutes, or until the skin is scorched and and the eggplant is very tender. Scoop out the roasted eggplant from the skin, puree it with a vegetable masher, and proceed with the recipe.

Mix all ingredients in a large, deep skillet or pot. Cover and simmer over medium to medium-high heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the heat if necessary to avoid burning the zaalouk.

Use a spoon or potato masher to crush and blend the tomatoes and eggplant. If you like, a small wedge of lemon can be added to the pan at this time. Continue simmering, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the liquids are reduced and the zaalouk can be stirred into a heap in the center of the pan.

Serve warm or cold with crusty bread.