Zaalouk of cauliflower with chermoula is a cooked Moroccan salad that’s usually served chilled or at room temperature. The cauliflower may be served finely or coarsely mashed, or as small florets smothered in chermoula.
The cauliflower salad is also called m’derbel of cauliflower because of the method used in the second part of the cooking. The method involves stirring, folding and turning the cauliflower mixture until it resembles a lumpy or coarse paste. Only a few Moroccan cities include this recipe as part of their traditional cooking.
Cauliflower Zaalouk Is a Versatile Recipe
Cauliflower zaalouk is prepared in much the same manner as other cooked salads seasoned with chermoula. Carrots with Chermoula and Zaalouk of Cabbage are examples; the choice of vegetable is the only major variable. Feel free to spice it up to your liking. Some like these salads moderately hot and other prefer them easy on the tongue. You can follow the same logic with the lemon (or vinegar).
Make this salad ahead and allow it to cool before adding lemon and extra olive oil.
Zaalouk or M'derbel of cauliflower is one of the many Moroccan salads I've enjoyed since childhood.
The recipe is versatile as you can serve it finely or coarsely mashed or in the form of small florets smothered in a chermoula. You may spice it up to your liking.
Allow a little time for making the chermoula if you don't already have some on hand. The recipe link is in the list of ingredients.
Serve it cold or at room temperature as a salad or side dish to a light meal.
- 1 lb cauliflower florets
- 1/4 cup chermoula paste (spicy red version)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste or sweet paprika
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp mild harissa paste or to taste
- 2 to 3 tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar
- 1 tsp olive oil
- preserved lemon rinds, cut in thin wedges or small squares
- purple or black olives
- parsley leaves, chopped
Wash the cauliflower florets and discard the central stem. Boil in slightly salted water (or sprinkle it with salt and steam) until almost tender. (Use a tip of a knife to check the texture.)
Drain and set aside to cool for a few minutes until safe to handle.
Use a vegetable masher or fork to coarsely break up the cauliflower. (You can also do this after adding the cauliflower to the pan in step 5.)
Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Add the chermoula, the tomato paste, and the rest of the seasoning except for the lemon or vinegar. Stir and cook the mixture for few seconds.
Add the cauliflower (break it up if you didn't already do so). Keep stirring, folding and blending the mix until chermoula is fully incorporated and all the liquid has evaporated. It usually takes about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the salad to cool. Stir in the lemon juice or vinegar and drizzle with olive oil. Taste and correct the seasoning. Some like to mix in more harissa or have it seriously lemony. It's up to you.
Garnish and serve the cauliflower zaalook or mderbel as a dip or a spread.
This salad keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. It's ideally served at room temperature but can be served cold.