Eggplant salad, a traditional Romanian dish
This recipe is dedicated to Ida, the maternal grandmother of my friend, who inspired this creation.
It has a particular quality of freshness though the eggplants go through a process of deep cooking. It is as if two opposite qualities come together to create a balance with few carefully chosen ingredients.
Here the important part is the method of cooking the eggplants. They need to be throughly cooked to arrive at just the right texture of its flesh that will be used for the salad.
Try this unusual recipe and see how this alchemy works for yourself.
3-4 medium to large eggplants
1 small yellow onion
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1 tablespoon of vinegar
Option 1: on a grill
1. Bring the temperature of the grill between medium to low. (If it is too hot, the eggplants will burn on the outside before the inside is cooked. )
2. Pierce the eggplants in few places and grill them on each side, turning them regularly, until the skin is burned. Depending on their size, you should grill the eggplants somewhere between 20 to 40 minutes or until the skin is evenly charred and the eggplant collapses. The flesh should be really soft.
Option 2: on a stove
1. Put the eggplants in an open pan and use medium heat. Do not cover the pan. This might create some smoking. Make sure that there is good air circulation to evacuate the smoke.
2. Turn regularly with a pair of tongs making sure that the skin is burnt on all sides.
3. Cook until the skin is evenly charred and the flesh of the eggplants very soft (about 40min to 1h).
4. Remove them from the stove.
When the eggplants are cooked, let them rest on a tray for a few minutes and add salt to the skin. Let the eggplants cool.
NOTE: The above mentioned two ways of cooking will give a taste that comes from the traditional cuisine of this recipe. However, you can also bake them in the oven. To do this, preheat the oven to 400F / 200C and bake them for about 45 minutes to 1 hour - until the flesh of the eggplant is very soft.
To make the salad:
Carefully remove all the skin and the salt, place the eggplants in a sieve and let drain for about half an hour to an hour. This step will remove the juice from the eggplant which may be bitter. Chop the eggplants well with a knife. The texture can vary: it can be more fibrous like a salsa or more like tapenade or hummus. Place the eggplants in a bowl and add sunflower oil, salt, pepper, vinegar and chopped onion. Mix all the ingredients well.
Serve on fresh crispy bread. Tomatoes can be added on the side.