Authentic Romanian Eggplant Salad (Salata De Vinete) is a delicious summer salad/spread that can be served on fresh bread with tomatoes and sometimes Feta cheese.
Eggplant Salad (Salata de vinete)
Many European and Middle Eastern cuisines use eggplants in their recipes. From baking to roasting and grilling, eggplants are versatile vegetables you can cook in many ways.
In Romania, one of the most traditional foods you can find around is this eggplant salad/spread that is made primarily during the summer and served with bread, fresh tomatoes, and Feta cheese.
I noticed that people are sometimes intimidated when it comes to cooking eggplants, so here is an easy way to deal with them. If you like babaganoush spread, you will also love this salad.
How to cook eggplants?
There are different ways to cook eggplants. I used them all, and they all work. It all depends on whatever your possibilities are and the time of year.
However, each method affects the taste of the eggplant salad, and you will surely notice. Please take a look at the techniques I use.
How to make a traditional Romanian eggplant salad
After grilling, roasting, or baking the eggplants, let them cool, then carefully remove all the skin. Place the eggplants in a strainer and let them drain for about half an hour to one hour.
This step will remove the juice from the eggplant that is supposed to be bitter.
Chop the eggplants on a wooden board with a unique wooden/plastic knife made especially for this purpose (if you are Romanian and have one, of course) or with a regular knife.
This is my special plastic knife, inherited from my mom, specially designed for chopping eggplants.
A popular belief was that you should not touch the eggplants with metal because the eggplants would oxidize, and the salad would not have a pretty color.
I do not know if this is true, but using a regular knife should be ok. Most knives today are stainless steel.
You could process the eggplants in the food processor, and the salad will then have more like a spread texture, which is delicious but not very authentic.
I prefer to chop the salad rather roughly so that I have something to chew on here and there, but the degree of chopping is totally up to you.
How to serve this salad:
The traditional way of dressing the eggplant salad, the way most Romanians always did it, was with sunflower oil, diced onions, salt, and lemon juice or vinegar. Vinegar was used in the past, as lemons were less popular than they are today.
You can use olive oil, but the salad will not be authentic Romanian anymore.
Traditionally, olive oil was not wildly available, but sunflower oil was and still is very popular, as Romania is a big producer.
My grandmother or my mother always used sunflower oil, and this is how I like it too.
However, another way of dressing this salad would be with mayonnaise added to it. While I was growing up, the mayo was added only when we had guests, and my mother would prepare the salad for them as an appetizer.
Mashed garlic cloves are added instead of onion. We always used homemade mayonnaise, and it was our way of making the salad a little bit more festive.
However, if you don't want to make homemade mayo, your favorite brand would be just fine.
In both cases, serve the salad on fresh bread slices with tomato wedges and some feta cheese, if you like.
I used green onions in my salad, but white or red onions would be fine too.
This is it, my friends! I hope you try this scrumptious recipe and let me know about your experience. Enjoy!
Here is another recipe for grilled eggplants, this time with the addition of beautifully charred peppers.
Authentic Traditional Romanian Eggplant Salad- Salata De Vinete
- 3-4 large eggplants
- 1 small onion or 2-3 green onions chopped finely
- 3-4 tablespoons sunflower oil
- salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar or to your taste
- See more detailed instructions on the blog about cooking the eggplant.
If you use a fire grill:
- Bring the temperature of the grill between medium-low to low. (If it is too hot, the eggplants will burn on the outside before the inside is cooked. )
- 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.
If you use a gas stove:
- Lay some aluminum foil around the stovetop's burners to make sure that the liquid released by the eggplants won’t cause too much of a mess.
- Turn regularly with a pair of tongs, making sure that the skin is burnt on all sides.
- Cook until the skin is evenly charred and the flesh of the eggplants very soft.
- Remove them from the fire and let them rest on a tray for few minutes before you start peeling the skin off.
If you use the oven:
- Preheat oven at 400F/200C.
- Place the eggplants on a baking tray lined with baking paper or tin foil and prick the eggplants with a fork several times.
- Bake them for about 45 minutes or until the flesh of the eggplants is very soft.
Making the eggplant salad:
- After grilling, roasting, or baking the eggplants, let them cool, then carefully remove all the skin. Place the eggplants in a sieve and let drain for about half an hour to one hour. This step will remove the juice from the eggplant that is supposed to be bitter.
- Chop with a special wooden/plastic knife made especially for this purpose or with a regular knife.
- Place the eggplants in a bowl and add the sunflower oil, salt, lemon juice or vinegar, and chopped onion. Mix well.
- Serve on crusty fresh bread with tomatoes and Feta cheese.
If you prefer it with mayo:
- Chop the eggplant, then add the mayo and garlic cloves crushed. Taste for salt and pepper. (See Note below)