Authentic Traditional 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.
Many European and Middle Eastern cuisines use eggplants in their recipes. From baking to roasting and grilling, the eggplants are versatile vegetables that can be cooked in many ways.
In Romania, one of the most traditional foods you can find around is this eggplant salad/spread that is made mostly in the summer and served with bread, fresh tomatoes and Feta cheese.
I noticed that people are sometimes intimidated when it comes to cook eggplants, so here it is an easy way to deal with them. If you like babaganoush spread, then you will love this salad as well.
Doing some research about this Romanian salad, I noticed few American blogs calling the salad “potlagel”. In the old Romanian language, eggplant was called “patlagea”.
Another word for this vegetable is “vânătă”, which is the word that it is actually used in Romania in the modern language.
While I understand that the correct name got lost in the translation and was changed over the time and generations, I think this needs to be corrected, as “potlagel” is not a Romanian word.
This “potlagel” name creates confusion among bloggers who are not Romanian, but might be interested to write about this recipe. It also creates an inaccurate term for a traditional dish that sits on the Romanian tables for generations.
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 has an effect on the taste of the eggplant salad that you will, for sure, notice.
The most traditional way to cook them is over an open fire.
In the villages, or whenever people have access to a grill, the eggplants are cooked over an open fire( fire grill, ) as the smoke from the wood brings a beautiful flavor to the eggplants.
If you live in a city, most people have gas stoves, so the eggplants are charred on the stove top.
It is a messy operation, but I do not remember anyone doing it differently.
If you use a grill, and I recommend 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 (so they don’t explode while cooking) 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.
The eggplant salad made with grilled eggplants will taste really smoky and delicious!
If you use the top of the stove:
Lay some aluminum foil around the burners of the stove top 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.
This is the fastest method of roasting eggplants, it only takes about 10-15 minutes for a medium eggplant, and this is the method most people in Romania always used.
The taste of the eggplants roasted on the stove top is smoky as well, a bit milder than the grilled one, but still totally delicious.
Remove them from the fire and let them rest on a tray for few minutes before you start peeling the skin off.
Unfortunately, since I moved to United States and each apartment is equipped with a fire alarm, I cannot grill the eggplants on top of the stove anymore, unless I want the fire department at my door, which brings me to the next method, the one that I use most of the time:
Bake the eggplants in the oven:
This is the most convenient method of cooking the eggplants for the salad. 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 in a preheated oven at 200C/ 400 F for about 45 minutes or until the flesh of the eggplants is very soft. Cooked this way, the eggplants will not be smoky, but mild and sweet.
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 strainer 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 the eggplants on a wood board with a special 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, especially designed for chopping eggplants.
A popular belief was that if you should not touch the eggplants with metal, because the eggplants would oxidize and the salad will not have a pretty color.
I am not sure if this is true or not, so using a regular knife should be ok. Most knives today are stainless steel.
You could process the eggplants in the food processor, 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 here and there, but the degree of chopping is totally up to you.
Serving the Authentic Traditional Romanian Eggplant Salad- Salata De Vinete:
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 of it.
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 of grilled eggplants, this time with the addition of beautiful charred peppers.
Or maybe you want to join The Bossy Kitchen community group where you can share your creations made from this blog or your favorite recipes!
- 3-4 big 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 burners of the stove top 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.
Other ways to dress the salad:
1-2 tablespoons mayo
2-3 small garlic cloves crushed
Serve the salad either way with good bread like baguette, ciabatta or artisanal bread, fresh sliced tomatoes and Feta cheese
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 165 Total Fat: 8g Saturated Fat: 1g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 77mg Carbohydrates: 26g Fiber: 7g Sugar: 10g Protein: 3g