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Roasted Eggplant Salad- Romanian Style

Roasted Eggplant Salad- Romanian Style

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.

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How To Cook Eggplants?

There are different ways to cook the 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, the eggplants are cooked over a 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.

Roasted Eggplant Salad- Romanian Style

 

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 eggplant salad:

The traditional way of dressing the eggplant salad, the way most Romanians always did it, was with sunflower oil,  very finely chopped onions and salt. Don’t use olive oil, the salad will not be authentic anymore, traditionally we don’t use olive oil in Romania. 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, though, as we could not find anything like that in the stores. 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!

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Roasted Eggplant Salad- Romanian Style
 
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Romanian
Ingredients
  • 3-4 big eggplants
  • 1 small onion or 2-3 green onions chopped finely
  • 3-4 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • salt to taste
  • To serve with(optional):
  • slices of tomatoes
  • fresh bread
  • Feta cheese
  • Other ways to dress the salad:
  • 1-2 tablespoons mayo
  • 2-3 small garlic cloves crushed
  • chopped parsley
Instructions
  1. See more detailed instructions on the blog about cooking the eggplant.
  2. If you use a fire grill:
  3. 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.
  4. If you use a gas stove:
  5. 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.
  6. If you use the oven:
  7. Preheat oven at 400F/200C.
  8. Place the eggplants on a baking tray lined with baking paper or tin foil and prick the eggplants with a fork several times .
  9. Bake them for about 45 minutes or until the flesh of the eggplants is very soft.
  10. Making the eggplant salad:
  11. 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.
  12. Chop with a special wooden/plastic knife made especially for this purpose or with a regular knife.
  13. Place the eggplants in a bowl and add the sunflower oil, salt and chopped onion. Mix well.
  14. Serve on crusty fresh bread with tomatoes and Feta cheese.
  15. If you prefer it with mayo:
  16. Chop the eggplant, then add the mayo and garlic cloves crushed. Taste for salt and pepper.
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