One of my most favorite things to eat growing up (and now) is Romanian roasted or grilled eggplant spread. Similar to baba ganoush, we call it “salata de vinete” (“salata” means salad and “vinete” means eggplants). There are many versions of this recipe – some using mayo, some adding chopped onions, but I really prefer it simple. In Romania, we use sunflower oil but I go for a light olive oil instead. If you want to play with the taste some more, use a flavored olive oil (I get mine at Tree and Vine in Knoxville), such as Persian Lime or Rosemary.
The first step is picking the right eggplants. Look for long and narrow/skinny eggplants instead of the short and fat ones. If the weather is nice, fire up the grill. If the weather is not nice, or you don’t feel like fooling with the grill, you can also use a baking sheet in the oven or a griddle. Poke a few holes in each eggplant – unless you like eggplant confetti… Grill the eggplants, turning them every 15 minutes or so, until the skin looks black and they are soft. Put them on a plate and cover them with a towel. This will steam the eggplant, making it easy to peel the skin later on. Let them cool off.
When they are not hot to the touch, peel the skins and discard them. Use a large cutting board and a wide blade knife. Scoop the inside out with a spoon. Chop the eggplant finely and place the contents into a large bowl.
Add salt and olive oil to taste gradually, stirring well to incorporate them. There shouldn’t be oil floating on the sides. The texture will be almost creamy. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice at the end and incorporate it into the mixture. This will prevent the dish from turning black.
Serve it on a nice slice of country bread or with pita slices. You can have fresh green onions, radishes, black olives, or tomatoes on the side. Change things up by adding some freshly chopped basil or cilantro. For a party setting, you can decorate it with veggies or scoop some inside tomatoes.
Pofta buna! (Bon Appétit!)
For more inspiration, check out the recipe that Nadia Comaneci shared. For good illustrations of the process, check out this Romanian blog.
Photo credit: bucataras.ro.