Tags: baba ghanoush's cousin, delicious produce, eating from the Victory Garden, eating in season, eggplant in season, eggplant recipe, eggplant salad, ethnic cuisine, organic gardening, Romanian spread recipe, salata de vinete, salata de vinete recipe
I’m posting this photo of a lovely ‘Black Beauty’ blossom, captured at dusk, in honor of having plucked the last of the eggplants Sunday. F. manned the grill and slowly charred all their skins, and they’ve now been turned into salata de vinete (sah-lah-tah day vee-nay-tay).
This delicious Romanian spread is one of my favorite discoveries of the many associated with F.’s native cuisine. It has a kinship with baba ghanoush, but without a hint of lemon, cumin, or mint, and no tahini is involved.
Should any of you feel like being adventurous and trying a new ethnic recipe, this is the moment for it in this bioregion. Several markets in the past three weeks have been displaying beautiful, fat, almost-past-ripe eggplants. This is actually what you want to select for this recipe, eggplants that feel soft when you squeeze gently, with skins that are no longer shiny.
Char the skin of these very ripe eggplants over an open flame until you can just peel it off in chunks. Take the remaining eggplant innards, which should be soft and gooey, and squeeze them in your hands until they’re mostly broken up (this is really fun if you like slimy textures — made me feel like a kid again to do it*). Then take a handheld mixer to finish it off, until it’s become dip-like in consistency. Your goal is to cut up any long strings of pulp that may be lingering in the mix.
There will probably be a lot of oil released during this process. But we’ll need to add a little more. I think F. added about 1 cup of olive oil to a huge batch we made (about 11 full-sized eggplants). This is because he also put in two farm-fresh organic egg yolks. I’m not sure if I would put raw egg yolks into anything if I was not very convinced of the cleanliness and health of the chickens involved. If you’re getting your eggs from the grocery store, even so called “organic, free range” eggs, maybe just add a little bit more olive oil and skip the yolks.
(I honestly don’t want anyone getting sick, and the track record for commercially produced eggs is just not ideal.)
At this point, we stirred in one and a half red onions and six large cloves of garlic, all minced very fine. (Adjust your quantities as necessary. You want a little bit of onion in every bite, and enough garlic to season the batch.) And then I kept adding crushed sea salt until I could barely taste its presence. Keep in mind that if this spread sits in your fridge overnight, it will intensify the flavors considerably, and the salt can quickly get too noticeable.
Once you can just taste the salt, add a few turns of the pepper mill, and you may or may not choose to add fresh parsley. F. doesn’t like it that way, but I think a little sprinkle of parsley can be a nice touch. Alternatively, you might just put out a bowl of snipped parsley leaves for those who might like to taste it. (Our parsley is going like gangbusters in this cool weather, which might explain my desire to use it.)
Spread a thick layer of this “eggplant salad” on slices of coarse, crusty, European peasant-style bread still warm from the oven, and you’ve got a hearty, just-right dinner. You can also serve it with a small salad or a bowl of classic vegetable soup.
Simple, but oh, so good.
*Note: If gooey, slimy textures don’t make you feel like a kid at play, but more like an adult with nausea, you could mash them with a potato masher first.