Whatever you are planning to make for Easter this week, I am fairly confident it will not be this eggplant salad. So I say- 'trick out' Easter spread- make this.
About eggplant...Not all eggplant is good eggplant. Eggplant is not a replacement for meat (sorry but that eggplant 'burger' made me gag a little). It is not a good candidate for 'parmiggiana" (if you must make parmigianna, stick with the chicken). It is not particularly appropriate for grilling (come on- there are much better veg alternatives for grilling). Cook it in a ratatouille. Or fry it (but then again what doesn't taste good fried?). Or, well, make this salad.
A cousin of the Baba Ganoush, this Romanian 'salad' embodies the essence of comfort, holiday, tradition, and celebration to anyone who grew up with it. Smokey, a schmidg bitter, creamy, and slightly tingly to your tongue, this dish will surprise you pleasantly and grow on you the more times you make it. As a prime example as this growth I have a representative sample of one- my husband- who at first resisted based on lack of exposure, but now special orders it (in liberal translation- begs for it).
Ingredients: 1 eggplant; 1/2 yellow onion very finely diced; 1/3 cup olive oil; salt to taste; 1 tomato (optional); toasted bread (optional).
Prepare a grill and allow it to get hot. Place the eggplant on the hot part of your grill (it is ok if it seems like it is catching on fire) and turn it every 2-3 minutes until charred evenly and roasted all the way through- probably about 8- 10 minutes depending on the temperature on the grill. You can also roast the eggplant on a gas stove; just pretend it is your grill.
Remove the eggplant and allow it to cool down for a few minutes. While still very warm, gently peel the skin off and discard. Sprinkle with salt and let it sit for 20-30 minutes. Drain thoroughly.
On a large cutting board, chop the eggplant very fine. This is easiest if you change direction every now and then. If you have one the wooden knives I got from a little market in Bucharest, well- use it. It works better because the chopping is not about the sharpness of the blade but rather about crushing and almost pureeing the eggplant.
Place the chopped up eggplant along with the chopped onion in a mixer and turn it on medium. Slowly add the oil and allow it to incorporate. Mix for 5-7 minutes until the oil incorporate and the mixture is a smooth puree. Add salt to taste and mix well again.
Serve with tomato diamonds (the peeled and diamond-shaped tomato pulp) and tomato caviar, (the intact seeds removed from the tomato) over a nice hearty toasted piece of bread on Easter.
Photography by Jennifer Olson.