“Despite being called a salad, the dish is actually a spread”
Aubergine salad, salată de vinete, is a beloved Romanian recipe. It’s often served as an appetiser, but any Romanian will admit to tucking into it as a full meal at any opportunity.
Despite being called a salad, the dish is actually a spread. It’s delicious on bread, topped with slices of fresh tomato, bell pepper or your seasonal vegetable of choice.
There are many variations, especially in Balkan and Middle Eastern countries where aubergines are used in a wide range of dishes. Think of salată de vinete as the Romanian version of baba ganoush.
I chose this recipe because it’s a very common dish in all regions of Romania and it reminds me of summer days at home.
150-200ml sunflower oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, very finely chopped
juice of ½ lemon
Prick the aubergines all over with a fork to allow the steam to escape during cooking (otherwise you risk an explosion).
For a smoky flavour, the aubergines should be cooked in direct contact with a hot surface (such as a grill) or over a flame. Turn them regularly and cook until tender.
When cooked, put the aubergines in a sieve over a bowl to drain, and cover loosely with a lid or foil.
Once drained, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh of the aubergines. Discard the peel and chop the aubergine flesh as finely as possible – use a knife to retain some texture, or put it in a blender for a smoother result. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
Once cooled, pour in the sunflower oil in a thin stream while continuously stirring. As more oil is gradually incorporated, a creamier and lighter paste forms. Aim for a smooth paste.
Add salt and pepper to your liking, and the juice of half a lemon. Here is where you can get more creative, if you wish, and add other ingredients such as mayonnaise or mustard – but I prefer the classic recipe.
Add the finely chopped onion and taste again to see if it needs more seasoning.
Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour or so to allow it to thicken to a spreading consistency before serving. Bon appétit!