Eggplant salad: cooked on the barbecue has no rivals!
Time: prep. 10 min
cook. 15 min
Yield: for 2 servings
Eggplants are part of the gastronomic heritage of the Mediterranean countries: Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Turkey all offer dishes with a thousand different flavors, using these fruits as the main ingredient... yes, I know, you were convinced they were vegetables right?! Anyway, it doesn’t matter, what matters is that we can use them abundantly in our meals, because they are very versatile, and easily animate the meals; moreover, they are available everywhere, and as long as you eat them in their season, which is summer, they are also very cheap. They have a recognizable taste, even if not invasive, very characteristic, which is able to stand up to the spices with more intense notes; but this is clearly in contrast, with their light and soft consistency. Low in calories, but full of valuable nutrients, such as fibers, minerals, antioxidants, that lead us to overuse them cheerfully. For all these reasons, eggplants are treated like a celebrity, in Turkish and Greek territory; in the form of meze, they accompany a glass of Raki or Ouzo. But to be honest, even those like me who do not appreciate “the lion’s milk” very much, always find an opportunity to propose an eggplant salad.
Today I give you 4 variations: one more delicious than the other.
Ingredients in common
2 large eggplant, salt, extra virgin olive oil, parsley
Variant 1: Cooked on the grill and seasoned with only salt, lemon and extra virgin olive oil
Since eggplants are the “mandatory” side dish in a barbecue menu, they are cooked on the grill before cooking meat/chicken/fish or other vegetables. To do this you just have to wash them, pierce them with a fork, and lay them with all their skins on the grill, almost in direct contact with the fire (I put them directly on the fire, but I am an expert). Rotate them every 2-3 minutes, depending on the size of the eggplant and/or how strong the fire is. Usually it takes about 7-10 minutes: if the fork enters well, it’s a sign that they are ready. Peel the eggplants: if cooked properly, the peel separates easily. Remove all the black skin residues that remain attached to the pulp (if necessary clean them by rinsing, quickly under water, but remind to squeeze the eggplants to eliminate the excess water) and let them drain for 20 minutes by placing the pulp on a sieve. When cold, put the eggplant pulp in a flat plate and mash them with a fork: they easily become a puree. Season with salt, lemon juice, and about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Garnish just before serving with some parsley leaves: the first variation of eggplant salad is ready.
Variant 2: with the addition of garlic and yoghurt
Add to the puree above, along with the lemon juice, salt and extra virgin olive oil, also half a clove of grated garlic; enrich it then with 2 generous tablespoons of Greek yogurt or, if you are in Turkey, Süzme Yoğurt; or regular yogurt where ever you are, but strain it properly with a fabric, to make it become denser (the fabric must be clean and absolutely not washed with perfumed detergents).
Variant 3: the Babaganoush
This very tasty and nutritious recipe includes the addition of tahin to the eggplant puree prepared as described in Variant 1. For 2 large eggplants, you can use 2 tablespoons of tahin or, if you love it as much as I do, don’t be “stingy” because it is very easy to prepare it at home.
Variant 4: with the addition of tomatoes, onions
Add to variant 1, a large tomato and ¼ of onion, both cut into small cubes; in addition to the lemon juice, add a splash of apple vinegar. You can enrich your salad with peppers cooked in the same way as eggplant. Always serve them with some parsley leaves.
Variant 5: different cooking techniques
This variant differs from the others not in the ingredients, but in the way it is cooked. Firing up the barbecue is nice, a real party, but not always possible: maybe there is strong wind or it is raining, or you simply don’t go for it. The Turks have solved the problem with a very easy trick. No, not in the oven, but directly on the gas stove! I advise you to spread an aluminum foil under the hob, and open the windows well, and close the kitchen door, while turning on the extractor fan at full power; and keep turning the eggplant, according to its size, holding it by its stem. The house is threatened with the stink, so if you are expecting guests for dinner, I highly recommend that you prepare it at least one day in advance. In case the smells are a deterrent, or you don’t have a gas stove but induction, I have one last trick for you. Obviously you should forget the delicious smoky taste of direct cooking with fire, but in the end I must say that it defends itself quite well, and certainly the process becomes very practical and easy to do.
Cook/boil the eggplants after removing their peel. Put them whole in a pot with cold water, enough to cover them. Cooking with the pressure cooker takes about ten minutes. At the end recover them from the cooking water and squeeze them well; drain by using a sieve, and enjoy one of the 4 variations mentioned above.
You can remove the garlic, onion or chili pepper from all the variations, if you don’t digest them well, since the result will always be fabulous. I want to share with you one last thing: since the cooking water contains a slight aroma of eggplant, I don’t throw it away, instead I use it to cook a pasta!