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My Mom’s Romanian Style Fire-Roasted Eggplant

Childhood Favorites:

Some people grew up eating hamburgers or chicken nuggets, while others had fish sticks and french fries on heavy rotation in their childhood homes; for us- it was eggplant, or chatzilim (the Hebrew word for eggplant). Don’t get me wrong, we had lots of typical food on the table, but as the child of Eastern European Jewish immigrants by way of Israel, my dinner plate  probably looked a lot different than yours did.

A Love Letter to Eggplant:

I’ve always realized that due to cultural and regional differences and a thousand other details major or minute, my idea of comfort food will always be very different than your own. I also realize that not everyone gets all misty-eyed when thinking about eggplant, but for me, it’s always been one of those foods.

My mother is Romanian born and grew up in Israel, two places where eggplant was a steady and major part of the cuisine. So, while my childhood memories always include happy vanilla-infused flashbacks of mom baking her famous marble cake, there’s always the somewhat piquant scent of roasted eggplant that creeps into my reveries as well.

An Eggplant Followed Me Home One Day:

I’m about to share a recipe I’ve always loved, but is generally too messy and fiddly to prepare, along with the reason I made it last week.

I was walking home from the subway one day, talking to my sister when I spied a perfect purple eggplant on the street. It had very recently snowed and the beautiful white mess hadn’t quite turned to thick black sludge yet, but still, an eggplant on the street- isn’t that a little bit gross?

We walked a bit more and as the wind picked up, the eggplant slowly started to roll along with us. It was a sign! This energetic little aubergine wanted to come home with me and I was powerless to refuse. But I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.

The Messiest Recipe Ever:

I hope you make this recipe, truly I do. But consider yourself warned, it isn’t a neat little Martha Stewart recipe that leaves your kitchen pristine.

When I took that eggplant home with me, I realized that my informal urban foraging meant I’d have to do some serious scrubbing before I’d consider putting that little eggplant near my mouth. Suddenly, I remembered my mother’s exquisite roasted eggplant which not only adds a smoky depth to the taste, but also certainly burns through any residual cooties lingering from this little eggplant that could’s short life on the streets.

Incidentally, I was pretty unflinching in the directions, so consider yourself warned. Still not deterred? Here’s what the roasted eggplant looks like when you take it off of the flame. See that brown-ish liquid leaking out? That will be all over your stove and burner. Still determined to make this? I honestly can’t blame you. It tastes exquisite, even though there’s a relatively small amount for so much work.

Till we beet again,

Rachel

Romanian Style Fire-Roasted Eggplant from TheEvolvedFoodie.com

Print Recipe
Serves: 3-4 Cooking Time: 40 minutes or more

Ingredients

  • 1 Large Eggplant
  • 1 Small onion
  • 2 Tbsp Mayonnaise (or more) Use vegan mayo if you want to keep the recipe vegan!
  • Tahini
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt and garlic powder to taste

Instructions

1

Find a very firm eggplant and wash well. Make sure to remove any stickers or tags

2

Pat with paper towels to ensure eggplant is completely dry

3

Using a very small flame, place the eggplant directly in the middle of the burner on your stove, adjusting the flame slightly so that a good portion of the eggplant is in direct contact with the flame at any given time

4

Allow the flame to penetrate the skin of the eggplant. You'll notice the skin starting to change colors and actually singe in some places.

5

Allow the flame to fully roast the entire body of the eggplant. To do this evenly, you'll have to keep moving the eggplant around from end to end and completely around until the skin of the eggplant bursts and chars in some places. This will be a disgusting process. The eggplant will start to sputter and a bilious brown liquid will start to leak all over your formerly beautiful burner and stove top. Keep going! The payoff is so worth it.

6

After the eggplant is fully roasted, place on a plate so that it can drain. Don't be overly concerned with draining it though, if you place the plate on a slight angle the liquids will drain out on their own.

7

As the eggplant cools, peel the small onion and chop into very small pieces. Some people love this with larger chunks of onion, I love the small pieces that bite back unexpectedly.

8

When eggplant has cooled, peel away the top strips of charred, blackened peel. Don't be overly concerned if a few very tiny pieces of blackened peel remain.

9

Scoop out the flesh until you've pretty much hollowed out the skin and discard.

10

Using a fork, mash the remaining eggplant flesh until it's pretty much properly smooshed. You might be tempted to use a stick blender, and I won't hold it against you, but that might make this more of a puree and there's something extra yum about tiny random chunks of roasted eggplant every now and again.

11

Add in mayo, lemon juice, onions the tiniest bit of garlic powder and salt to taste. If you prefer an extra bit of creaminess, feel free to add a bit of tahini, but realize that you're encroaching on Baba Ganoush territory if you do.

12

Serve with crudites, or crackers or slathered on a piece of bread or as a side with your main course. Or greedily eat the tiny amount straight from the dish. I'm afraid it's a bit addictive.

Notes

--Before you ask, yes- you can roast this in the oven. It won't taste the same, but it will still taste yummy.
--Also, you should probably use some sort of silicon protective gloves when you move the eggplant around while roasting. I tend not to and you can always hear the curse words flying around as I singe my fingers along with the eggplant.
--In case you're wondering how you'll know it's been roasted through, you should be prepared to roast that sucker so that ultimately it resembles an extra on The Walking Dead.
--A serious note about safety: Please exercise the utmost care when fire-roasting anything on your burners. This recipe is only a suggestion, fire safety is up to you and your responsibility!

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