I recently started a series called ‘Greek Kitchen Essentials’ – it is all about teaching you essential Greek recipes in order to introduce you to the beautiful, rich culture of the Greek cuisine. The latest essential Greek recipe that I am sharing is melitzanosalata ( pronounced: mel–eet–zah-no-sa-LA-ta ) – a traditional smoky eggplant salad that is the perfect recipe to be cooking now that eggplants are in season!
Now, before I describe this recipe, we need to have a word about eggplant. I understand that it can be a very polarizing vegetable (well, it is technically a fruit, but you get my point). Eggplant needs to be cooked very well in order to develop its full potential in both texture and flavor. For melitzanosalata, we are going to cook the eggplant over a fire until the flesh is extremely tender. The inside of the eggplant will not only be very soft but it will gain a smoky, caramelized flavor from being cooked over the flame. Once you have tried properly cooked eggplant, you will understand why people who love eggplant enjoy it so much!
Our favorite way to make melitzanosalata mostly consists of two basic seasonal essentials: eggplants and red bell pepper. There are many variations of melitzanosalata that are made throughout Greece, some of which are blended until they are perfectly smooth like a dip and others that are more rustic like the one that I am sharing here on the blog today. We personally prefer the more rustic version because we absolutely love the combination of textures from the eggplant, red pepper, and the fresh green onion & parsley.
While you can cook the eggplants and pepper indoors over a gas burner, I highly recommend cooking them outside over a grill or a gas camping stove because things can get a bit smoky while you are perfectly charring your eggplants. For those of you who are wondering if you can char the eggplant in a conventional oven the answer is technically no. I have tried charring the eggplant in an oven and it just does not turn out the same as charring the eggplants over a flame. The smoky flavor that the flame imparts to the eggplant is the foundation of an authentic melitzanosalata.
If you look over the ingredients involved in making melitzanosaláta you may not think that something so simple could taste so special, but let me tell you, the synergy of this combination of ingredients is absolutely incredible! We love to scoop up our melizanosalata with pieces of warm pita bread for a simple summer meal. My mouth is actually watering right now as I type this! I truly hope you find pleasure in learning these Greek Kitchen Essentials and that our melitzanosalata finds its way to your table this summer!