There are about a thousand different recipes for Μελιτζανοσαλάτα (Melitzanosaláta or eggplant spread). From the Greek kitchen, but also from the Levantine, such as the famous baba ganoush, patlıcan salatası from Turkey, salat ḥatzilim in Israel and Kashk e bademjan in Iran. This Greek recipe differs from recipes in neighbouring regions as it does not usually include the addition of tahini or whey. It's all about the eggplant and just a few simple ingredients that make the eggplant flavour really shine.
The delicious smokiness of the char-grilled eggplant, combined with punchy garlic and grassy olive oil makes this dish of my favourite mezedes. It is also "fasting" friendly and a dish that can be eaten through the period of Great Lent in the Greek Orthodox tradition, where meat and animal products (cheese, milk, butter, eggs) and fish (meaning fish with backbones) cannot be consumed. A strict fast also rules out olive oil and wine, which can only be consumed on the weekend. Although this recipe is a good one for the fasting period, it is also great at any time in Summer and early Autumn when eggplants are plentiful and at their best.
4 large purple eggplants
1 cup EVOO
2 large garlic clove, mashed
1 small purple onion, grated
3 tablespoons of Greek wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped, to garnish
Pomegranate seeds, to garnish
1. Prick the eggplants in a few places with a fork and using an open grill, place them whole on direct heat and char-grill them for about 30 minutes, turning them to char them evenly.
2. Preheat an oven to 200C. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the eggplants on it. Place baking sheet on the upper rack of the oven and grill the eggplants for about 20-30 minutes, until they are soft inside.
3. Remove from the oven and allow the eggplants to cool and peel away the charred skin. Place the eggplant flesh in a colander and let the juices drain for 10-15 minutes.
4. Place the eggplant flesh in a medium-sized bowl and using a fork, mash it roughly by pressing it against the bowl. Add the mashed garlic, the vinegar, grated onion, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil and mix with the fork until you have the desired consistency. It should be rough and a little bit chunky, don't purée it or mash it too much. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Garnish with the finely chopped parsley leaves and pomegranate seeds and serve.