Fearing the war, or struggling with its wounds, many Romanian Jews ran for their lives and arrived in Israel alone, displaced from their homes. They worked hard physical jobs in service of the up-and-coming state, helping lay its foundations. But their hearts were also filled with a longing for a home no longer there.
At the end of hard days, alcohol soothed the heavy heart at taverns where drinks were served with green tomatoes pickled with plenty of garlic cloves, fatty meat cuts, a dark rye bread and more and more alcohol.
Shuli Schwartz’s from the Minzar Bar created this Romanian eggplant salad as a tribute to all the taverns that served as temporary homes to these workers, welcoming them with food full of flavor, memories, and garlic.
2 large (650 grams/ 23oz) baladi (heirloom) eggplants
1 green chili, optional
3 red bell peppers, stem and seeds removed
8 garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup wine or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil, to serve
- Char the eggplants and chili pepper over an open flame or on a griddle until the skin is black and the eggplant flesh is soft. Remove the eggplant and pepper skins and place in a colander, reserving the strained liquids.
- Place the red peppers in a pot with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and ¼ cup vinegar. Add water to cover, bring to a boil and cook over high heat for 10 minutes. Transfer to a colander and cool for 20 minutes.
- Squeeze the peppers well to remove any cooking liquids. Pass the peppers, eggplant flesh, garlic, and chili pepper through a meat grinder, or pulse in a food processor. The salad should have a slightly coarse texture. If needed, add some of the reserved cooking liquids to the mixture.
- Add the remaining vinegar, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate overnight, the salad tastes better the next day. Drizzle oil on top and serve with dark rye bread.
*The salad will keep in the refrigerator for a long time thanks to the vinegar.