Celebrate the smoky (or not) flavor and tender texture of the eggplant with this simple but luscious Greek eggplant dip called Politiki Melitzanosalata. The traditional version calls for eggplants roasted over an open fire until charred and mixed with the best extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and red wine vinegar. Sounds too simple? Maybe but, the flesh of a charred eggplant is so rich and custardy that you honestly don’t need to add much with it at all.
RECIPE’S HISTORIC BACKGROUND
Not a food history lover? No problem Jump to Recipe
The rest of you keep on reading!
I chose to present you the “Politiki Melitzanosalata” because it is my favorite eggplant salad version. We call it “Politiki” because its origins come from “The City” as we call Constantinople (Istanbul) in Greece.
Throughout the 20th century, the Ottoman authorities expelled the majority of the Greek population of Istanbul.* More than 100.000 Greeks were forced to emigrant to Greece living behind a thriving and cosmopolitan community. Their adjustment to the struggle from political instability and extreme poverty motherland was extremely hard.
Even though the Greeks from “The City” have lost everything, their intellectual background, unique culture, and spirit gave a tremendous impetus to the political, economic, and cultural status of the country.
An excellent example of their cultural eminence was their cuisine called “Politiki”. Politiki kouzina (cuisine of the Greeks from Istanbul) has enriched mainland Greek cuisine with new bold flavors and spices and it has considerably revitalized the country’s food culture and gastronomic map. Hence the post’s delicious eggplant salad!
Another amazing recipe from Greek politiki cuisine is this cabbage salad that is in constant rotation in my home along with stuffed vegetables (gemista) and this artichoke stew (agginares a la polita).
THE AMAZING EGGPLANT
Greek cuisine loves eggplant. It is such an amazing vegetable that we call it “the caviar of the poor”. Imagine that! So many recipes, endless variations, and overall exquisite flavors from the humble eggplant.
Did you know that eggplant had been categorized as a fruit (like the tomato) for a long time? It is considered a product of Indian origin and it became popular in Asia and the Middle East due to its excellent combination with meat and other vegetables. It came to Europe through the Italian trade with the Arabs (13th century) and gradually it was incorporated into local cuisines.
Call me biased but I strongly believe that Greek cuisine honors this vegetable with amazing recipes like the famous moussaka, papoutsakia (stuffed eggplant), and briam (roasted vegetables). Stop me when you’ve had enough of the excitement (like I have lol).
WHAT IS MELITZANOSALATA?
To begin with, it is crucial to know all about the name and the recipe’s pronunciation. I know it’s all Greek to you (as usual) but you can present the dish like a Greek or at least close enough.
Come on, it isn’t that difficult!
To make it easier to you, break it down into two worlds Melitzano (meh-lee-tza-no) + salata (sah-LAH-ta). Melitzana means eggplant, and salata means salad so melitzano+salata = eggplant salad.
Great! Now that you know the basic ingredient and how to pronounce the dish, let’s move on to new culinary adventures.
But, wait! What is going on with this salad? Because I can already hear you wondering: “Really? Is this a salad?” Well, technically no! Even though the word salad is mentioned, it is mostly on the dip side. But it still isn’t exactly the classic dip because the traditional texture is coarse (more like chunks of eggplant) and not as smooth as the usual dip.
This is exactly one of the main reasons I love eggplant. It is so versatile in texture (and flavor) speaking.
That being said, eggplant’s texture allows you:
- To present it as a dip. Just mix everything in a bowl and use a knife/fork to break up any large eggplant chunks. Serve with crispy homemade bread or pita bread.
- Serve it either as an appetizer, salad or as a side dish along with meat or more veggie combos.
- To be part of a mezze experience! Ok, now we’re talking! Eat melitzanosalata along with a selection of other delicious small dishes, socializing over an informal meal and sharing the same food. Drinking wine, ouzo or tsipouro (traditional spirits), singing, and dancing included!
Just to give you an idea about popular mezze dishes, here is a selection including several food categories: salads, dips, local cheeses and charcuterie, bite-sized foods (like hand pies and fritters) breador/andpita bread, and finger foods including all food categories: from small fish (cured anchovies) and seafood (octopus, shrimp) to meat like meatballs and beans (like giant beans, fava).
MELITZANOSALATA: THE RECIPE
My eggplant salad is simple, unpretentious, and super delicious.
Let’s find out how to make the authentic politiki melitzanosalata version:
HOW DO YOU ROAST EGGPLANTS
First thing first. Purchase eggplants of the same size if possible. That way all of them will be equally roasted.
There are 4 ways to roast eggplants for Greek melitzanosalata. Choose your own according to your equipment, your mood, the weather conditions, and the intensity of the smoky flavor!
1. For extra smoky flavor: Charcoal or gas grilling (my outdoor method)
The distinguished smoky taste along with bits of crispy charred edges here and there calls for charcoal or gas grilling.
Place whole eggplants on the grilling grate to medium-high heat and roast them. Use preferably a pair of tongs to give a quarter turn every 5 minutes, until their skin is burnt and their flesh is completely soft. The cooking time always depends on the intensity of the fire and the size of eggplants but it is usually about 20-30 minutes.
In the end, the taste will be intensely smoky and those who love smoky flavors will particularly appreciate this method.
2. For smoky flavor – Electric/Ceramic stove using a grill pan (my indoor method)
Sometimes it is just too much work to fire up the grill for a simple meal of two or for a couple of eggplants. Not to mention the weather isn’t always your best ally for outdoor grilling. In these moments, I highly enjoy my grilling pan and my ceramic stovetop. I get pretty similar results plus the grilling satisfaction in the comfort of my kitchen.
Just place the eggplants on the grilling pan on high heat for 10 minutes, (give them a turn in 5’) and then reduce heat to medium for another 20 minutes with the lid on (if any) and about 30 minutes without the lid. Remember to give a quarter turn every 5 minutes using preferably a pair of tongs.
3. For a milder smoky flavor. Gas stove + oven’s broiler
Cover the gas range burner with aluminum foil so that cleaning will be easier later. Place eggplant directly on top of the gas range grate and roast them. Use a pair of tongs to make a quarter turn every 5 minutes or so until they are well softened about 20 minutes. This method will give you a smoky taste similar to the first one above.
Alternatively, if you want a milder smoky flavor, you can start on the gas stove by roasting the eggplants for 5-6 minutes and finish them in the oven’s broiler, baking them for about 20-25 minutes. Baking time depends on the size of the eggplants.
4. Oven’s broiler – No smoky taste
The Smoky taste isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Totally get it. Even though the traditional version screams for charred eggplants, ignore it and do your thing: roast your eggplants under the oven’s broiler for 30-40 minutes, giving a quarter turn every 5-7 minutes or so. I assure you the taste will be excellent too.
Use a pair of tongs to place the charred eggplants on a cutting board and a knife to cut them in half.
Use a fork or your hand to keep them steady and a spoon to scoop out carefully the roasted pulpy flesh.
Place the eggplant flesh in a drainer and add juice from half a lemon to prevent the flesh from browning. Discard the charred skin and a few small bits of skin (if any) using your hand to remove the bigger ones.
Eggplants release a lot of liquid and you should drain them well, otherwise, you will come out with a soggy eggplant salad on your plate. Drain for at least half an hour to remove excess water and toss gently the pulp with a fork to speed up the process.
It’s totally ok to leave a few small bits of skin in the pulp because they enhance the smoky flavor. Unless you want a milder smoky flavor so remove all of them and drain as long as possible (ideally overnight) to drain out more smoky juice along with excess water.
ASSEMBLE YOUR EGGPLANT SALAD
The fun part begins!
Choose your favorite texture
If you are like me and you like bigger chunks so that you savor better the eggplant, just place the eggplant pulp in a mixing bowl and use a fork or knife to break up any large eggplant chunks before adding the rest of the ingredients.
If you like a smoother texture, use a blender or a food processor to slightly (I repeat slightly) blitz all ingredients for a few seconds. Don’t overdo it because you will end up with an unpleasant thick eggplant paste with water at the edges.
How much garlic?
The absolute worst question you could ever ask (lol). Firstly, because I am Greek and Greeks often use tons of garlic, and secondly, because sadly enough it’s been ages since my body tolerated raw garlic.
So, I will answer according to my family’s preference (my grandmother excluded. She used 2 cloves for every eggplant. That’s a lot!).
Just to be on the safe side here, I would suggest adding 1 clove, finely minced for 4 eggplants. That’s a good start. Later on, if you want more garlic you can easily add more. BUT keep in mind that as long as the ingredients are mixed together they tend to enhance their flavor. Too much garlic means almost double garlic flavor the following day.
Finally, I will let you know my method for those who cannot tolerate garlic. I usually roasted it and then add it to whatever dish calls for raw garlic. It’s an extra step, for sure, but I believe it is worth the trouble.
The rest of the ingredients
Olive oil, red wine vinegar, and fresh parsley. Just toss them in and your politiki melitzanosalata is done!
Needless to say that there are quite a few delicious versions of melitzanosalata all around Greece.
Some variations call for lemon instead of red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar.
Feel free to embellish with spices like cumin, herbs like thyme, and vegetables. Mix it with basil pesto, or topped with crumbled feta cheese, and olives. By all means, make your own version of eggplant exactly the way you like it!
In the recipe card, I share my favorite variation with additions like bell peppers and spring onions.
STORAGE AND FREEZING
Melitzanosalata can be used the same day for salad or puree and it can also be stored for 3-4 days in the refrigerator, in a glass (preferably) airtight food storage container. I always find the salad better the following day.
I wouldn’t recommend freezing it. Even if there is little to no water in the eggplant flesh, eggplant still keeps some liquid that is enough to give an unpleasant watery mass once thawed.
If you have already made my melitzanosalata recipe, I would be super grateful to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #30daysofgreekfood and Facebook with @30daysofgreekfood! Above all, I absolutely love your feedback. This is a huge motivation for me and it keeps 30daysofgreekfood’s kitchen alive. Thank you so much!!!
GREEK EGGPLANT DIP - POLITIKI MELITZANOSALATA
- 4 large purple eggplants
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced or crushed*(1)
- ½ cup (125ml) olive oil
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2-4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- ½ lemon, the juice
- Olives, as many as you like
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 bell peppers, cubed
- 3 spring onions, minced
- Wash and dry the eggplants.
ROASTING THE EGGPLANTS
OUTDOOR - Charcoal or Gas Grilling (extra smoky flavor)
- Prepare the grill to medium-high heat. You should be able to hold your hand about an inch above the cooking grate for 3 to 4 seconds to make sure it is the right temperature.
- Grill eggplants directly on the grilling range grate, turning occasionally with a pair of tongs until eggplant's skin is blackened and flesh has collapsed about 15-20 minutes.
INDOOR - Electric/Ceramic Stove using a grill pan (smoky flavor)
- Place the eggplants on the grilling pan on high heat for 10 minutes, (give them a turn in 5’) and then reduce heat to medium for another 20 minutes with lid on (if any) and about 30 minutes without lid. Give a quarter turn every 5 minutes using preferably a pair of tongs.
INDOOR - Gas Stove (smoky flavor)
- Cover the gas range burner with aluminum foil so that cleaning will be easier. Turn the flame to medium. Place eggplant directly on top of the gas range grate and roast them, turning them regularly using preferably a pair of tongs, until they are well charred and tender about 20-30 minutes.
INDOOR - Gas Stove + Oven's broiler (milder smoky flavor)
- Start on the gas stove by roasting the eggplants for 5-6 minutes, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and finish them in the oven’s broiler, Bake them for about 20-25 minutes. Baking time depends on the size of the eggplants.
INDOOR - Oven's Broiler (no smoky taste)
- Place a rack 9 inches (22cm) beneath your oven's broiler and preheat it. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the eggplants on the baking sheet and let them roast for about 30-40 minutes, giving a quarter turn every 5-7 minutes. Ready with the skin collapses and the eggplant is tender.
PEELING THE EGGPLANTS
- Use a pair of tongs to place the eggplants on a cutting board and a knife to cut them in half. Use a fork or your hand to keep them steady and a spoon to scoop out carefully the roasted pulpy flesh.
- Place the flesh in a drainer. Discard the charred skin and a few small bits of skin (if any) using your hand to remove the bigger ones. Squeeze the juice from a lemon half over the eggplant flesh and toss to incorporate.
- Cut the eggplants into chunks using a knife and/or a fork to cut/toss well. Drain for at least half an hour or keep the colander in the fridge overnight.
ASSEMBLE & SERVE
- Transfer the eggplant pulp to a mixing bowl. Add the garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and 1-2 tablespoons of parsley. Taste if it needs salt (I usually skip it) and season accordingly. Mix to combine and use your knife/fork to break up the eggplant into even smaller chunks until the preferred texture. *(2)
- Place the eggplant pulp preferably into an airtight storage food container and keep it in the fridge for at least half an hour or preferably overnight.
- To serve, scoop out your eggplant salad to a serving bowl or plate and top with the parsley, and drizzle with olive oil (optional).
- Add bell peppers and spring onions and toss well. Garnish as above.
- I recommend 1 clove for 4 eggplants. However, it is up to you to add as much as you like BUT keep in mind that as long as the ingredients mingle they tend to enhance their flavor. Too much garlic means almost double garlic flavor the following day.
- If you like a smoother texture, use a blender or a food processor to slightly blitz all ingredients for a few seconds. Don’t overdo it because you will end up with an unpleasant thick eggplant paste with excess water at the edges.
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