My first forays into cooking were in Israel, when I was 18, living with friends for the summer. We had a vegetarian kitchen and lots of free time, so we went to the shuk every Friday and came home with backpacks weighed down with fresh vegetables. One of our weekly favorites was a simple eggplant salad (“salat chatzilim”) and I still make it regularly, with great fondness and nostalgia for those fragrant afternoons of cooking. It’s good as an accompaniment for challah, a topping for couscous or pasta, or just on its own (I like it with hummus or a little feta cheese crumbled on top). It’s the kind of recipe that is imprecise and calls for a little improvisation, so I invite you to add your own flair!
1 large onion
1 eggplant, cut into half inch cubes (skin on or off according to your preference – I leave it on)
2 cloves garlic (or more)
4 or 5 tomatoes, chopped (can also just use a tbs or 2 of tomato paste)
cayenne pepper (in Israel I used paprika charif)
olive oil for sautéing (works with a lot or a little, to your taste)
salt and pepper to taste
If you have time, you might want to “weep” the eggplant first, to get rid of bitterness. Cut it and salt it and leave it on papertowels for 15 minutes. I often skip this step.
1. heat olive oil in large pot, add crushed or chopped garlic and diced onion. Saute until onion is slightly translucent
2. add cubed eggplant. Let it cook for 5-10 minutes (until it starts to get softer) before adding tomatoes
3. add salt, black pepper, and cayenne to taste. (If you weep the eggplant, you don’t need too much more salt).
4. cook until soft and well-mixed.
Good hot or cold – the perfect Shabbat dish!