For years now I’ve been cooking a variety of Greek dishes and if I do say so myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at many of them. Many Greek dishes are basic in that they use simple ingredients but are very robust in flavour – particularly in comparison to the regular ol’, practically flavourless meat and potatas I grew up eating. Brits (my heritage), as we all know, do not have a reputation for their culinary delights. That’s why when I got the opportunity, I was thrilled to learn new and tasty cuisines. Much of the fare from the Greek villages use a lot of seasonal, fresh vegetables including things like beans (many varieties), string beans, eggplants, sweet peppers, and wild greens. Wild greens (dandelion, endive, rapini, etc) was something I was surprised to find quite tasty when boiled and mixed with olive oil and a little salt. In fact, there’s nary a dish a don’t like.
Greek food, as we all know, is very typical of Mediterranean cuisine. As you move around the sea from the south of France to Italy to Bosnia/Croatia/Serbia to Greece and Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon, and so on the ingredients are very similar but are used in slightly different ways. Unique twists to a common theme. Greece, having been occupied by Turkey for 400 years, couldn’t help but integrate some of Turkish traditional dishes into their own cuisine and perhaps vice versa. Which is probably the case for most countries around the Mediterranean that were all occupied by the far-reaching Ottoman Empire. Dishes with names such as Briam, Moussaka, Baklava and Imam Baldi, found deeply immersed in Greek cuisine, are definitely not Greek in origin.
I decided that since I’ve cooked the same dishes over and over again for at least ten years now, it was time to branch out and investigate dishes from Greece’s neighbouring countries. Well, you know what they say…variety is the spice of life! I’m pleased to say that my investigations have really paid off. I’ve come across some really delicious recipes so far and I fully intend to share them all with you…including the recipes I promised months ago (Ratatouille and Gemista). 😀
The first dish that I will introduce to you is a version of Baba Ghannouj or Melitsanosalata that I have never tried before and BOY is it delicious! Normally this dish is like a creamy dip but this version is more like a salsa and not at all creamy. Interestingly it is very much like Briam or its French relative, Ratatouille except that those dishes normally include potato and zucchini. The star veggie in Baba Ghannouj is eggplant and when baking you have to be sure that the eggplant is cooked thoroughly so it’s soft and not bitter. If the eggplant is cooked you can be guaranteed that the other veggies are cooked enough too. Serve it with your favourite style of pita bread. Mine is Greek pita or Naan which are fluffier and sweeter than Middle Easter pita. The nice thing with Middle Eastern pita, though, is that you can scoop the food up in the “pockets” (the bread separates between the top and bottom). Greek pita doesn’t normally do that.
Anyway, enough of my blatting…here’s the recipe! 🙂 Enjoy!
1 kg eggplants
5 medium-sized red tomatoes
1 large white onion
1 medium-sized green pepper
1 bulb of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
a little vegetable oil
a dash of salt
Pre-heat the oven to 225 C (450 F). Peel the eggplants and cut them in circles (thick slices), place them in a pan after brushing its surface with vegetable oil (or substitute for not sticking). Place eggplants in the oven for 10 minutes each side (20 min total).
Cut the onion and the green pepper into rings, separate the cloves in the garlic bulb and peel them. Saute them all together with the olive oil until they become soft and tender (a few minutes).
Peel the red tomatoes and cut them into circles and add them on top of the veggies above with a dash of salt on the tomatoes to help them to get soft fast.
Cover over medium heat for 15 minutes
Top the eggplants with all the soft veggies evenly.
Wrap the pan with aluminum foil and place in oven at 175 C (350 F) until the eggplant is very soft. The original recipe suggested 30 minutes. I had it in my oven for about an hour and a half. This could be because mine is a convection oven or it’s just that 30 minutes isn’t long enough for the eggplant. You can judge according to your oven.
Once cooked, remove, uncover, and let cool at room temperature. Once cooled you can break it up into smaller pieces and then put it in a serving bowl and place it in fridge to cool further. Best served cold.