Growing up in Azerbaijan, our summers were spent outside the city, in our “summer home.” I say “summer home” because it’s not like the house you are imaging (no Hamptons or Cape Cod like). But what it lacked in amenities, it more than made up in fresh air, proximity to the Caspian Sea and family getting together. A meal we’ve had at least three times a week is kebab (or shashlik), basically beef, lamb and chicken skewers over open fire in a “mangal” which is a very simplistic grill using wood chips (a lot of the time branches found by kids aka me and my cousins). I unfortunately don’t have a photo of it, but just google it and you’ll see.
As delicious as the meat and potato over open fire was (and I will still take that meal any day over any pizza or steak), my favorite thing was a very simple salad made from charred tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplants. The beauty of this salad is the ingredients cook at the same time as the main dish, so no time lost. It is refreshing, simple and healthy. I make it as an accompaniment to a roasted chicken or steak. Since I live in an apartment and don’t have a grill (YET), I char the eggplants and tomatoes over my gas burner, just like that. Believe it or not, charring the vegetables is the hardest part of this salad. Well, you’ll see.
Tomato, Eggplant and Bell Pepper salad,
- One large eggplant, charred or grilled. You can also poke holes in the eggplant with a fork, and bake for 45 minutes, until soft. Do not peel the eggplant.
- Two or three beefsteak tomatoes, roasted or grilled.
- One bell pepper charred or grilled. You can also roast the pepper in the oven for 30 minutes or so. Just rub the pepper with sunflower oil.
- One medium sized white or red onion, chopped.
- A handful of cilantro or parsley.
- Salt and pepper.
- 2 tbs sunflower oil.
- Char all the vegetables, over open fire/ grill, or gas burner. You can also roast all in the oven, each will require a different amount of time.
- Keep turning the vegetables until all sides are grilled. If you see char marks on the tomatoes, don’t worry, that’s ok. You can tell the tomatoes are done when they are soft on all sides. The eggplant will “wrinkle” and be soft when squeezed. The vegetables will leak, but that’s normal too.
- Once all vegetables cooled, peel the meat of the eggplant best you can from the skin. You can cut it in half and use a spoon to scoop the eggplant out.
- Peel the skin off tomatoes.
- Chop the eggplants, tomatoes and the peppers roughly. Don’t worry about the cuts being the same size or neat. It is a “rustic” salad.
- Place all in a large bowl.
- Chop the onion and add to the vegetables.
- Roughly chop the cilantro and add to the bowl.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add sunflower oil and mix the salad.
- Let sit for a while, in the fridge so it absorbs all the flavor.
- Enjoy with pita bread, or as a side to any protein!