Charred Pepper Salad With Garlic Vinaigrette (Ardei Copti)
Here are the flavors of Romanian summers: sweet charred peppers, bathed in tangy garlic sauce. The trick is to choose perfectly ripened peppers, so that the flesh won’t stick to the skin when it’s peeled off.
- 4–6 bell or Romano peppers
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, very finely chopped, almost to a paste
Heat a griddle pan (or grill) to high heat and char the peppers evenly on all sides, turning often, until they become soft. Peel the skins away very carefully, keeping the stalks attached.
Combine the vinegar with a pinch of salt. Then add the oil and garlic. Stir to emulsify, then taste. If it’s too vinegary, add a splash of water or another pinch of salt.
Arrange the peppers in a star shape, stalks up, in a shallow bowl, then gently pour over the vinaigrette. Leave the flavors to infuse for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Eggplant Caviar With Red Onion and Fennel Seeds (Salata de Vinete)
Romanians love eggplants, and when I was a child we would each try to be the first to eat the new eggplants of the season. My mom would have a special deal with her favorite vendor to keep some aside until she came back from work in the late afternoon, otherwise the eggplants would have been sold or used to bribe the local officials.
- 4 firm, ripe eggplants
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 medium red onions, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
- Crusty bread, to serve
Char the eggplants the same way as the peppers. Sprinkle the salt over the skins and put them to drain on a tilted chopping board, so any juices can run off.
While the eggplants are still warm, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. Roughly chop the flesh and put into a non-metallic bowl.
Add the oil to the bowl little by little, stirring after each addition until well incorporated. Add the onions, vinegar, and a little salt. Combine and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with fennel seeds—they are my favorite, but not quite traditional.
Spread on good crusty bread and eat with the charred pepper salad, or use as a filling for juicy summer tomatoes for a cheerful lunch.
Recipes reprinted with permission from “Carpathia: Food from the Heart of Romania” by Irina Georgescu. Published by Interlink Publishing.