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Vinette: Romanian Egg Plant Caviar

 

Vinette is one of our favorite Romanian dishes, and it is very easy to make. The Romanians use it as a bread spread. It makes delicious sandwiches! It is a good lunch meal, or at times, I have used it as a party or picnic food. Whenever I make it for people, it is usually popular. However, once, I took a group of students up to the DMZ and made a picnic lunch for us, and there were young guys eating it with us, and one of them said hesistatingly to me, “Uh..well..you need to know that young guys don’t like egg plant.” However, he hadn’t even tried it. This egg plant caviar has a very unique smoky taste that you don’t expect. When I made it for a party here in Korea, many people asked for the recipe. I have been shown by many Romanians how to make it, and they all make it the same. My daughter began modifying the recipe a little because we both have trouble with raw onions and garlic. They burn our stomachs, but if you want to really eat it the way it is meant to be eaten, use the onions and garlic. When I first began making it, I had a tendency to get too many onions and garlic in it, and it tasted like onion garlic spread rather than vinette, so don’t use much onion or garlic. Here is how we make it:

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Put the egg plant directly on the burner. No, it doesn’t burn.
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Keep turning it over until it is black on the outside, a bit cracked, and the inside is still green. It will be floppy, and it is done.

You don’t even need a pan. Just turn the burners on on your stove and set the egg plants in the flames. If you have a campfire, it is great to put in a campfire. Watch it, turn it over occasionally, and make sure it cooks all the way through. It will only take a few minutes. The outside will be black and look completely charred, but the inside will be soft and green. As you are turning it over, when it begins to get floppy and the black part outside begins to crack, then you know it is finished. It really only takes a few minutes, so watch it.

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Put it on a cutting board.
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Cut each egg plant open lengthwise.
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Open the egg plant open and flatten it out,

Scrape the insides out of the egg plant with a butcher’s knife.

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Get rid of the black part and keep just the green part on the cutting board. You will want to throw the black part away.

Take it off the fire and put it on a cutting board. Take each egg plant separately. Use a knife and cut it down the middle lengthwise only on the top. Open the egg plant up and push the sides back so it lays flat. After that, use your butcher’s knife and just gently scrape the green insides out of the black part and separate them from the black part and the stem. Get rid of the black part and the stem. Do this for each egg plant you have cooked. I used four egg plants.

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Begin slicing across the egg plant all the way through, from end to end, and in very small slices.
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Slice it all the way across.
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Turn it the opposite direction and cut it again at a 45 degree angle to how you cut it last time so you make very small, soft pieces.
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Just keep turning it around and slicing it different directions to pulverize it.
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Turn it upside down and cut it again to make sure you have cut everything all the way through.

After that, you should have only your soft green egg plant on the cutting board. Use the butcher’s knife again and begin slicing across it making the slices very close together. After that, turn the knife the complete opposite direction of the direction you have already sliced and make small slices all the way across it again. Try turning it another direction and slice across it again and again until you feel like it is more of a spread than the long pieces that you scraped out of the black part of the egg plant. You many even try turning it over and making sure the bottom part is sliced into extremely small pieces too.
After you have chopped the egg plant completely, you will want to add a couple of small spoons of cooking oil. Mix it into the egg plant.

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Add a few drops of cooking oil and mix it in.
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Add a little minced onion and minced garlic, or in my case, a little garlic powder and onion flakes.
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Mix the onion and garlic in.

At this point, if you are actually using the onions and garlic cloves, you will want to mince just a little onion and garlic As for us, my daughter insisted we must use the onion flakes and garlic powder because she doesn’t want her stomach burning, and I understand because I have the same problem. It is good both ways, but surely the natural onions and garlic have more vitamins in them. My daughter says she has thought about frying the onions and garlic before she adds them, and that could be a solution to what the raw onions and garlic do to our stomachs, but she hasn’t tried that yet.

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Spread some on a piece of bread.  We use bakery bread. It is as close to Romanian bread we can find here in Korea, and we learned to love Romanian bread so much when we were there we can’t bring ourselves to eat regular white bread anymore. It is ready to eat, and delicious.

I just sprinkled a little garlic powder on the top, and then a little onion flakes, and then I mixed them in. It is finished. It was quick and easy, and everyone is happy. It is Sunday evening, and we wanted nice sandwiches for our evening meal, and we have them. Taste it. It is delicious! It has a wonderful smoky flavor. In my estimation, the Romanians are some of the best cooks in the world, and this is one of the many things they make. Most of their dishes are much more complicated, but this is an easy one almost anyone can do. Try it. You won’t be sorry you did.

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