My Family Recipe

The Greatest Eggplant Recipe Comes From Romania, So Why Has No One Heard of It?

The mysterious case of my great-great grandma’s “potlagel.”

November  6, 2018
Photo by Mark Weinberg

Good food is worth a thousand words—sometimes more. In My Family Recipe, a writer shares the story of a single dish that’s meaningful to them and their loved ones.


My grandma’s grandma left Romania for America 130-something years ago. She was 12 or 13 or 14 and her name was Anna “S-c-h-o-r,” Grandma spelled to me over the phone. When I asked why Anna left, she sounded surprised by the question. Wasn’t it obvious? “Because we’re Jewish.”

In the late 19th century, there was a mass emigration of Jews leaving Eastern Europe, largely to Western Europe and the United States. According to A History of the Jewish People by H.H. Ben-Sasson: “In Rumania, the government and population conducted an economic war on the Jews, the declared aim of which was to drive them out of the country.”

And so Anna left. It goes without saying that I never met her, but Grandma says she was sweet, “a lovely housewife and mother.” She was also a lovely cook, which, unlike her surname, I already knew. I’ve been eating Anna’s spoonable, garlicky, olive oily eggplant spread my entire life.

It’s a simple dish: You roast an eggplant and bell pepper into oblivion. Peel and chop them. Mix with raw onion and garlic, olive oil and vinegar. Lots of salt. And that’s it.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I also am of Romanian heritage and my family makes a version of the fire-roasted salad mentioned here, which indeed is an amazing eggplant dish! I first wrote about my family's recipe for the LA Times in 2000 and then included it in my book, The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook. My family also calls this dish simply "eggplant," but we use the Hebrew word "hatzilim." (My Romanian mother and her family emigrated from Iasi to Israel in early 1930s.) My mom made it the way her mother did: roast the eggplant over open flame to keep the flesh light, then whip with a fork, adding oil until light and fluffy. My grandmother made 3 versions: lemon and garlic (my fave); mayo; minced onion. I love the different journeys your salad and mine made over generations and distance. Nice to go down memory lane with you! I will ask my 92-year-old mother if the word "potlagel" rings a bell.”
— Amelia S.
Comment

If you want to know what it’s called, well, same. I don’t know. No one in my family does, at least not for sure. When I was growing up, we called it “Grandma’s eggplant,” or “Grandma eggplant,” or shorter still, “eggplant.”

Its Romanian name fell off the map years ago. When I asked Grandma what she called it when she was growing up, her answer turned out to be the same as mine: “We just called it ‘eggplant,’” she laughed. “Or chopped eggplant. Or eggplant appetizer.”

But I kept wondering what Anna called it.


Sometime in the last few years, we started to think the mystery word might be potlagel, pronounced pot-lah-gel. Google this and you’ll get an unconvincing 5,960 results. Yet the top hits lead to blog comment sections that sound a lot like my family’s living room: people talking about the best eggplant dish they ever ate, which came from a grandmother who came from Romania.

Say, on Tales of a Kitchen, the author Chris Anca shares a recipe for “Traditional Roasted Eggplant Salad.” She writes about how “back home, in Romania, we had to cook with the seasons.” Her mother froze roasted eggplants just to make this dish—a close cousin to Anna’s recipe. Anca’s family uses mustard, ours doesn’t. We include roasted bell pepper, they don’t. But the spirit is the same.

The comment section is where it gets good:

“Exact recipe my great grandmother always made except for the mustard,” Joanna writes. “I’m 3 generations away from Romanian living so I speak, well…none. My great grandmother always called this dish something that sounded like: pot laja. Can you tell me the actual Romanian name?”

“Oh, I think it has different traditional names depending on region within Romania!” Anca replies. “We just call it eggplant ‘salad.’”

Then everyone starts chiming in.

“We call it potlagel,” Lynn says. “My mother has been craving it lately (her mother was Roumanian)—so I’ve been making it for her. No mustard or lemon juice in our recipe (although I would like to add some, or some garlic), as Mom wants it with just onions.”

Rebecca’s grandmother “made that also!” But she spelled it “put la jell.”

Fredi’s grandmother also made that also! Her family called it “putlagella” but “I have no idea how it is spelled!”

So at least I’m not the only one.

If you start to beep-boop-bop on Google translate, these words start to make more sense. Translate the English eggplant into Romanian and you get vânătă or pătlăgea vânătă. Similarly, translate eggplant into Yiddish and you get פּאַטלעזשאַן or patlezhan. Both of which sound pretty close to potlagel.

Then I hit a bump in the road. The more digging I did, the more I started to notice another, totally different term: salata de vinete. On the blog My Weekend Kitchen, author Ashima Ashima Goyal Siraj writes: “Romanians actually call this deliciously smoky eggplant dip, a salad—Salata de Vinete (eggplant salad).”

Indeed, the plural eggplants translates to the Romanian vinete, a derivative of the above vânătă. Meanwhile, salad translates to salată (big surprise). Why didn’t that name stick around in my family? Herman Edel’s book Red Horse Radish has an idea:

“What is ‘Salada de Venita’? Well first of all, that is its Romanian name, while it is called ‘Potla Jel’ in Yiddish and probably had as many other names as there were other tongues spoken in this crazy world. Whatever the name, it is simply the most delicious salad that has ever been created.”

Or is it? The easy explanation for potlagel’s apparent lack of popularity would be: People don’t like eggplant spread (or salad or dip or whatever you want to call it). But we all know that isn’t true. Because eggplant spread is pretty popular.

Just ask baba ganoush. This Middle Eastern eggplant spread recipe yields, let’s see, 1,920,000 results on Google. One of which is an eggplant roundup by Bon Appétit called “Beyond Baba Ganoush”, as if baba ganoush is the default way to use an eggplant. And maybe it is.

What exactly distinguishes baba ganoush is up for debate. The Guardian published a piece breaking down all the ingredient possibilities, such as tahini, yogurt, parsley, mint, cumin, and pomegranate. “Is this delicious smoky dip the ultimate aubergine recipe?” the author Felicity Cloake asks. If you’re asking in a headline, the answer is probably: probably.

In any case, the ultimate eggplant recipe is definitely not potlagel.

Maybe because, these days, no one can agree on one name or spelling. Maybe because, compared to baba ganoush, it’s a lot simpler. There aren’t a lot of possibilities. There isn’t tahini to make it creamy and rich. There’s just smoky eggplant, unapologetically raw onion, and a modest amount of olive oil. It sounds boring from afar.

So why not change it? Increase the olive oil. Caramelize the onions. Add mashed anchovies. Add lemon zest. Add paprika. Add all the fresh herbs! But I never thought to do any of this. And I should have, right? It’s my literal job to develop recipes.

By definition, develop means “cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborate.” In other words, I loved the chocolate-peanut butter cookies my mom made growing up, but I wanted them to be fudgier and less sweet and saltier. I always asked for second helpings of our go-to tomato-saucy brisket, but this year, I wanted to find out what would happen if I braised it in milk instead.

So what makes potlagel the exception? I wish I had a meaningful answer. Something like: Because Anna leaving Romania was the start of my family’s life in America, the start of my life in America, preserving the way she prepared this dish is preserving my ancestors’ memory, my family history, my truest identity.

But it isn’t like that. I just think her eggplant tastes really, really good, exactly as it is.


Even when you try to keep something the same, it changes. When I asked Grandma if she adjusted the recipe at all, she told me, “I try to make it just like she did.” But then, when she started listing the details, there were discrepancies: a green bell pepper when I’ve always used yellow, a pinch of sugar which I had never seen anyone add.

“Just a little!” Grandma explained. “Because eggplants can be bitter.”

Or they used to be. These days, not as much, just like certain cuts of pork used to be fatty but now are lean. Ingredients aren’t the same as they were 130-something years ago. Which means potlagel can’t be either.

Of course, this doesn’t explain the green bell pepper morphing into yellow. But I can explain that: my mom. She hates green bell peppers.

She also loves Fuchsia Dunlop. (It’ll make sense in a second, I swear.) Fuchsia Dunlop is an English cookbook author who specializes in Chinese cuisine. In 2013, she published a book called Every Grain of Rice that I couldn’t stop cooking from. So I recommended it to my mom and then she couldn’t stop cooking from it.

In Every Grain of Rice, there’s a recipe for Smoky Eggplant With Garlic. Dunlop writes: “The smoky flavor of charred eggplant is the soul of Middle Eastern baba ganoush and it’s also used in this Sichuanese appetizer.” Instead of onion, there are scallions. Instead of olive oil, chili oil. Instead of red wine vinegar, Chinkiang vinegar.

If you want to know what it’s called, well, same. I don’t know. No one in my family does, at least not for sure. When I was growing up, we called it "Grandma’s eggplant," or "Grandma eggplant," or shorter still, "eggplant."

It tastes good. But it doesn’t taste like potlagel. Whenever my mom makes eggplant spread nowadays, she makes it like Fuchsia. And just like that, over a century after Anna left Romania, our family’s go-to eggplant recipe is changed forever.

Or it’s always been changing. I’m a culprit of that, too.

If there were one constant between Anna’s potlagel and ours, it’s the lack of a recipe. Until now. This is the first time I’ve ever seen our version written down, so the odds that it’s exactly like Anna made it aren’t just improbable. They’re impossible. Even she didn’t make it the same every time.

So I guess my recipe developing did get in the way after all. I felt the need to document something that was always just a conversation between generations, relatives spoon-feeding each other, asking, “What else does it need? More olive oil? More salt?”

It always needs more olive oil. It always needs more salt.

But eventually, there’s a look in the other person’s eyes, whether they’re my grandmother’s or my mother’s or my own, a look that says, "Yes. Yes, that’s it! That’s what I remember."

Have you ever heard of potlagel? Please share whatever you know in the comments.

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Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in October 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

105 Comments

Yaya2017 April 23, 2021
Add another wondering Jew to the mix.. Shalom y’all ! I just today made a huge batch of what my mom pronounced “putnajel” and sometimes “putnajelly”. My daughter requested this a few weeks ago and today was grocery day. We were Russian, Polish Jews and my grandparents came here in 1917. My grandmother was pregnant with my Dad , he was born one week after their arrival to Ellis Island. My moms family pretty much the same story, except they were here a bit longer and more established. Dads family settled in Brooklyn and my moms in the Bronks..they met in the Catskills. I have long wondered if this was a dish my mom and her family conjured up or if it was in fact a true “recipe ”...I am now so over the moon and thank you all for filling in many queries I have wondered about. My family’s recipe was simple as well..eggplant, green peppers, garlic..(loads), onions and olive oil with salt and pepper to taste...(loads as well!!!) All roasted together in the oven and then (peeled) and puréed to desired consistency with obviously some more olive oil. I like mine with a bit of chunky-ness .My mom used an old wooden bowl and double bladed chopping knife.(no food processors when I grew up..lol) she also sometimes put sliced black olives... doesn’t matter either way to me..adds texture and my mom just could not leave a recipe alone ...something I also got from her. Again, thank you all I am so very grateful for your stories, insights, and sharing of recipes..can’t wait for more!!! Be well!!
 
Penny H. April 21, 2021
I am 1/2 Romanian and very 1/2 Russian. I was not allowed in kitchen when cooking took place, but my family called this (not sure if spelling) pot la Bella). My family roasted eggplant until burnt, peeled it, grated onion, garlic, oil, I think a bit of vinegar, salt and pepper, then hand chopped until a perfect consistency.
 
Judy D. April 5, 2021
My Grandma Braufman came from Podul Llieou, Romania, County of Moldova, in the late 1800’s and made Pot la gel, the most delicious eggplant dish ever. My mother, who just passed away at 107, made the dish often and I have an eggplant roasting in my oven right now. So I googled pot la gel (being always curious) and found this wonderful blog. My grandparents were the only Jews in Regent, North Dakota, and later the only Hews in Stark county or Hettinger. I am pretty convinced that they came in through Canada. Our ingredients were eggplant, garlic, onions, olive oil, lemon and salt. Thrilled to make this connection.
 
Sandy May 1, 2021
Every Saturday when Grandma Lizzie and I were together we made Putlagel.
Today is Saturday and I prepared an Eggplant dish.
The word Putlagel entered our conversation. Which led to researching.
I adored Grandma Lizzie Schumer. Always a twinkle and full of joy. The family came to Castle Garden Port of Entry in the Late 1800’s.
Blackout Cake was my Birthday treat.
The family dispersed throughout NY, then beyond.
 
Amelia S. March 2, 2021
Lovely piece. I also am of Romanian heritage and my family makes a version of the fire-roasted salad mentioned here, which indeed is an amazing eggplant dish! I first wrote about my family's recipe for the LA Times in 2000 and then included it in my book, The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook. My family also calls this dish simply "eggplant," but we use the Hebrew word "hatzilim." (My Romanian mother and her family emigrated from Iasi to Israel in early 1930s.) My mom made it the way her mother did: roast the eggplant over open flame to keep the flesh light, then whip with a fork, adding oil until light and fluffy. My grandmother made 3 versions: lemon and garlic (my fave); mayo; minced onion. I love the different journeys your salad and mine made over generations and distance. Nice to go down memory lane with you! I will ask my 92-year-old mother if the word "potlagel" rings a bell.
 
[email protected] February 23, 2021
I love your story and your recipe. Mine is slightly different but that is not what matters. Like your mother I still use a chopping bowl and chopper. I think I get a better texture than a food processor. I think it is less work that using the food processor as carefully as you do.
I must admit that I like feeling the connection to our mothers and grandmothers as I sit and chop. I have the family chopping bowl and chopper.
 
[email protected] February 24, 2021
Hi Judith

Firstly, I would like to thank you for reading and the kind comments you made regarding my post.

And, of course, you are absolutely correct in that the differences are not important when compared to the things that we have in common culturely and traditionally. When you mentioned that you saved the chopping bowl and chopper it actually brought a tear to my eye.

As I mentioned in my post, I really do vividly remember coming home from school for lunch, smelling the eggplant and fried green pepper and watching my mom chopping the potla for forshpize (Yiddish for appetizer) for dinner. I guess I was too young when my folks sold their home for an apartment (I came along late in my parents life) and got rid of many things and didn’t realize some things should be saved.

Anyway, thanks again for your comments on my post.

Yours truly
Syd Cohen
 
[email protected] February 23, 2021
Feb. 23, 2021

Hi there! My mane is Syd Cohen. I am 75 years old and I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I just finished reading your “potla” story and was fascinated. I would like to tell you mine.

In 1899, 1900 or 1901(not sure) my father, his parents (my paternal grandparents) and somewhere between 7 and 10 more siblings set out for Canada on a large wooden sailing ship from Romania. Upon arrival in Canada (don’t know which city) it appears that only my grandparents, my dad and 2 siblings survived the journey. Ultimately, they were sent to live in the Lipton Colony, a Jewish immigrant settlement in Saskatchewan.

Skip ahead to 1930 when my dad and mom were married and my mom learned various recipes from my dad’s mom, one of which, of course, was “potla jellah”. Which, as you described, is nature’s gift to the human palate. I have come across 2 other Jewish folks with Romanian cultural history who refer to it by the same name as me, so I could only assume that that was the name. I have searched the internet for years looking for the dish with no luck until I found your article. I was delighted to say the least.

I still make it today, true to my mom’s recipe (not written down anywhere of course). I remember, quite vividly, after baking and peeling the eggplant and frying and peeling the green pepper, my mom would sit in the kitchen with a large wooden bowl in her lap and curved stainless steel hand chopper, mincing the 2 cooked veggies into a beautiful, not to smooth, purée. While still a little warm with oil and tons of salt it was like eating ambrosia. It was a long and laborious undertaking those many years ago with no microwave or Cuisinart, but she did it and we truly relished it.

This is how I make it. I microwave a large teardrop shaped eggplant in a shallow Corning-ware 9” x 9” baking dish for 7 to 8 minutes turning it over at halt-time. As soon as I start nuking the eggplant, I start to fry my green pepper. I usually pick a medium sized pepper with 4 distinct sides to facilitate frying. I have a dedicated small no-stick green pepper frying pan because frying whole green pepper is kind of messy and I learned a small dedicated pan is a good idea. I put canola oil in the pan to aid in frying. Using medium heat, fry the pepper whole (lots of splatter) until the entire (roll the pepper until the entire outer skin is well, well done. You’ll have to stand the pepper on the top and bottom and maybe have to hold each with tongs to get them fried.

When nuking is finished, I cut off the top and I peel the eggplant (a job). Watch out, it’s darn hot. I’ve found that using a narrow, long-blade paring knife and an oven mitt works best. Once peeled, I slice the eggplant lengthwise into thirds and let it drain and cool in the dish. Now I get back to the green pepper. Once it’s fried all around and top and bottom, i drop the pepper into a bowl of cold water. Cut out the top crown/core and seeds and discard. The pepper’s flesh should be soft so you can pull the pepper apart into 5 or 6 pieces. Under running cold water, peel off the burnt skin from each piece and let the pieces cool on a paper towel.

When everything is peeled and a bit cooler, I start processing. With the blade going, I feed the green pepper into the processor first then start feeding in strips of the eggplant. Not too much or too fast. When everything is in the processor, process mixture to a desired consistency and you’re essentially done. I process mine until it’s fairly smooth and empty it into a clean, dry glass bowl. If I think I’ve processed it too much (might seem a little too flowy), I “rolling pin” some soda crackers (10 to 14) in a plastic bag until somewhat fine and gradually ad to mix, mixing the crumbs n with a fork. You’ll get the hang of it after 1 or 2 “potlas. Chill in fridge for a couple of hours. And there you have it.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. February 24, 2021
Hi Syd! Loved reading your story, thank you so much for sharing it.
 
Joan February 24, 2021
Hello Syd! Just read your note and wanted to tell you that this thread has been active for almost 2 1/2 years now and just keeps getting better. I just made this last week using my husband’s grandmother’s wooden chopping bowl and had the last of it for lunch today. However, no green pepper in this family!!! Just chopped onion, garlic, vinegar, both wine and balsamic and good
Olive oil and lots of kosher salt!!! You really should read all the notes from all the folks. The stories are oh-so-similar...so interesting.
Joan Lev
 
Joan February 24, 2021
Hi Emma, has any other article/recipe ever generated as many responses as this one for potlagela or over such a long period of time. Truly amazing!!
Joan
 
[email protected] February 25, 2021
Emma, I’ve spent years looking for anything related to potla. This thread was an absolute delight to find and read!! By the way, Winnipeg is a city of 700,000 people and I have only found 2 who have ever heard of potla!

So thank you for making it available to all of us.

Syd
 
[email protected] February 25, 2021
Hi Joan If you have had a chance to read my response to Judith’s comments re my post you’ll see that her comment about the chopping bowl and chopper really touched me. Now that you too have mentioned your chopping bowl I’m really saddened that I didn’t have the foresight to save my mom’s. Thanks for responding to my post and happy chopping for years to come

Syd
 
Jamie B. December 17, 2020
My grandfather was Romanian and I my father made this every fall. He always shared with several cousins who also loved it. Growing up, I mostly remember the smell that would take over the house! Not as appreciative of it then as I am now. Happy memory.
 
Susankur October 1, 2020
Although my husband’s father was Romanian the first time I ate potlagel was in Romania. We went with his 3 brothers and wives to find their fathers town. On the way we stopped for lunch and I discovered this delectable way to serve eggplant! Then I ate it at every meal! Thru the years I have tried to duplicate it and now I see it’s the raw onions! Thanks so much for the lovely story. My family was Russian and all I remember is borscht, blintzes, smoked fishes and kugels.
 
Lia S. September 22, 2020
I’m Romanian. We aren’t putting any pepper in the salata de Vinete where I’m from. We are roasting and peeling the eggplant, chopping it, adding finely diced onion, oil (sunflower oil back home ) , and... an egg yolk, raw. And some lemon juice and salt. No garlic, pepper or other things. The yolk isn’t necessary but that’s how I make it and that’s how grandma made it. Eat it with crusty bread and tomato slices .
 
Josie A. June 29, 2020
I have been searching and searching for a similar recipe that my Jewish grandmother used to make. My grandmother was born in Vienna Austria and was incredibly lucky to have escaped to the USA right before Hitler invaded.

This dip was known in our family as eggplant dip. I can’t even tell you how many recipes of eggplant dip I’ve read, they all add a crazy amount of ingredients! This is by far the closest and I can’t wait to try it out. My family swears that she only used vinegar, salt and pepper to her dip. I have made it that way, and it doesn’t taste anything like hers. Thank you so much for posting this! I should have used the “Jewish grandmother eggplant dip” for better results!
 
Wfguffman April 19, 2020
I’ve been eating Pot le gel since I was in diapers. Growing up with a Hungarian mother and Rumanian father, I was subjected to all the different ethnic dishes of both countries. I’m thankful that I kept the recipes and continue to make those traditional recipes without updating them. There is nothing I would change in my grandmothers recipe for pot Le gel.
 
mz April 14, 2020
My Romanian Jewish family made this with olive oil and a lot of garlic, onion, and a few other ingredients. My father and his brothers always made this when they were together. We called it Pot la ja (Potlaja). And no, there is no Romanian word like Potlajel or Potlaja but, Romania was ruled by the Ottoman Empire for many years and the short version is, Transylvania for many years was administratively part if Hungary. So Turkish and Hungarian were languages of influence in Romania. The word for eggplant in Turkish is patlican (pronounced potlajon) and in Hungarian the word for eggplant is padlizsán.
 
Helen November 30, 2019
I laughed when I saw the title and then smiled the rest of the time as I read about potlagella. My heritage is Lithuanian and I did not taste eggplant until I visited my Greek in-law relatives. I enjoyed it in every form but never went overboard until I went to Bucharest in 1994. There, while volunteering with a medical mission for a few weeks, I found a tiny bowl and spoon sitting on a small tray in a nook of the clinic room. No crackers or bread, just an oil-glistening spread filling the bowl. I scooped up a tiny amount and tasted. It was, for me, an OMG moment. I had used the only spoon (😬) and wanted more, so my find but was pushed back to make it harder to notice. I returned to it, relished the four or five spoonfuls, and never talked about it until now. I haven’t been able to find anything to equal the flavor. I will be trying this recipe.
 
Beth M. November 21, 2019
My mother, whose parents were Romanian Jews and who unfortunately died more than 20 years ago, made something she called potlagella. All I knew about it was that it was eggplant and extremely spicy. I was not fond of spice as a child and didn’t like it at all. I would love to know if anybody else’s family made spicy potlagella and if so, what made it spicy.
 
Joan November 21, 2019
My Goodness!!! Its now a whole year later, and folks are still writing about potlagella!!!! I can't believe it. This wonderful dish has created such a following. Be that as it may, I personally know nothing of a spicy version. But if you love eggplant as all of us seem to, I would suggest you make the most simplest of the recipes and check it out. Most Romanians, their decedents and spouses, and children, grandchildren, etc. seem to really like it. Do not add black pepper or green pepper for that matter!!


seem to agree it is just great. Just do not add any black pepper or, green pepper for that matter!!
 
Sonnidaze August 10, 2019
In searching for an eggplant salad recipe, what a joy to have found your potlegel!! That is what my mother’s Romanian Jewish mother and our aunts called it. We use roasted pimentoes, garlic, olive oil, lemon and salt. I use my grandmother’s wooden bowl and an ulu (chopper from Alaska) to make it.
 
Sonnidaze August 10, 2019
OMG. My mother’s family is from Romania. Upon looking to remember what went into my grandmother’s eggplant salad, what a joy to find putlagel which is what they called it! And they too are Romanian Jews. So has anyone heard of a dish they called Siribina.? It was some kind of grated white vegetable, maybe turnip that they ate with chicken fat and salt?
 
Rebecca June 3, 2019
My grandmother from Romania used to make a version of this. Since there is an eggplant in my fridge, I'm going home to make it! BTW, she pronounced it Putt La Jell, my aunt, her daughter, calls it Putt La Jay.
 
Gabriela B. May 13, 2019
There is no “potlagel” word in the Romanian language. The word for eggplant is VÂNĂTĂ (plural vinete) and in some regions of Romania it is also called pătlăgeá, or pătlăgică. Maybe in 1800’s the word patlagea was used more often, but not anymore.The correct name of this salad is Salata de vinete. Potlagel is not a word. The sad thing is that people started to make this salad and call it potlagel, the ultimate Romanian eggplant salad, for SEO reasons, but it is wrong and l think the article needs a correction. l noticed that the mistake spreads fast among people who are not Romanian but they ate this salad at one point in their lives. I am also a food blogger, Romanian living in the US.
 
Joan May 13, 2019
Gabriela, I read your comments with interest, however I think you will note that this entire article from the beginning has generated an unusual amount of interesting replies. Many have come from folks who are descended from Romanian Jews. While I appreciate your take on the nomenclature, I feel that most of us who have had this recipe handed down thru several generations will continue to call it by the name when it was taught to us. Additionally, I would have liked to have read how YOU make the dish as that has lead to so very many discussions here. Thanks,
Joan
 
Sheila March 30, 2019
My father was born in Romania & the family made this without the bell peppers...years ago after that generation had all passed my brother was over joyed when he learned I knew how to make it. Roasted eggplant garlic salt. Sweet onion olive oil & a splash of lemon...no name but eggplant salad
 
Madalin S. March 20, 2019
I’m a foodblogger from Romania.

Patlagea vânată= Eggplant
Patlagea roșie= Tomato

To not create confusion everybody use “vânată” and “roșie”.

Everybody called this dish vinete nowadays and patlagea in 1800 because..... it is the main and almost the single dish made out of eggplants 😀. Beside zacusca. The normal name is “salata de vinete” but short is “vinete”.

Regarding the recipe, they are few variations but some mandatory steps:
- always char them on open fire not in the oven. Better directly on coals/burning logs. The taste is dramatically different.
- peel the chared skin and let them drip - there is a bitter liquid
- use sunflower oil, is more neutral

You can go with or without garlic or onions. It can be even very simple only wit salt, lemon juice and sunflower oil.

In the modern times, we have a modern aproach with homemade mayo instead of oil. Try it once and you will be under the spell 😀.

If you add roasted bell pepper that’s a spin, is not Vinete. But also very goood.

Roasted bell peppers are added to zacusca. Zacusca it’s also a balcan dish called in the slavic world Ajvar.

It’s basically roasted eggplants, peppers, onions and tomatoes but stewed for a long time.

First, you need a large cast iron dish. Usually we go for 10, 25 or even 40 kg pots. Put it outside on open fire. Chop the onion and fry it until translucent. Then we add chopped tomatoes and we cook them until we have a thick sauce. We add chopped chared egg plants and peppers and then the condiments: salt, pepper, paprika, bay leaves.

Everything goes in jars in the pantry for the winter.

Do you have any other romanian food memories? 😀
 
Elana March 31, 2019
Thanks, Madalin!
 
Roz S. September 3, 2019
You mentioned Salata, I remember salata my grandmother made was from eggplant, onion , garlic green peppers combined with vinegar to make a relish. Is that Correct