Receiving guests is a huge deal back in Russia. For the whole day, the whole family is cutting vegetables for the salads (which are traditional festive food). The salads have nothing to do with “mixed leaves” or “green” light dishes that you may imagine. Russian salad is heavy, fat and nutritious. The common ingredients are boiled potatoes, carrots, eggs and peas; there is usually a protein, such as chicken or fish, and a lot of mayo (sometimes fish swims in the white sauce). You would need minimum three salads (at least one guests would not even touch). Plus, there must be some sandwiches with cheese, colbasa (a giant sausage), and salted fish. For entree hosts serve some meat, most usually baked in the oven or grilled, with potatoes, rice or pasta as a side dish. And when you about to die, a huge cake with buttercream pops up. After a Russian dinner, one may need a detox week.
This program does not work well for me, as I prefer healthier food (Mayo should die!) and am vegetarian. So with time I developed a simple but sound menu for a “Russian style” lunch with friends. I serve some light starters, a green salad with various vegetables and eggs or a tomato soup, and follow with oven-baked aubergines with cheese. This dish is easy, fast to make; it looks cool and of course it is delicious.
I tried this dish with creamy goat cheese, mozzarella, and feta. Feta is baked beautifully and retains the shape, while mozzarella and goat cheese melt and go all around the baking tray. I think mozzarella is not strong enough in taste to fit into this dish, so it’s better to pick up cheese with a more robust flavour, depending on your preferences and fantasies.
Oven-Baked Aubergines with Cheese
- 5 min
- 20 min
- Ready in:
- 25 min
- Cut aubergines in halves. Cut each half lengthwise into strips around 1 cm thick (try to keep them equal and neither thicker nor thinner than 1 cm). Do not cut until the very end; aubergine should be joint and resemble a fan (or a palm leave, whatever association is closer to you)
- Slice cheese and tomatoes. Grease aubergines with olive oil then put cheese and tomatoes in between strips. If you like, you can cover aubergines with chopped garlic and coriander; I prefer to use dry basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake on 180C (350F) for about 20 minutes. It is very easy to transfer ready aubergines to plates; they do not fall apart