My Romanian grandmother (my mother’s mother) used to make this dish and when I was young, I hated it. My mother would put great big dollops of it on her salad instead of dressing or slather it across thick slices of pumpernickle or rye bread. Once I got older and the savory attributes of eggplant became more integrated to my palate, I began to crave this dish.
There are a number of versions of this recipe. An old friend of mine, whose ancestry was also Romanian, used tomatoes and another version I saw online used lemons. This is my family’s version–simple and delicious.
I prick the skin of the eggplant with a knife or fork and put in the broiler. I turn it every 15-20 minutes or so. Let the skin get burnt. It actually looks like quite a mess by the time it is soft (about an hour) so I usually line the pan it is in with aluminum foil. (I have also cooked the eggplant over the fire on top of a gas stove for a more smoky flavor. The grill outside is also another possibility.) The insides are scraped into a bowl and the skin removed. (My Aunt Annette would freeze this chopped eggplant so she could make pot le gel anytime.) I chop the warm eggplant with a half moon chopper (mezzaluna or ulu knife). Then I add chopped green pepper and onion or red pepper and red onion as shown in the photo above, which makes a sweeter version. I like to leave these vegetables chunky, but you will need to adjust the size according to your own taste. A drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt to taste. Refrigerate the pot le gel, and you are finished. It is even better after the flavors have mellowed over a couple of days (though it is usually fully eaten before a few days have passed) and served at room temperature.