Saltet al Raheb, or Monk’s Salad, as the name suggests in Arabic is probably named as such to reflect monks’ and hermits’ frugal lives in the Lebanese mountains, home of numerous monasteries for centuries. Just imagine this scenery: In the midst of breathtaking views of not easily accessible valleys and high mountains, monks are carefully chargrilling their home grown aubergines over an open fire, to mix later on in a lemony dressing with vegetables from their own produce. Don’t you wish to go back in time?
Although tabbouleh and Fattoush are top on my list for hot summer days, saltet al raheb is still my favourite on days like today when temperature has already reached 30°C at noontime in Germany. It is super refreshing, light and healthy, especially when part of the vegetables and herbs are coming straight from your garden!
The charred skin of the aubergines imparts the distinctive smoky flavour of the salad, and that’s the main secret for its deliciousness. The best way to do so is of course, on an open fire if you have a gas stove. I broil the aubergines in my electric oven instead, and reach quite the same result. My German students being sceptical about the “burning” process are usually satisfied with the soft flesh, and save their aubergines from the oven before I have the chance to control that! If I am lucky and not busy somewhere else, I catch them while committing their little crime. If not, we have their version of the salad, which is actually still delectable.
This salad is also very versatile; you can always play with the amount and choice of vegetables, and adjust taste to your liking. Two last tips; for a more refreshing experience, broil your aubergines a day before and chill, and have some aubergines ready to chargrill next time you are barbecuing.
Saltet al raheb - Aubergine Salad
- 2 medium-sized Aubergines about 800-1000 g
- 2 small garlic cloves peeled and crushed (optional)
- 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 pinch black pepper or to taste
- 6 cocktail tomatoes 200 g, rinsed and halved
- 6 small radishes 100 g, trimmed, rinsed and thinly sliced
- 1 small cucumber
- ½ red pepper
- 3-4 spring onions trimmed, rinsed and thinly sliced
- 2 heaped tablespoonful coarsely chopped parsley
- A few green mint leaves rinsed and chopped
- Set the oven on broil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush with one-tablespoon vegetable oil. Lay the Aubergine cut side down onto the baking sheet. Broil for about 30 minutes or until they are soft. The skin may become charred but that will impart a distinctive taste.
- Take out of the oven and transfer to a colander and let cool for 15 minutes. Carefully peel the aubergines and cut into small cubes (2 cm).
- In the meantime combine the lemon juice, olive oil, crushed garlic, salt and black pepper in a serving bowl.
- Add the aubergines and the vegetables to the dressing in the bowl and toss well. Adjust to taste if required and serve cold with some pita bread. Saltet al-raheb is also a great accompaniment to grilled fish, meat or chicken.