Armenian inspiration & a terrific appetizer idea.
Last Saturday night, Juan and I decided to randomly try out a different type of cuisine (or at least different from what we usually eat – which was beef, beef and more beef). We skimmed through a list of recommended restaurants on the local Buenos Aires food guide Guio Oleo and somehow our fingers landed on a decade-old Armenian restaurant tucked neatly in a chic corner of the Palermo Soho neighbourhood.
Named “El Manto”, which literally means “a veil” or “a cloak”, this restaurant was open by reservation-only, so we had to call a couple of hours in advance to book our little table of two. In actual fact, I was very much looking forward to Pilaf rice, which comes with raisins and nuts and chicken and flavoured deeply in saffran, but it was the starter which impressed me no end.
Eggplant roasted with cashew nuts, red bell peppers and onions…Yumm…
It was the intense combination of spicy eggplant together with roasted cashew nuts that softened the taste, mingling with chopped red bell peppers and sauteed onions, a complete burst of very Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours in every bite, that left us swiping the bottom of the bowl with pieces of bread, determined to lick up every drop of richness. It was heaven on earth, the picture of a cloudless blue sky, the sun shining through the rainbow. Gorgeous, divine, delicate, and tasteful.
I couldn’t wait that long to return to El Manto for this beautiful salad again, so I made it. DIY. Do-It-Yourself. I don’t proclaim that it’s the exact recipe as the one I ate in the restaurant, but it’s my greatest effort to imitate what we tasted last week. It’s really quite a piece of cake (except for the excrutiatingly long time I took to chop all the ingredients). But oh so worth it.
ENSALADA BELEN (ROASTED EGGPLANT SALAD) – Serves 4
1) 800g to 1 kg of eggplant
2) 2 medium onions
3) 1 medium red bell pepper
4) 100g of cashew nuts
1) Dice eggplant, onions and red bell pepper into small pieces
2) Saute onions and red bell pepper until onions are slightly transparent
3) Add in eggplant, and stir the ingredients until eggplant turns brown
4) Add in cashew nuts
5) Serve cold with bread (pita bread or any type available)