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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Ajvar Hot Eggplant & Red Pepper Relish

We've been having some of our staples lately - idlee, dosai, roti, rasam, pizza and such... so, no exciting new recipes to try out and share here.

This ajvar relish is one of our staples as well, as a dip, as a side, as a base for other dishes...

Ajvar is a Balkhan roasted eggplant and sweet red pepper relish, sometimes referred to as vegetarian caviar. ZerGut Ajvar is a popular East European product found in ethnic food stores here. However the store-bought ones somehow seem to be a little too sweet and have this aged smell that feels a bit unappetizing for me sometimes. Trader Joe's™ brand so far is my favorite for ready-made ajvar. However, since it is easy enough to make at home and I can adjust it a bit to my taste, I make a batch on and off and store it in the fridge, and use it to flavor other dishes.

1-2 eggplant
3-4 sweet red peppers
4-6 dry red chilies
1-2 garlic cloves
¼ cup lemon juice
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
salt to taste

  1. Roast the sliced eggplant and red peppers over open flame (I use my gas stove for this step), or in a 475°F oven (broil a bit to char the skin, if preferred); put in a paper bag, cover and allow to sweat a bit; remove charred skin if desired - I like to leave it on for the smoky flavor
  2. When cool enough to handle, coarsely chop up, combine with the garlic and dry red chilies, blend to a chunky relish (or smooth if using it as a spread)
  3. Add lemon juice and olive oil to taste; adjust salt
  4. Allow to cool completely and store in an air tight jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks
  5. If canning it, cook over medium-low heat and can when hot

Enjoy Ajvar in many ways:
  • mix with some cream cheese to make a delicious sandwich spread
  • mix it with some yogurt and sumac to make a mouth-watering sauce for wraps or pita pockets
  • add enough olive oil and a bit of lemon juice or red wine vinegar for acidity to make a wonderful salad dressing
  • use it as-is on toasted olive-ciabatta bread or rosemary-potato bread or any favorite baguette slices
  • use it to flavor curries and stews as in the Chickpea stew below

Chickpea Stew flavored with Ajvar

1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup cooked diced beets (optional)
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup ajvar (or more to taste)
1 Tbsp agave nectar or brown sugar (optional)
garnish: cilantro, spring onions
salt to taste

  1. sauté the onion and combine the rest of the ingredients and simmer together with enough water or broth to preferred stew consistency
  2. garnish and serve warm

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  • At 2:51 PM, Anonymous theconflictedcook said…

    that looks so good, I know I'm going to try it.

  • At 5:21 PM, Blogger Cynthia said…

    Oh Sheela, you made eggplant the only way I like and can eat it - fire roasted! I am drooling here.

  • At 2:52 PM, Blogger Sheela said…

    hello conflicted cook, great to see you here!

    Cynthia, you are my Caribbean inspiration! I am yet to find ackee here - it is on my long short-list of things to try :)

  • At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Expat said…

    This sounds delicious!
    Just thought you should know that this is a recipe for Ljutenica and not Ajvar. Ljutenica is a spicy version of ajvar... Ajvar has no spice in it at all ;)

  • At 11:55 AM, Blogger Sheela said…

    @Expat: Thanks for the clarification :)


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