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Cathy Katin-Grazzini

Cathy’s Kitchen Prescription LLC

www.cathyskitchenprescription.com

 

Ajvar, Balkan Grilled Pepper Spread

 

Sometimes sweet, sometimes spicy, every family has its own recipe. Locally made with sweet, fleshy red roga peppers, a great grilling pepper native to the Balkans, they may be tough to find here unless your grow your own. Otherwise use ripe bell peppers, and if you like some heat, throw in a hot pepper or two. Peppers are the stars in ajvar with young roasted eggplant, raw garlic and a splash of lemon and cider vinegar playing supporting roles. A flavorful, zesty, splendid spread, this version omits oil and salt and lets the veggies sing. Feel free to blend ajvar smooth or leave it a bit chunky, it’s up to you!

 

Ajvar makes fabulous crostini and crostone, spread thickly on squares of crusty artisanal whole grain bread. But it’s just too good to leave it there! Use ajvar in eggless omelettes, in pasta sauces, stuffed in dumplings, ravioli, or in stuffed breads, or as a topping on pizzas, baked potatoes, or roasted veggies  -- wherever a splotch of bright color and intense bright flavor is called for.

 

With no fat but lots of taste and nutritional heft, avjar contains ample amounts of fiber, potassium, vitamins C, E, B6, K1, folate, and beta carotene.

 

Prep time 20 minutes       Roasting time 30 minutes               Makes 2-3 cups

 

Ingredients

 

3 pounds sweet red (or mixed color) peppers

1-2 medium hot peppers like Fresno (optional)

1 pound young sweet eggplant variety like Asian or fairy or Sicilian

3-4 cloves garlic

Juice of ½ lemon or to taste

1-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or to taste

Grinds of black pepper

Liquid smoke (if you can’t grill with wood) to taste (optional)

 

Garnishes

None are needed but if you like you can add chopped flat parsley, pepper flakes like Sivri Biber, Aleppo, or Kashmiri, or lemon zest.

 

Directions

 

A wood grill is the most authentic way of cooling the peppers and eggplant. Otherwise, use a gas grill and cook over medium/low heat, turning occasionally, until the veggies have softened, collapsed, and blackened.

 

Alternatively, roast in a 400°F/204°C oven for about 30 minutes.

 

As soon as you remove them from the grill or oven, place in a large bowl, covered tightly for 15+ minutes to allow the peppers and eggplant to steam, further soften, and separate from their skins.

 

Peel the peppers and scrape the cooked flesh from the eggplant. Toss in a food processor. Add the garlic and pulse to desired consistency.

 

Season to taste with lemon and cider vinegar, liquid smoke (if using), and black pepper.

 

Serve warm on bread, crackers, or crostini and garnish.  Enjoy!

Ajvar, Balkan Grilled Pepper Spread