ajvar

this is one of my favorite relishes. originally developed as an affordable response to caviar in south-eastern europe restaurants, this pickled eggplant and red pepper condiment is tangy, rich, a little spicy and a perfect wintery spread for buttered, fresh bread. i, of course, recommend that you bake your own hearty bread as it not only provides the best platform for a heavy slather of “Serbian Salad” but it also gets the kitchen nice and cozy from the radiant oven and the unbeatably warm smell of freshly baked bread.

the bread pictured is peter reinhart’s recipe for pain a l’ancienne, perhaps the easiest bread to make from his book, the bread baker’s apprentice. it is a fantastic resource and teaching aid for aspiring bread bakers looking to tackle classic styles at home. the butter pictured is the first attempt at making a homemade spread from olive oil and coconut oil and it needs some refinement before i post a recipe. this, however, is the formula i am working from.

ajvar is tasty once it’s made, but the flavor definitely benefits from a rest overnight in the fridge. those living in the balkan region make ajvar in the fall when the peppers are ripe and put it up in jars for the winter.

ajvar
makes about four cups

1 medium eggplant
4 red bell peppers (or substitute 1 28 oz can roasted red peppers if worried about cost)
2 red chili peppers, like fresno or red jalapeño
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbl good olive oil
apple cider vinegar
salt

– in a 400F oven, roast the eggplant, peppers and chilis, having rubbed them with a bit of oil. the chilis will be done first, in about 10 minutes, when the skin is blackened and blistered. remove each item when it is done, allowing about 30 minutes for the eggplant.

– when cooled, peel the peppers and chilis and scoop out the eggplant pulp.

– add the roasted vegetables to a food processor with the smashed garlic cloves and the oil and purée.

– pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and add vinegar a teaspoon at a time, and salt to taste. i used about 1 tablespoon vinegar and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

– bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is thick and no longer runny.

– pour into a glass, covered dish or mason jar and chill until cold, preferably overnight.

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