(Serbian roasted eggplant and pepper spread)
This vivid red eggplant and pepper spread originated in Serbia, but its popularity has spread throughout the Balkans and beyond. In Serbia, ajvar (Serbian: Ајвар) is made with the rogo pepper and can be mild, medium or spicy.
Large batches of ajvar are traditionally prepared in the fall and put up for the winter. Use ajvar as a spread on bread, as a condiment for roasted meats or as a Mediterranean-style side dish.
Makes about 2 pints
- Medium eggplants, halved lengthwise -- 3
- Red bell peppers -- 6 to 8
- Olive oil -- 1/2 cup
- Vinegar or lemon juice -- 3 tablespoons
- Garlic, minced -- 2 to 3 cloves
- Salt and pepper -- to taste
- Preheat oven to 475°F. Place the eggplant cut-side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet and roast until the skins are blackened and the eggplant is cooked through and softened, about 20 minutes. Remove to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam in their own heat for a few minutes.
- Place the peppers on the baking sheet and roast in the oven, turning occasionally, until the skin is blackened on all sides and the peppers are softened, another 20 minutes or so. Remove to another bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam for a few minutes.
- After the vegetables have cooled, scoop the softened insides of the eggplant into a large bowl or a food processor, discarding the skins and stems. Remove the stems, seeds and blackened skins from the peppers and rinse them lightly in cool water. Chop the peppers roughly and add them to the eggplant.
- Use a potato masher to mash the eggplant and peppers together until smooth but still a little chunky. If using a food processor, pulse the mixture to the desired texture instead.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients and adjust seasoning to taste.
- Ajvar from the grill: For a more authentic preparation with nice, smoky flavor, roast your eggplant and peppers on the grill instead of in the oven.
- For ajvar with more spice, roast a couple spicy chile peppers with the red bell peppers. Try a variety of peppers to give your ajvar its own special taste.
- Some cooks mash in peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes. Others stir in sauteed onions or cooked green beans.
- You can saute the garlic briefly in a little oil first if the flavor of raw garlic is too strong for you.