As I mentioned in this post from back in May, I ate a lot (A LOT!) of the skinless Balkan sausages called ćevapčići while we...Read More
Ajvar (Balkan Red Pepper Relish)
On our travels in May and June, we ate this red pepper+eggplant condiment in almost every restaurant from Lubljana, Slovenia to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Each chef’s version was different, ranging from spicy to sweet and varying the ratio of red pepper to eggplant. All of them were tangy and luxurious.
When I got home, I started working on my own version, and I think this one is The Keeper.
It combines both roasted garlic (for a “soft,” rich garlic undertone) and a little bit of fresh garlic at the end, for a piquant bite. I like using lemon juice instead of vinegar — although you should feel free to use red wine vinegar, if you prefer — and I think this ratio of peppers to eggplant, which favors the peppers, is just right. But have fun playing around with it yourself!
Serves 6-8 | Prep 5 minutes | Cook 45 minutes | Whole30 compliant
5-6 large red bell peppers
1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled and wrapped in a piece of aluminum foil
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Roast the peppers, eggplant, and garlic.
On a gas grill: Heat the grill on high, with the lid closed, for about 10-15 minutes. Place the eggplant, peppers, and foil packet of garlic directly on the grates and roast until the skins of the peppers and eggplant are blackened and blistered. (It took mine about 5-7 minutes per side, for a total roasting time of roughly 25 minutes.) It seems scary, but you want the skins to be uniformly blackened; watch this video for a good demonstration.
In the oven: Preheat the oven to 475F. Cover a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, then place the peppers, eggplant, and foil packet of garlic on the sheet. Roast until blackened and soft, about 30 minutes.
When the vegetables are roasted, set the garlic packet aside and place the peppers and eggplant in a large glass bowl, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the vegetables steam for 15 minutes.
Remove the garlic from the foil, peel off the skin, and place the roasted garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Carefully remove the skin of the eggplant, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds, and place the flesh in the food processor with the garlic. Blend until just puréed, then remove to a large mixing bowl.
Remove the skins, stems, and seeds from the red bell peppers. Place in the food processor and pulse until chopped, but not puréed; you want it to have a bit of texture. I pulsed mine about 5 times. Add the red peppers to the bowl with the eggplant.
To the veggies in the bowl, add the minced raw garlic clove, olive oil, lemon juice, aleppo pepper, and cayenne pepper. Mix well with a wooden spoon or rubber scraper, then taste. Add salt and pepper, mix well, and taste again. Adjust seasonings to your liking, then place in a covered container in the refrigerator to allow flavors to meld. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Serve with grilled chicken, pork, or fish — or roll some ćevapčići.