condiment, recipe, summer, vegetable

Eggplant and Peppers, Roasted Balkan Style (Ajvar)

It is my pleasure to announce to you, my dear readers, that today we have a guest writer (and painter: see the lovely artwork above). This writer is Yvonne Callaway-Smith, a new friend and fellow food affectionado. Yvonne was actually my Instructor for a Public Relations writing course I took recently at McGill University. We became friends through our shared love for eating, and I eventually asked her to write a guest post for Cocoa Bean, The Vegetable. What an honour to have her as a guest blogger!

Yvonne: I wear many hats: artist, critic, educator, house designer, mentor, madcap, restaurant reviewer. Today I’m sporting- a little nervously- a lightly tomato stained, guest food-blogger’s toque. Gasp! Because star student Hilary asked me to, and I’m just a gal who can’t say no.

The rich private lives of my students sneak into many classroom discussions, sometime waylaying academic topics, opening up worlds for us to explore. Occasionally discussions are sooo interesting they don’t/can’t end with the semester and continue, via email or cards, occasionally for years- in one instance for decades.

Adnan was such a student, sharing snapshots of his life is Bosnia, the effect of the war, culture and food. We now email several times a week, sharing bits of our lives and recipes, including this one for a smoky, garlicky, eggplant and roasted red pepper concoction: ajvar. My current husband loves it, though he generally wonders why anyone eats eggplant at all.

Apparently an autumn cooking tradition in the Balkans, ajvar is easily made any time of year with jarred roasted and peeled peppers. (Bosnian and Croatian friends admit they use the jarred shortcuts most of the time.) If going all out and roasting your own, play with colour by using yellow or orange peppers.

Ajvar is a tasty condiment for fish, meat or cheese. It is also soul satisfying slathered on bread, or with cruditΓ©s. How could such tasty raw ingredients become anything but heavenly?

Play Michael Franks’ Eggplant song as you prep avjar, it has the right vibe:
… my baby cooks her Eggplant,Β 
‘Bout 19 different ways,Β 
Sometimes I just have it raw with Mayonnaise,

Eggplant and Peppers, Roasted Balkan Style (Ajvar)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants, about 2 lbs
  • 6 large red bell peppers (or equivalent jarred roasted/peeled peppers, rinsed and drained)
  • salt and black pepper (no salt if using jarred peppers)
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped (depending on your tolerance for vampire repellant)
  • juice of 1 lemon and/or 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good-quality olive oil
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley or coriander
  • dried red chili flakes (optional)

Directions:

  1. Turn oven to broil. Place washed eggplants on rimmed baking sheet (to catch messy juices). Broil, turning peppers occasionally until well roasted on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Place roasted vegetables in a heatproof bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let steam for 20 minutes for easy peeling.
  3. Peel and discard skins, stems, seeds.
  4. In a large bowl (or food processor), mash/chop veggies with garlic and oil to desired chunkiness. Stir in lemon juice and herb.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper, chilies.
  6. Store covered and refrigerated for up to one week. Serve with toasted bread points drizzled with olive oil.