condiment, recipe, 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 crudités. 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, 
‘Bout 19 different ways, 
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.
  • Love Ajvar! (Eye-var) Nice recipe. Would go well with eggs, sausages, or as a side dish to root vegetables with roast. Goes really well with horseradish.
  • Karen J
    Fab post, Yvonne! Well done!
  • adnanc
    Ajvar is my favorite food! It goes well with cheese, smoked beef, burgers etc... In essence, anything from BBQ goes well with AJVAR!!!!!
  • I've never heard of this before, but if this is Yvonne's creation -- then it's totally worth a try! I have no doubt that she's as talented at cooking as she is at art, public relations, teaching, hairstyles, making people laugh and putting a smile on anyone's face.
  • Great post Yvonne! Will try the recipe for sure - we love eggplant!! Yvonne is a great chef and has great taste in food, I have a few of her recipes and there're all yummy!!!!
  • Yvonne, you are an amazing cook and one heckuva writer. I look forward to trying this recipe and reading more, more more! Bravo!
  • Well, I know I just purchased my last jar of Ajvar!
    The recipe sounds simply delicious – the colors are as vibrant as the colors in your beautiful painting.
  • Another delicious recipe from the kitchen of Yvonne. Looks tasty and beautiful and I can't wait to try it. Yvonne is one of the greatest cooks I have ever met.
  • Thanks all. Lunch today was Swiss cheese on fabulous grainy bread and, of course, ajvar. A miracle food that goes with almost everything - well, maybe not Hilary's double chocolate quinoa cookies . . . but then again, maybe!

    Great to be communing with so many avid foodies.
  • Anonymous
    I am one of those who would happily chew on cardboard with delight when sharing a table with Yvonne... however, I had the privilege of tasting her ajvar last Sunday and it was a firework for both the eyes and tastebuds.
  • Yvonne
    Ah Vie, you are kind - a connoisseur of things garlicky and colourful!
  • An art friend of yours (my brother) sent me your link about this eye-catching exotic dish. Holy mother nature!...I must try this on the weekend. It will make for a "feast your eyes on this!" moment, bringing life to an unsung hero, the aubergine. Revived by you,Yvonne, and what a beautiful still life painting. Long live the aubergine!



  • Daniel
    Amazing Yvonne, looks yummy!
  • I wish I could "like" all these comments... but I suppose that would be very facebook of me!
  • AlbertEsk
    Very flavourful (although a bit garlicky for my tastes). Made a good sauce for some pasta, as well.
  • Thanks for your feedback! And great idea to toss it with pasta (perhaps with some parmesan cheese as well?).
  • Amen to that! I chop aubergine & add to curries & stews, too. Thanks bro!
  • With toasted leftover bourmelikos as accompaniment, no doubt.
  • Anonymous
    I finally got around to checking the blog - and WOW - this is a must - will try it it out this weekend. I even love the name 'roasted balkan style' - so bloody exotic!
    Nice blog - interesting selections - will be checking back. Pretty good pic of Yvonne too. :)
  • Anonymous
    Great photo of you, Yvonne and I love your painting. As this recipe is from your kitchen, I know it will be delicious. Can't wait to make it. I do hope you are a regular guest on this blog!