Ajvar (pronounced I-vahr) is a thick spread traditionally made with fresh paprikas, eggplant and garlic. It's great slathered on country bread, as a dip for vegetables and pita chips and as an accompaniment to grilled chicken, lamb or fish. I like a few dollops of it on pasta or as a spread for sandwiches. Balkan in its roots, you find variations from Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia. I like to kick mine up with a little serrano or jalapeno and since I have a hard time finding fresh paprika peppers, I've substituted red and yellow bell pepper.
For the eggplant:
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
3 minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Toss all ingredients together, spread out evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 350F for 30 minutes, stirring at the half way point. Set aside in a bowl and cool.
For the spread:
4 red bell peppers or a combination of red and yellow
1 heaping Tbl diced serrano or jalapeno pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced onion
1 Tbl dried sweet paprika
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
The roasted eggplant cubes
Additional salt and olive oil for adjustment, if necessary
Roast the peppers either on a stove top or grill until blackened and beginning to blister. I actually halved mine and placed the skin side up under the broiler of my oven. Set aside and when cool enough to handle, peel of the skin and scrape out the seeds.
Saute the onion in the 2 Tbl olive oil along with the Tbl paprika until the onion softens a bit and the paprika becomes fragrant.
Place everything in the bowl of a food processor and process until relatively smooth. Taste and adjust the salt and olive oil if desired. Chill to let the flavors blend before serving. Makes about 4 cups