This is easy to make and endlessly adaptable. Serve with crusty bread or as an accompaniment to grilled meats or fish. Serbian cooks pair ajvar with grilled meats or serve it alongside cucumber, yogurt and dill salad.
The recipe works best when you use a majority of red bell peppers.
The spread can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days; taste and adjust seasoning before serving.
Servings: 5 - 7 cups
- 1 small eggplant
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 8 to 10 medium red, orange, yellow or green bell peppers, washed well (use a variety; the more reds, the brighter the color of the spread)
- 2 splashes cider vinegar, plus more as needed
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes, plus more as needed
- 2 to 6 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 sprig basil or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)
Position the top oven rack 4 to 5 inches from the broiler element; preheat to broil. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.
Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and use a knife to score the flesh lengthwise 3 or 4 times. Drizzle a little oil and salt on each half. Place the halves cut side down on one of the lined baking sheets and place the sheet on the middle oven rack. Place the peppers on the second baking sheet and place that on the top oven rack. Broil the peppers for a total of about 30 minutes, turning them often so that all sides are charred and blistered. Transfer the peppers to a large resealable plastic food storage bag, sprinkle with a little water and seal; let sit for 15 minutes. (At this point, the unpeeled peppers can be flattened and frozen in airtight containers for later use.)
If the eggplant halves are not tender when the peppers are done, flip the halves over, set the oven temperature at 350 degrees and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until they are easily pierced with a knife.
When the halves are cool enough to handle, use an ice cream scoop to remove the eggplant pulp, discarding the skin and seeds. Transfer to a food processor and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a splash of cider vinegar, the crushed red pepper flakes and garlic (1 to 3 cloves) to taste. Pulse several times just to combine lightly. Scoop the eggplant mixture into a serving dish and set aside.
Discard the cooled peppers' skins, stems and seeds; place the finished peppers in a colander to drain as you work. Transfer the peppers to the food processor and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic (1 to 3 cloves) to taste, and salt and pepper to taste. Pulse lightly to combine.
Add the peppers to the eggplant, mixing lightly; taste and add seasonings, cider vinegar and garlic as needed. Smooth the mixture in the bowl and decorate the surface with finely diced garlic and a sprig of basil or parsley, if desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Adapted from a Mitric family recipe.
Tested by Frances Stead Sellers.
Email questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.