About This Recipe
Note: You can make this spicy by using red Anaheim peppers or use a combination of red bell peppers and spicier varieties to suit your preference and heat tolerance.
- 1 medium (about 1¼ lb / 550 g) eggplant
- 2 lb (900 g) red bell peppers, red Anaheim peppers, or a combination
- 2 Tbsp (12 g) freshly minced garlic
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) sunflower oil
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) white vinegar
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
Step 1Preheat the oven to 500oF/260oC and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Using a sharp knife or skewer, prick the eggplant an inch deep about a dozen times on all sides. Spread the peppers and eggplant on the baking sheet, drizzle on a little oil, and roast for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the skins of the peppers are blackened and wrinkly and the eggplant is squishy. (Flip them over halfway to ensure even roasting.)
Step 2Place the roasted vegetables in a medium-sized pot and cover with a lid. Let the vegetables steam in their own juices for 15 minutes, then remove. When they’re cool enough to touch, slide the skins off the peppers and remove the stems and seeds. (If you’re using a spicy pepper variety, you’ll probably want to wear gloves for this!) Put the peeled peppers into your food processor and pulse a few times until a thick, chunky puree forms. Scrape the pepper puree back into the steaming pot.
Step 3Cut the stem off the eggplant and halve it lengthwise. Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh out of the skins into the bowl of the food processor and pulse like you did for the peppers. Add the chunky puree to the pot with the peppers, then add the remaining ingredients.
Step 4Simmer the ajvar over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, or until the raw garlic flavor is mellowed. Taste and adjust the salt and vinegar as needed — it should have a bright flavor, but not be too salty or vinegary. If you’d like a slightly smoother consistency, you can run an immersion blender through the ajvar.
Step 5Serve the ajvar at room temperature. Store any leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to three weeks or in the freezer for up to six months.
Substitutions: Feel free to use 2 Japanese or Chinese eggplants instead of 1 medium Italian eggplant.
Level Up: Roasting the peppers and eggplant over live coals or wood fire will add a beautiful smoky depth to the ajvar — just keep an eye on them and pull them out when the skins begin to split.
Try It With: In Balkan households, ajvar is eaten with ćevapi (elongated meatballs; you can make a meatless version with meat substitutes), sour cream and/or Bulgarian feta, fluffy lepinja bread, and a little pile of raw chopped onions.
Zero Waste: Stuff the skins and seeds of the peppers into a jar, pour in just enough vinegar to cover them, and affix the lid. Keep the jar in a sunny place and give it a shake every day; after a couple weeks strain it off and use the pepper vinegar for dressings and marinades.