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My great food addiction...

My great addiction: ajvar! What a delicately flavored concoction of pureed smoked red peppers, eggplant, oil, and seasonings!

Ajvar is a staple of Balkan cuisine and found throughout central Europe. Alas, it is not very well-known in this country.

I discovered a jar of it one day on the shelf of a specialty grocery store and now I can't get enough. I buy it by the case and use it on everything savory. I replace tomato sauces on pizza with ajvar, toss it with pasta, spread it on crab cakes, sandwiches, and burgers. I use it as a side dish to meats. I eat it right from the jar! And it turns everything it touches to culinary gold.

Has anyone else tried it? Give me some ideas for your favorite uses! What are your can't-live-without foods?

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  1. Darcia, I love ajvar, and also its lumpier cousin pindjur, which is more like a finely-chopped ratatouille. Those Turkish and Balkan savoury spreads are often very fine quality.

    Here in Montréal, there is not a large Turkish community - Marché Istanbul at a little strip mall just north of Crémazie and west of boulevard St-Laurent springs to mind - but it is often carried by Middle Eastern and North African shops here, as well as Balkan ones.

    Of course in Germany, Netherlands, etc there are huge Turkish communities, (and quite a few immigrants from the former Yugoslavia) so those products have become very common.

    1. It is great stuff. Here in Southern California I first found a jar at a Middle Eastern market, then found it at the 99 cent store and also often find it at the local drugstore along with other imported products that they sell at a discount. My uses are pretty much like yours. Also stir it into soups and stews. Unfortunately I am sensitive to roasted peppers (burpy after effect) so I can't go hog wild.

      1. Ajvar is wonderful! I love the hot version which is quite mild. It is a table condiment in all the former Yugoslavia to accompany grilled meats especially the ever popular cevapcici. Zergut Brand of Ajvar is xcellent. You can make this Ajvar at home very easilly.

        Ajvar is also great mixed with yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche for a yummy dip. I also use it for a cauliflower dressing for a baked dish.

        There is another one called "pepetizer" that is peppers and eggplant that is amazing and addictive.

        2 Replies
        1. re: shantihhh

          Pepetizer sounds pretty much the same as pindjur.

          I make the dip with ajvar (hot - which is not very hot) and that thick Greek-style yoghourt from Skotidakis.

          1. re: shantihhh

            Sometimes I stir a little cream into ajvar, heat it gently and then drizzle it over a meat or seafood (especially delicious with crab cakes). I find ajvar so versatile; it's a wonder that it hasn't been picked up by a big-time distributor and made more readily available.

          2. is it like eggplant caponata? i'm off to google.

            1. oh MAN. i think i saw this same jar in the wikipedia link last time i was at BigLots (closeout store) and i picked it up but put it back down. I had a spell of bad luck trying new jarred goodies like this that were either sour/vinegar nightmares or just plain salty and nasty. ooooh i want to go back and see if they still have it. i do get some fun goodies there for under $3- this sounds like something i would like.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Boccone Dolce

                It is similar in texture to caponata, but the addition of roasted peppers gives it a richer color and flavor. I find the commercially prepared caponata has a sweet/sour taste with a harsh tang from the eggplant; ajvar is very robust, rich and full-bodied. The brand I buy is Va Va and it is nicely seasoned; the "Hot" version is usually not very spicy and the "Mild" is enticingly flavorful. You can probably taste the red peppers slightly more than the eggplant, but, all in all, the two are well-balanced against each other. I hope you enjoy it!

                1. re: darcia

                  I have made very good caponata at home, and enjoyed it in Italy, but I hate the commercial tinned stuff. Too sour. I think the importer's brands of ajvar and pinjur may be local - my favourite kind here (Cedar) is imported by a Lebanese-Montreal company. I prefer that they mark "sunflower oil" rather than generic "vegetable oil".