serbian ajvar

Ajvar (also spelled Ajwar and both are pronounced EYE-var) is a roasted eggplant and bell-pepper dish that is sometimes referred to as Serbian caviar. In fact, its name derives from the Turkish word for roe, or caviar. It is popular throughout the Balkan states. Bulgarian kiopoolu is similar but it uses green peppers instead of red and adds tomatoes to the preparation.

It can be mashed or left chunky, depending on personal taste, and can be served as a relish, as a side dish, or as an appetizer spread on country-style white bread. Its smoky flavor is a great complement to grilled or roasted meats, especially lamb.

The usual recipe omits the red pepper flakes and onion, and does not contain vinegar, wine, or smoke flavoring. It does, however, contain a significant amount of olive oil, which I have minimized.

  • 2 large eggplants, about 3 pounds
  • 6 large red bell peppers
  • 5 drops liquid hickory smoke
  • 1 oz olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dry red wine
  • <salt> and black pepper
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 475°F. Put the bell peppers and the eggplants on a baking sheet and roast until the skin gets blistered, about 15 minutes. The skins should blacken a little. Put these in a plastic bag to aid in removing the skin more easily.

Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds, and peel off the skin. Cut the eggplant in half and peel. Chop the vegetables. Sauté the onions until transparent, add the garlic and continue to cook another 2 minutes. Then add the eggplant and pepper mixture to the sauté pan. Mix in the lemon juice, vinegar, wine and liquid smoke. Continue to cook until the vegetables are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Mash, if you wish, but do not purée! Season with the chile pepper, freshly ground black pepper, <salt>, and parsley.

Transfer to a glass dish, and let stand in the refrigerator over night, or up to one week. Garnish with cut scallion rings when serving.

smokey bare oyster

Smokey Bear (not Smokey the Bear, despite the song of that name) is the U. S. Forest Service’s mascot. But this is not about him (it?). This is about one of my favorite ways to eat smoked oysters, and an equally favorite canapé. It is easy to make, and very tasty!

  • party rye bread slices, toasted, or your favorite cracker
  • With Pride Cheese
  • 1 can smoked oysters, drained, patted dry
  • lemon juice
  • freshly ground black pepper

For each canapé, spread a layer of cheese over a slice of rye, top with an oyster, drizzle with a little lemon, and top with pepper.