Ajvar is a traditional roasted red pepper sauce/ puree favored throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, with regional variations across Lebanon, Syria, the Balkans, Turkey, and the Middle East. Ajvar is served with grilled meats, fish, kabobs, mezze plates, or just slathered onto a warmed pita bread.
Ajvar is a simplified Muhammara (see Recipe here),either of which I like to keep on hand to jazz up those meals that beg for a flavor boost.
Ajvar is available in in Greek and Middle Eastern shops and online, through rarely found on supper market shelves. So why not prepare Ajvar at home. The ingredients are all readily available and the recipe that follows will walk you through the process. Preparing the peppers and eggplant may seem a bit tedious, but it is all well worth the effort I assure you. The slightly sweet and smoky aroma wafting throughout the kitchen will be enough to spur you onward with the tasks at hand.
Putting up a jar freshly made Ajvar is one of those cook’s moments, a raison d’etre if you will and, I have to say, what makes cookery so compelling.
So, with that thought in mind let’s get cooking!
makes 1 quart
- olive oil as needed
- 4 ripe red bell peppers
- 1 ripe red jalapeno chile
- 1 medium eggplant
- 5 large garlic cloves, skin on
- 2 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sea salt + more to taste
Rub the bell peppers, jalapeno, eggplant, and garlic with olive oil and place on a large baking tray.
Place the tray of vegetables under the preheated broiler and broil until the skins on the peppers, jalapeno, and eggplant blister and are are charred in spots. Turn all the vegetables and continue broiling. Remove the garlic as soon as it is lightly colored and set aside.
Continue broiling the reaming vegetables until all sides are charred and blistered.
Transfer all the broiled vegetables to a large bowl and seal tightly with cling film and set aside to cool.
When the vegetables are cool enough to handle you are going to peel away the charred skins and discard them. As tempting as it may be, do not rinse the vegetables under the tap as you work. Doing so will only wash away the flavor you have created during the broiling process.
Likewise be sure to reserve all the juices from the roasting pan as well as the juices collected as you remove the seeds from the peppers, chile, and eggplant. All these flavorsome juices will be added back into Ajvar later.
Cut the bell peppers and jalapeno in half. Remove all the seeds and membranes and discard them. Tear the bell peppers into strips lengthwise and place them in the work bowl of a food processor along with the peeled eggplant.
In a small bowl combine the jalapeno, peeled garlic, salt, and vinegar and mash together with a wooden spoon to form a paste and set aside.
Begin pulsing the peppers and eggplant in the processor until the mixture looks like a coarse puree.
Stop the machine and spoon the garlic chile mixture on top of the red pepper puree and pulse until the mixture begins to smooth out.
Place a wide nonstick fry pan over medium low heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot add the Ajvar puree to the pan and stir for several minutes. Then add any reserved juices and stir them into the puree continue to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time to avoid any scorching.
Taste and add salt if needed.
Transfer the Ajvar to a sterilized jar and cool to room temperature. Add a thin layer of olive oil on top of the Ajvar and seal tightly with a lid and refrigerate.
The Ajvar will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month or more.
Serve as suggested as well as with j sandwiches, pasta, tacos or anything else that comes to mind.
Radicchio’s gorgeous pale green, rose, or lush purple maroon colored leaves are a familiar addition to salads these days, but it need not end there! In Italy radicchio heads are more often roasted or grilled which opens up a whole new window of possibilities for other applications you may never have thought of. The wilted bitter leaves take on a more mellowed flavor that works beautifully when added to risottos, pastas, stuffing for game birds, topping pizzas, bean salads, as a side with grilled meats or fish or, my favorite, tucked into an omelet along with a grating of Italian parmigiano.
Radicchio (treviso) is an Italian leafy chicory (cicoria) in the same family as the more familiar Belgian endive (witloof). There are many varieties that are strictly associated with the location where they are locally grown in Italy. The small round headed Rrosso di chioggia is the most common variety found outside Italy, with deep maroon leaves with bright white ribs. All varieties are perennial with the best crops in spring and fall, although now widely available year round.
Radicchio is rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, vitamin K, manganese, potassium, copper, iron, zinc, and folic acid. Reason enough to include radicchio on your weekly shopping list and enjoy the healthy benefits of this savory addition to your cooking repertoire.
The preparation couldn’t be easier!
Roasted Radicchio (Basics) serves 4 to 6
Preheat oven to 425f/220 c
Equipment: A baking tray lined with parchment
- 4 medium size heads radicchio
- ¼ cup best quality olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- flaked sea salt (Maldon)
- freshly ground pepper
- 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Remove any tougher or wilted outer leaves of the radicchio. Cut each head into quarters lengthwise and place in a bowl. Douse with the olive oil. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Turn the quarters gently to evenly coat them and place on the lined baking tray, cut side down. Drizzle half of the balsamic vinegar over all and place in the oven. Roast until the leaves are wilted, about 12 minutes.
Remove from the oven and gently turn the slices over. Drizzle with the remaining balsamic vinegar and return to the oven to roast another 8 minutes. The leaves will darken, especially around the edges. A little charring is OK, but keep an eye on them towards the end of the roasting time.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Depending on what you plan to do with the radicchio will determine how to cut it. Generally speaking the quarters should be sliced crosswise, the width depending on the application, although ¼ inch thick slices works for most applications. Be sure to drizzle the pan juices over the sliced radicchio before adding it to another dish.
Yes, I know, Ibiza is synonymous with summer Euro partying these days, but in a time long gone I spent a fall and winter tucked away in the hills above Santa Eulalia del Rio in an eight hundred year old finka (farmhouse) that unraveled some of the many mysteries of this wind swept pine forested isla shimmering in the western indigo Mediterranean Sea. The island’s colorful past included portage for Phoenician, Greek, Roman, and Moorish merchant ships traversing the Mediterranean that indelibly shaped the island’s character and culinary influences. There is even local lore that Es Vedra, a rocky island just southwest of Ibiza, was the island of the Sirens from Homer’s Odyssey, though surely a Greek island was the more likely inspiration.
Strangely, in some inexplicable ways it was to be the winter of my discontent, but in hindsight it was the island’s agrarian persuasion, shaded olive groves, finka gardens, and local mercados de la paises that linger as testament of Ibiza’s beguiling allure.
Pizza, of course comes from Italy, but widely available across the island these days. The recipe that follows is drawn from my recollections of local produce that was available in the late fall in the country markets; lemons, artichokes, garlic, olives, chilies, wild herbs, pinon nuts, almonds, and fresh farm cheeses.
The flavors of Ibiza!
Adapted from Nancy Silverton’s pizza dough recipe; Mozza Cookbook.
There are several steps in the process of making this pizza dough, beginning with a starter, and then proceeding to the final dough. I have divided the recipe into an easy to follow progression with ingredients and directions for each step.
The dough is moister than most recipes I have used in the past, and does take some getting used to, but the end result is far and away the best pizza dough ever!
Makes 3 10” PIZZAS
Making the dough:
- 7.5 oz warm water
- 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
Combine the above in a stand mixer bowl and let sit 5 minutes until the yeast dissolves, then add:
- 6.5 oz bread flour
- 1.5 teaspoons rye flour
- ¾ teaspoon wheat germ
Add the above to the water yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
Cover bowl with a double seal of cling film and set aside for 1 ½ hours
Remove cling film and add:
- 3.5 oz warm water
- 6.5 oz bread flour
- ¾ teaspoons honey
Mix dough with the mixer fitted with a dough hook for 2 minutes. Then add:
- 1 ½ teaspoons course sea salt
Mix 8 minutes until dough begins to pull away from side of bowl. If not, add a generous handful of flour and continue mixing until the dough pulls together. The dough will not come away completely clean from the sides of the bowl, but don’t worry about it! Use a silicone spatula rubbed with a little oil to release what dough remains on the sides of the bowl and add it the dough.
Oil another bowl, large enough to hold the dough once it has doubled in size, with olive oil. Using an oiled spatula, remove the dough from the bowl and place dough in the center of the oiled bowl. Seal as before and let stand for 45 minutes.
Remove the seal and fold the dough towards the center onto itself and flip the dough over. This can be a little sticky, but don’t fuss about it! Do the best you can. Reseal and let stand another 45 minutes.
Remove dough to a very well floured work surface, dusting the top with flour and knead until you can handle it without the dough sticking to your fingers. Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces (approx 8oz each). Let rest 5 minutes, then, form the dough, adding flour as needed, into a rounds, and place on a floured baking sheet. Cover with kitchen towel and let stand for 1 hour. The dough rounds can then be refrigerated, sealed with cling film, for later use.
If dough has been refrigerated, remove from the refrigerator and place under a kitchen towel 1 hour before making the pizza.
Preheat oven to as hot as you can get it… with pizza stone on bottom baking rack in the oven.
Forming the dough into pizza rounds:
With floured hands and well floured work surface, press the dough with your fingertips from the center outward, leaving a 3/4 inch rim untouched.
Dust a pizza peel with semolina.
With floured hands, pick up the dough and place on your fists (facing you) and begin to stretch the dough in a circular motion until it stretches downward making an approximately 10” circle of dough and place the dough on the semolina dusted peel. Don’t worry too much about the shape. It takes practice!
Brush the 3/4 inch rim with olive oil and salt the pizza dough round. Add desired toppings and slide the pizza, with a quick forward backward jerk onto the pizza stone and bake 8-12 minutes until crisp and dark golden.