In winter, when luscious red peppers are hard to find and expensive when they are available, the bounty of summer seems unimaginable. In South Carolina, red peppers are abundant near the end of the summer. Years ago, faced with a large basket of peppers, I decided to roast them and whip up a spread with a little eggplant, which is also easy to find this time of year, and with the usual suspects, garlic, salt, vinegar, olive oil and basil. My half Serbian husband tasted it and said, "Mmmmm...ajvar!" The word was new to me.
Though I apparently already knew how to make it, I did a little research anyway. Oddly enough, my lone Yugoslav cookbook was no help. I turned instead to this NPR piece by Julia Mitric:
Mitric's piece told me everything I needed to know about ajvar. Her recipe and tips are perfect. The only thing I do differently is add a few hotter peppers to the roasted pepper mix.
I see ajvar in stores, canned versions that are tasty enough but just don't measure up to the real thing. This year, I plan to make my ajvar with late summer red peppers and eggplants and preserve it to enjoy all year long in pasta, on sandwiches and straight from the jar as a dip for veggies or crackers.
When there's a lot of chopping to be done — not to mention jars to be boiled and sealed — I like company. I'm thinking of hosting an ajvar party, asking everyone to bring their own peppers and jars. Now I just need to figure out an appropriate cocktail to serve during the soirée. I might have to find a nice wine, since I'm not prepared to start making my own slivovitz just yet!
What do you do with end of the summer bounty? What kind of surplus do you have at the end of the season?
(Images: Anne Postic)