Ajvar aka Albanian Caviar

My best friend has brought back from Kosova a gift worth all the treasures I own: ajvar. A caviar of roasted peppers and eggplant that marry so well to form a relish-like consistency. I am happy. I am loved. I am full. Ajvar has plenty of different varitations, so you may have heard of it before. Romanians call it zacusca. There’s also relish-like condiments similar to ajvar called ljutenica and pindjur. They all have their own charms, but I’m sorry; ajvar is the queen of them all.

To truly enjoy ajvar, you must be able to pronounce it. (ayye-vahr). Emphasis on the second syllable and slightly rolling the “-ahr” part. Almost as if you were speaking a really bad Ukrainian accent. It’s really fun to say once you get the hang of it. If you want to hear it, this man says “ajvar” around 0:42 in this video.

From what I’ve learned, you eat this cold or at room temperature with some quality pita or an Artisan rustic/crusty bread. Maybe a sourdough even? You eat it with your hands, using the bread to capture and wipe every morsel of the ajvar from the plate. But wait! Don’t forget the feta cheese!!! Ajvar is simply incomplete without feta cheese! The creamy tanginess of the feta contrasts with the smooth and roasted flavour of the peppers in the ajvar. My mouth is watering as I type this.

I especially love going over my friend’s house and eating her ajvar because we’d always relax. It’s a comfort, winter-staple, homey type of food you know? I remember sitting with her family and eating and it’s just such a wonderful atmosphere. Her parents are so cute and loving and her little brothers are always bickering (about small things, y’know) and sometimes her grandmother was there. Her family is so cute. You just. Ah. No idea. You have no idea. I just absolutely adore her family and all the love they have for each other.

Anyways, making ajvar is really tedious and difficult because of how careful you need to be when roasting the peppers, than peeling them, then roasting them again, and it’s just all a lot of work. Especially since you need to do this over an open fire in autumn to maximize all the flavour. Maybe my friend and I will try it this year (we’ve been talking about it a lot). But for now, we can settle for a store bought ajvar that her family was so kind and gracious enough to bring back for me. (See, just so loving!)

I hope all of you get to try this delicacy soon! Look for this jar at your Mediterranean, Turkish, Albanian, Bulgarian, and Serbian stores. Or maybe order it online?? I have no idea.

-PN

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