The Salsa of Serbia
“What kind of food will you miss?” was a common question before our move. And a hard one. I had no idea what food would be “missing” in Serbia, so I wasn’t sure what I would crave. Even now, we haven’t been here that long, so I still don’t know when I’ll break down at the Maxi-Mini, sobbing for Oreos or Fritos or some other American product that Just. Won’t. Mold.
I also realized that the “American” things I like are, in true American spirit, from other countries. Sushi. Guacamole. Green curry. Sweet potatoes. And salsa. I love salsa. I used to have three kinds of salsa at home to put on chips, eggs, quesadillas, potatoes, whatever. When I moved here, I knew that my love affair with salsa was going on hiatus.
What I didn’t know is that I would find a worthy substitute so quickly. RHOB is a food hussy. See ya, salsa. Hello, ajvar.
What’s ajvar? First, stop calling it av-JAR, silly. It’s pronounced EYE-var. It’s a spread made with red peppers, eggplant, onions, garlic, and a few other ingredients, roasted together, peeled and mashed into a delicious pulp. If you’re Balkan, you mash it in a special mill. If you’re American, you put it in the food processor and horrify your Serbian friends.
What makes ajvar so amazing (apart from the delicious taste) is its versatility. It out-hustles salsa by being equally good on chips, eggs, potatoes AND moonlighting on its own as a salad and a spread. Have you tried salsa on bread? I don’t recommend it. Served it with lamb? Gross. Have you tucked your spoon into a jar of salsa and munched away? Ok, I’ve done that. But only under duress. Ajvar is the MVP—most versatile player—of spreads.
If you haven’t tried it, give it a whirl. You can probably buy it at a Whole Foods, or make your own version using this (untested) recipe here. Lots of recipes call for bell peppers but if you can, try to use roga peppers. If you like it as much as I do, you’ll have another “American” classic dish you can’t live without.