Thursday, September 28, 2017

Ad Astra Review - Ajvar by K.V. Johansen

What Is It? A roasted eggplant and bell pepper spread flavored with garlic and chili sauce.

This is really sweet
Much sweeter than expected
But still good on bread

Review: The first recipe in Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook is one that K.V. Johansen discovered when some of her books were translated into Macedonian and she began traveling to the Republic of Macedonia, presumably to promote her work.

Ajvar is an eggplant and bell pepper concoction flavored with garlic, cider vinegar or lemon juice, and hot sauce that can be served as a spread on naan or bread. I have to say that this recipe really doesn't taste anything like I expected it to. The roasted eggplant is almost completely overwhelmed by the sweetness of the roasted bell peppers, and even though the recipe calls for a quite generous amount of roasted garlic, it isn't really noticeable either.

After roasting all the vegetables, peeling the eggplant, garlic, and bell pepper, and then puréeing the lot (I used a stick mixer rather than a food processor), the end result was a lot runnier than I had thought it would be. I don't think I added too much liquid - I didn't add any more olive oil than had been used in the roasting process and I only put in a little bit of cider vinegar and hot sauce. I was anticipating something more hummus-like in thickness, but this turned out to be more "uncooked pumpkin pie filling" in texture.

The flavor of the ajvar is basically that of a sweet bell pepper. I was expecting more of a kick, but even when I went back and added more hot sauce, salt, and pepper, the flavor of the mixture was still mostly just bell pepper sweetness. This isn't bad, but it is blander than I was prepared for. The redhead and I ate it with naan bread, and she had a similar reaction to mine. Her exact quote was "That was a lot of work to eat puréed bell peppers". I can't really disagree. It wasn't really all that much work compared to many other recipes, but the end result seemed kind of underwhelming. It might be improved by increasing the amount of garlic in the recipe (although the recipe itself calls for the reasonably generous amount of eight cloves of garlic), or reducing the number of bell peppers used.

Overall, this was decent, but it didn't knock my socks off. I might try it again, but if I do I'll probably add some extra spices or garlic or something. The redhead suggested adding a can of chickpeas to thicken it up, which might be a good adjustment as well.

Next recipe in Ad Astra: Anouchka's Grandmother's Salmon Pâté by Cat Sparks

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