My take on ljutenica, a classic Bulgarian spread made from roasted veggies and garlic!
Since work finished on Monday for me, I literally have no where that I need to be for the next nine days. It’s weird. No where. In theory, I could run off and do whatever I wanted. Unfortunately, the bad weather has returned. It’s not so chilly as when the Eismänner were here a few weeks ago, but the temperature has dropped again and the forecast is rain, rain, rain for the majority of the next week and a half.
I suppose that means, in theory, that I have lots of time to test out new recipes in the kitchen. As much as I love cooking, I don’t know if I could actually bring myself to spend the rest of my time here in Austria cooking nonstop. First of all, there are some things I want to do and places I want to visit before leaving despite the bad weather. Second of all, sometimes you make something and it’s so good you just want to make it again and again. Earlier in the year I wrote about feeling that way about this Vegan Yellow Curry. I feel the same way about this Bulgarian Eggplant & Red Pepper Spread, though I’ve exercised restraint so far and just made it once. I won’t lie, I’ve contemplated making it again so many times since then.
As I mentioned last Wednesday, I tried this spread (ljutenica) on a free food tour in Sofia, Bulgaria. Apparently it can be bought at stores everywhere in Bulgaria, but there are also plenty of people who make it themselves. I love eggplant in all forms, and red peppers, and garlic, so this was prefect for my taste buds. Over the past year I’ve learned that roasting veggies really does bring out their flavor, people don’t just say that to make you feel lazy for always quickly steaming things. Here the roasted eggplant gets creamy and just a little charred, while the red peppers become sweeter and richer in flavor. And roasted garlic, well, I probably don’t need to explain that.
I ate this as a spread, like the name suggests, slathered on whole wheat bread. You could also serve it as a hearty dip alongside some pita chips or, really, whatever chips you desire. It could also be something of a Bulgarian bruschetta served on top of grilled baguette slices. I bet you could even get eggplant-haters to eat it!
Bulgarian Eggplant & Red Pepper Spread
I used this recipe from Story of a Kitchen as a guideline
- 2 small-medium eggplants or 1 very large eggplant
- 4 red bell peppers (after roasting you want about a 1:1 ratio of eggplant to red pepper)
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 1 T olive or sunflower oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- handful of fresh parsley, minced
Preheat oven to 425ºF. Peel garlic cloves and place in a foil pouch with a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt, and pinch of black pepper. When the oven is hot, place whole eggplants, red peppers, and garlic on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast until very tender–the peppers should have a few blackened sections and the eggplant should be turning golden brown. This will take about 30-40 minutes.
Remove veggies from the oven and allow to cool. When cool, peel the red peppers. Chop peppers, eggplant, and garlic. Mix in a large bowl with the vinegar, oil, salt, and parsley. If desired, pulse a few times with an immersion blender or in a food processor for a smoother texture (I did). Serve room temperature or chilled. Store in the fridge.
Serving suggestion: Spread on whole wheat flatbreads or pitas and top with crumbled sheep’s cheese (such as feta)!
Posted to What’s Cookin’ Wednesday!