Every cook in Georgia makes their own ajika, an intense paste of vegetables, spices, and herbs that is usually red or green and hot. Small amounts of ajika are used to flavor other dishes such as marinades, grilled meats, beans, or vegetables. Some are so fierce from the chiles that just a tiny spoonful is enough to add character to a recipe; others are cooler and can be used as a condiment at the table. It depends on how hot you want yours to be: Start with one or two fresh chiles of medium heat. You can always add more. This brilliant red ajika, which Tasting Georgia cookbook author Carla Capalbo shared with Food & Wine, is unusual because it’s made from cooked carrots, beets, and bell peppers. It’s sweet and not too fiery and is delicious spooned onto khachapuri or mtsvadi. Make a batch and keep it in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or more. Bring out a bowlful at mealtimes, as you would any other condiment or dip.
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided
21 ounces red bell peppers, roughly chopped
1 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 pound beets, peeled and thinly sliced
2 to 3 red Fresno chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup tomato paste
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon ground blue fenugreek
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
How to Make It
Heat 1 cup oil in a large saucepan over low. Add bell peppers, carrots, beets, and two-thirds of the sliced chiles. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to steam, about 15 minutes. Increase heat to medium, and cook, covered, 30 minutes. Taste vegetable mixture to see if it is spicy enough; if necessary, add remaining one-third sliced chiles. Cover and cook until vegetables are very soft and starting to fall apart, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat.
Stir in tomato paste, garlic, fenugreek, salt, and coriander. Let cool 15 minutes. Transfer mixture to a food processor, and process until smooth, about 1 minute.
Spoon pureed mixture into a quart-size sterile glass jar with lid. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil to prevent oxidation. Let cool to room temperature. Attach lid, and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.
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