I fell down an Internet rabbit hole the other day. It all started with an article about what athletes eat while training for the Olympics. From there, I hopped over to a blog post about how popular McDonald’s is with the participants (especially the snowboarders). Then, out of curiosity, I asked Google what was available for those people in Russia—specifically Jewish people—who don’t want to eat Big Macs and fries for every meal. That took me to a couple of articles on the Jewish population of Sochi, which led me to visiting page after page of Russian food blogs. No wonder people lose hours of their day engrossed in the Internet!
I scrolled through many recipe titles that I either couldn’t pronounce or had already eaten. But after visiting a few sites, I noticed one recurring recipe—adjika (sometimes spelled ajika)—that it seemed every blogger had a recipe for. Every blogger also liked to interpret it differently. Depending on what site you were on, adjika was: a Russian pesto, a salsa, a marinade, a mix-in or a sauce for grilled meats. It can either be served raw after a quick whir in a food processor, or after a long simmer on the stovetop. Even its origin is hotly debated, with Russia, Abkhazia and Georgia laying claims to its creation. The only thing the blogosphere could agree upon is its heat: Proper adjika has to be hot.
I decided to try my hand at making my own. I opted for the raw type, as all of the cooked versions called for ripe tomatoes, which are hard to come by in a polar vortex. Additionally, I’ve been on a breakfast kick of a bowl of quinoa topped with an over-easy egg, and stirring in a couple spoonfuls of hot, sweet adjika sounded like the perfect thing to spice it up.
Looks-wise, adjika resembles muhamarra. But since it doesn’t include pungent, fruity pomegranate molasses, there’s more room for the fresh herbs and hot jalapeno to come through. I’ve got a bowl of it in my fridge that’s been spicing up my breakfast for the past week. It was certainly an Internet rabbit hole I’m glad I fell down.
Adjika (Hot Red Pepper Salsa)
Makes about 1 cup
I like to stir a couple spoonfuls of this adjika into cooked quinoa. You can also serve it as a sauce for meat or fish.
1 large red pepper, roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 small jalapenos, roughly chopped into small pieces
1 large garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro
¼ cup fresh basil
¼ cup walnuts
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon ground coriander
Place all ingredients in bowl of food processor. Pulse until ingredients are evenly pureed, about 15 one-second pulses, scraping down bowl as needed. Season with salt to taste and store in refrigerator in airtight container.
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