Thanks for the Ajver

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My gorgeous Bosnian friend Tanya Bozic and her daughter Anika joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. Tanya brought a homemade poppy seed cake for dessert. She also brought us a gift -- a bottle of Biljana Makedonski Hot Ajver, her favorite commercial variety. The bottle says "homemade" on the outside. "It's chunky, like my mom used to make it," Tanya said.

Ajver (pronounced I-var) is the preferred condiment of all of my friends from Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. They wouldn't dream of eating cevapcici (or any other grilled meat dish) without it. Tanya likes it for breakfast on buttered bread. (It's also great on leftover turkey sandwiches.) Thanks to the fact that I have so many friends from the former state of Yugoslavia, I have developed a taste for ajver myself.

The spread is made of red peppers and eggplant with a touch of garlic and lots of olive oil. In a great ajver, the peppers and eggplant are roasted or grilled, so the spread has a smoky flavor -- sort of like a proper baba ghanoush. (While I get a lot of baba ghanoush-flavored with Liquid Smoke, I haven't run into any fake smoke in the ajver yet.)

Ajver generally comes in your choice of hot or mild. If you like chile peppers, you will love the hot-and-spicy variety of ajver. You can get Biljana-brand ajver at Phoenicia food store. Or you can make your own.

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