Cooking with Ajvar the Croatian Salsa



InDubrovnik, eating can be expensive for a backpacker.  Appetizers at restaurants can start at 70 Kuna or US$14 for a small plate of grilled zucchini.  So I hunted through Tripadvisor for reasonably priced eating options.  When we found a salad and sandwich shop called Presa, we not only stumbled upon one of the best eating options in town but also discoveredCroatia’s loveliest condiment: ajvar.


Pronounced eye-var, this sauce is a fiery red concoction of eggplant, peppers, and spices.  At the Presa Sandwich shop in Old Town Dubrovnik, Neil ordered a classic meat sandwich called a Cevapi (pronounced chay-va-pee).  Grilled sausage is tucked into warm bread and topped with veggies.  Holding it all together, the ajvar mixes well with mayonnaise and other common sauces.  But we recommend it the Croatian style.  Neil loved the sauce so much that I immediately got jealous, ran to the counter and asked for my own helping on my veggie platter.  We split a Greek salad for good measure.


fast food snacks in Dubrovnik

Croatian sausage sandwich: Cevapi!

A month later, we’re now onHvarIslandwhich is a days trip north of Dubronik and its UNESCO protected walls.  Settled in an apartment on the cove, I’ve gotten into a routine of cooking what was available and reinventing local dishes for my vegetarian lifestyle.  I’ve played around with fish stew recipes and even made wine cocktails with the local PlavacMalired wine.  This morning, I merged huevos rancheros with a Croatian twist.  Going vegetarian, I prepped warmed tortillas with red bean easy chili and a cabbage slaw.  Since it was breakfast, scrambled eggs were tucked under the tortilla and sitting atop a dollop of yogurt was the spicy ajvar, the salsa ofCroatia!



Simple Recipe for Red Bean Tacos


For the bean filling:

3 tbs olive oil

1 medium Onion sliced

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 can beans, drained and rinsed

1 small can corn, drained

3 cups water

1 tbs tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1 tbs cumin

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried parsley

¼ cup rice, uncooked

6 tortilla shells

Plain yogurt

Ajvar or salsa


For the slaw:

1 cup shredded cabbage

1 tomato, diced

1 small red onion diced

½ tbs brown sugar

3 tbs red wine vinegar

3 tbs olive oil.

Salt, pepper as needed.



In a skillet with a high lip, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil until golden brown.  Add beans, corn, water, and tomato paste.  Combine and let it come to a gentle boil and then drop the heat down to a simmer.  Add spices and rice.  Stir occasionally.  The rice is a thickening agent so it will settle to the bottom of the pan and stick.  Don’t worry.  Just scrape it with a scoop or spatula and watch the beans thicken into a nice stew.  Allow to simmer until the beans reach the desired consistency.  The thicker it is the easier it will fill the tortillas.


While the beans cook, make the slaw.  Combine all ingredients in a large boil.  With a ladle, stir until combined.  Cover and let marinate for at least 15 minutes.  Taste before serving and adjust sugar, black pepper, salt, etc. as needed.


When ready to serve, warm the tortillas in a dry pan and remove bay leaf from the stew.  Down the center of the taco, layer the beans, yogurt, ajvar, and slaw.  Serve with scrambled eggs if it’s for breakfast.  Enjoy!

About Melissa Ruttanai

Melissa is a social media coordinator, pro-blogger, and certified teacher. Her travel obsessions have brought her to 33 countries and 25 US States. Her work has been published by at DINK Life, International Living Magazine, Escape From America Magazine, Trazzler and On Holiday Magazine. Connect with Melissa on Google+ Twitter: @WorldWinder and