Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Sauce
In Pivnica, just as they did hundreds of years ago, Slovaks live in houses facing the side yard, with the main entrance opening to a stone courtyard and a fence across the front facing the road. Chickens and ducks wander around freely in the courtyard with the dogs and cats.
At the back of the courtyard is a barn, usually housing farm equipment, rabbits in cages, hay for horses, and shulky, dried corn used as fuel. The barn opens on the other side into a garden and here you will find neat rows of vegetables planted, perhaps a small vineyard and fruit and nut trees blooming.
The Slovaks in Pivnica grow their own walnuts as well as red peppers. When I was there this past spring, relatives gave me a handful of their homegrown walnuts, as well as a slice of just baked walnut squares – they were heavenly.
A classic Middle Eastern sauce, this recipe is similar to basil pesto and can be used in place of it; I’ve found variations in Turkish, Greek and Serbian cookbooks. I know, you can buy it now in a jar, but why would you choose an inferior tasting product when you can whip up such a delicious version so quickly yourself? This recipe freezes well.
- 2 red bell peppers
- ½ cup walnut pieces
- ½ cup olive oil
- Day old bread, about 2 pieces (optional) – thickens it a bit
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ¼ cup water
- Roast the red peppers on the BBQ or in the oven, cool and remove the seeds and skins
- Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan for 2-4 minutes, until slightly brown
- Process the stale bread in the food processor (toast lightly first if not stale)
- Blend all the ingredients, including the peppers, walnuts and breadcrumbs, together in a food processor until smooth
- If necessary, add a few drops of water at a time to thin the sauce to the desired consistency
Serve with pita bread triangles, spread on a lamb or veggie burger in place of ketchup (and add feta cheese and grilled onions), as a dip for kebabs, tossed with pasta, as a sauce on baked salmon, or as an appetizer on a crostini with feta cheese.