(raw vegan, gluten free)
Ajvar, (pronounced EYE-vhar), is a popular Yugoslavian and Greek relish that is typically served as an appetizer or side dish. The primary components are eggplant, bell peppers, garlic, olive oil, and paprika. For this raw flatbread version, I diced and marinated one baby eggplant and half each of a yellow and red bell pepper with some sea salt, a light squeeze of lemon, and extra virgin olive oil, then dehydrated for about 6 hours. Afterward, I added minced garlic, paprika, and adjusted the seasonings then let it sit in refrigerator overnight. Dehydrating bell peppers really concentrates the flavor similarly to the intensity of roasted peppers.
When I made the pine nut pâte, I had in mind to create something similar to feta cheese that would mimic its salty, crumbly creaminess. But I must say that once again, I find that making nut based “cheeses” like the ones that are so commonly found in raw uncookbooks is a bit misleading in that they never turn out anything like their inspirations. In fact, these cashew, macadamia, and/or pine nut substitutes are so uniquely rich and delicious they should stand in a category of their own and not be compared to a food that they so distantly resemble.
For the pine nut pâte: In a food processor, add 1 cup of pine nuts soaked for 2 hours, 1 medium clove of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/8 cup of flax seed oil, and about a tablespoon of lemon juice and process until as smooth as possible. If needed, drizzle in small amounts of cold water to assist smoothing the mixture. The end result should be the consistency of hummus. Spread on teflex dehydrator sheets and dehydrate 6 to 8 hours at 115 degrees. The pâte can then be stored in the refrigerator.
Now that I’ve been experimenting with raw food recipes for over a year, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that there’s a lot of room for customization and approximation. In other words, the vast majority of preparations are not at all like, let’s say, the precise science of baking. I have never been a big fan of baking so when it comes to making raw, seemingly comparable foods like flatbreads, cookies, crusts, or pastries, I used to be a little shy of them. When new to raw, many of us are at first a bit intimidated by the unconventional ingredients and methods, but in actuality there is no need to be nervous or apprehensive. And as always, the most important thing is to just practice, practice, practice!
So when I made the crust for the flatbread, I opened up Everydaw Raw by Matthew Kenney and turned to page 92, “Tomato, Basil, and Ricotta Pizza”. There, I referenced his recipe for herb crust knowing I did not have all the ingredients listed, such as squash and dried basil. All I really needed was a little help with the foundation, and the next thing I knew I was throwing all kinds of stuff into the mix. And, as typical with dehydrating, home results can vary greatly from that in a recipe book. This is absolutely a cinchy easy crust to make, from which you can top with all kinds of goodies!
I took 1 cup of walnuts that have been soaked for 4 hours; a small bunch of fresh basil; 1 clove of garlic; 1/2 jalepeño pepper; 4 medium vine tomatoes, scooped and seeded; 1/2 yellow bell pepper; 1/2 red bell pepper; 1 small shallot; 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast; 2 teaspoons agave; 2 teaspoons sea salt; a few turns of freshly ground black pepper; and a squeeze of lemon juice and blended in the food processor until smooth. Pour this in a large bowl and add 1 teaspoon of dried oregano and 1 teaspoon of dried thyme. Then, gradually sprinkle in 3/4 cup flax meal as you stir the mixture until well combined.
Spread on teflex dehydrator sheets to desired shapes and sizes and about 1/2″ thickness. Dehydrate at 115 degrees for 18 to 24 hours, flipping crusts onto the mesh trays and removing the teflex sheets halfway through.
To assemble the ajvar flatbreads, take a crust and spread on some pine nut pâte with a spatula. Add arugula leaves and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Finally, top with the ajvar and serve.