If you like the kick of a good salsa but your tastebuds are looking for a more complex flavor profile, we have a suggestion: consider Adjika, the classic condiment from Georgia-Azerbaijan. Also known as Adzhika and Ajika, Russians often refer to this as “Red Salt” and others sometimes call it “Russian Pesto.” But this savory, spicy dish isn’t anywhere close to the texture, fragrance, or mild-mannered flavor profile of pesto. Most of the recipes include hot and sweet red peppers along with a host of savory herbs including fenugreek, mint, savory, and cilantro along with coriander seed. Although we have seen a number of variations which toss shredded apples, carrots, and even tomatoes into the mix, in its purist form, it’s all about the peppers. Woohoo!
One of the things which distinguishes Adjika from other regional condiments such as Turkish harissa and Middle Eastern Muhammara is the fact that it’s not cooked, making it an ideal dish to prepare during the dog days of summer. Like any freshly made salsa, the raw ingredients are combined and allowed to mellow so that all of the flavors come together in a unified, fabulous way. We have added a splash of Spiker’s Sour Cherry Plum Shrub to emulate the tart-tangy-sweet flavor of pomegranate molasses, frequently found in Georgian cooking but hard to find in standard U.S. grocery stores or supermarkets. (You can find Sour Cherry Plum Shrub right here.)
To enjoy Adjika, put a tiny dollop on cubes of summer-fresh melon, or serve as a dip with flatbread such as lavash. Shmear it on slices of eggplant after grilling. Or try it on beef or lamb kebabs as both a marinade component and a table-side drizzle.
Crush or grind the coriander seeds, bay leaves, and fenugreek seed and place in a small bowl. (See note below If you don't have fenugreek seeds.)
Add the remaining dry ingredients and walnuts to the bowl and set aside.
Place the peppers and garlic in a food processor.
Prepare the ingredients
Core, seed, and coarsely chop the red bell peppers. Remove the stems from the red chiles and coarsely chop. If using celery instead of fenugreek seeds, coarsely chop the stalk and leaves. Place all these ingredients plus the garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to reduce the size of the items.
Process the ingredients
Mix the vinegar and the Spiker's Sour Cherry Plum shrub together in a measuring cup. Pour over the ingredients and pulse repeatedly until the mixture has the texture of a salsa. The Adjika should not be coarse, but it should not be completely pureed either. Strive to get all the ingredients of a uniform size so nothing chunky stands out.
Note re: fenugreek: Fresh fenugreek has a flavor similar to a cross between celery and fennel. If you can't find either fresh, dried, or seed fenugreek you can use a stalk of celery and a pinch of fennel seeds.