Capturing the Flavors of Sochi: Ajika

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The countdown has begun! Only 11 days to the start of the XXII Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

 

Iceberg Skating Palace, Sochi, Russia

Iceberg Skating Palace, Sochi, Russia

 

Bolshoy Ice Dome, Sochi Olympics

Bolshoy Ice Dome, Sochi Olympics

 

Sochi stands apart from other Russian cities. Located on the eastern side of the Black Sea just across the way from Turkey and north of Georgia, Sochi laps up the coast but also sits at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains. Through the centuries Sochi has been a crossroads for a number of peoples—from nomads working their way through the region to Turks, Arabs, Circassians, and, of course, Russians. In fact, some historians note the Sochi was once a favorite resort getaway of Joseph Stalin.

 

Day 90 Olympic Torch Relay in Kirov

Day 90 Olympic Torch Relay in Kirov

 

In many ways, Sochi doesn’t immediately jump out as a winter destination. It’s known as one of the longest cities in Europe with 90 miles of the city touching the Black Sea. The city holds the distinction of being called the “Summer Capital” of Russia, bringing to mind more images of sandy beaches versus ski slopes. But Sochi’s proximity to the mountains makes Winter Olympic venues close enough.

 

Alpine Center, Sochi Olympics

Alpine Center

 

The food of Sochi is as eclectic as its history and geography—a mix of all those who made their way in and out of the area through the centuries. One recipe that seems to capture the varied flavors of Sochi is ajika. The often red-hued dip is peppered with a kick of spice. Frequently compared to an Italian pesto in texture and use, there is no definitive recipe for ajika. So feel free to play around the ingredients listed in this recipe and create your own unique version of ajika, or Sochi Salsa, as I like to call it. I referred to a couple of different recipes from Eating Well and Natasha’s Kitchen to come up with my own version. (And yes, it’s better on day 2.)

 

If you’re looking to make this into a meal, I suggest sautéing chicken strips in garlic oil and then adding a bit of the salsa at the end of cooking. Serve with warmed pitas.

 

Sochi Salsa recipe

Photo: Kristen J Gough

 

Sochi Salsa

 

Ingredients

1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (I prefer fire-roasted)

1 medium apple

1 medium carrot

1 bell pepper

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 hot pepper—jalapeno or Serrano, diced (nix this if you don’t like the heat)

¼ cup olive oil

¼ chicken broth

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

½ tsp. paprika

½ tsp. sea salt

1 tbsp. fresh cilantro and/or dill (optional, but good!)

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (opt. if you want more heat)

Fresh pepper

 

Directions

1.     Dice the bell peppers and onions; set aside. Grate the carrot and apple; set aside. Prepare the hot pepper by removing the ribs and seeds, then dice.

2.     In a saucepan, bring the oil to medium heat and add the bell peppers and onions. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.

3.     Add the garlic and sauté briefly until fragrant, then add the tomatoes (undrained) and the chicken broth. Turn the heat to low to simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

4.     Stir in seasonings including vinegar, paprika, salt, cayenne pepper, and herbs.

5.     Let the mixture cool and then pour it into a food processor and pulse until chunky.

 

 

 

Sochi Olympics Mascots

Sochi Olympics Mascots

 

 

Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering Educators. She shares her family's adventurous food experiences--and recipes--at MyKidsEatSquid.com.

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Sochi Olympics, except where noted

 

 

 

Recipe for Sochi Salsa - Ajika. The food of Sochi is as eclectic as its history and geography—a mix of all those who made their way in and out of the area through the centuries

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