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I saw a jar of this condiment called 'liutenzia' on sale at the supermarket here in Los Angeles. The ingredients say that it has tomato paste, pepper paste, carrot paste, and spices. It looks/sounds delicious but I'm not sure what I would do with it.

I've half a mind to try it, but how is it commonly used? What dishes or appetizers would go well with it? I thought fresh bread or pitas would be tasty dipped in it, like a sort of hummus, tapenade or caponata.

Where can I learn more about it? Any ideas, links (articles or books) about Bulgarian cuisine (in English), specifically liutenzia-related?

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2  
There seem to be different ways to spell this name - try to look for luitenitza (that's how it's spelt by its producer philicon.net/liut.php) or lutenitza (that's what Google suggests). –  Marek Grzenkowicz Oct 31 '10 at 10:42
    
@Marek: thanks, I got some hits on Google! –  Jared Updike Nov 1 '10 at 18:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Jared, I hope you bought it. If made right, it is really really tasty. If not, I can tell you how it is made, but be warned, it costs lots of time (you cook it until most of the water has boiled away, while constantly stirring, as it is prone to get burned on the bottom). Most people spend half a day making a big portion on open fire (because nobody has a stovetop on which a pan that wide fits) and then preserve it in jars. On the other hand, homemade tastes best, and then you can control the hotness (ljutenica can go from purely sweet to tabasco hot, depending on the type of peppers used) and the additions (pure liutenica is peppers and tomatoes only, but it also contains any veggies currently ripe in the garden which might spoil if not preserved quickly).

As for use, it is just a bread spread - or rather, it is the bread spread. A thick slice of semiwhite bread with with ljutenica is an iconic symbol of childhood for anybody who grew up between the 1950s and 1970s in Bulgaria, as that's what kids grabbed for a quick snack before running back outside to play. Traditionally, nobody includes it in any dishes. And nobody considers it a condiment. It is sometimes served as meze, which is a kind of appetizer eaten when drinking strong alcohol, in order not to get too drunk. I guess that whenever you serve antipasti, you could also offer a dish with liutenica, it can be scooped from there and eaten pure or with black olives and/or cubes of feta cheese. If you want to add spices to it, fresh parsley is the traditional one.

On the other hand, although Bulgarian cuisine is somewhat on the simple side, with lots of tradition and not much experimentation, there are no hard rules (in the sense of the Italian rules to never use certain sauces with certain shapes of pasta). So you can use it in any capacity you like. I sometimes use it (without cooking it to a proper thick consistency) as a pasta sauce (no matter what shape of pasta, but psst, don't tell the Italians). Once I pureed feta cheese in it and filled a quiche with the result, it got quite tasty.

Of course, if you happen to cook a Bulgarian style dish, you can use it as a condiment served on the side. Or use it anywhere you'd use ketchup. As many Bulgarian dishes include cooked or pureed tomatoes, you can also try using some liutenica as a substitute, either adding water if you want to keep a runny consistency, or take advantage of the fact that it is thick and make a dish thicker or cook it for less time.

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It looks like my intuition was sort of right. This Smart as a Fox page says:

It is mainly used as a spread on bread, sometimes sprinkled with grated white Feta cheese and [it's] delicious with Eggplant and potatoes.

This Russian cooking blog says

I like adding lutenitsa to tomato-based soups and stews, especially borsch, or eating it as an appetizer with cheese on crackers. It's also good eaten right out of the jar. Just sayin'.

I like the soup idea or the crackers and cheese ideas. Now the only thing stopping me is... just trying it!

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If you like it, you should try ajvar, too (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajvar, tourism-promotion.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/ajvar.jpg). –  Marek Grzenkowicz Nov 1 '10 at 18:33
    
@Marek: :-) The link from that ajvar Wikipedia page is en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ljutenica -- yet another Romanization of лютеница. Thanks for the nudges in the right direction. –  Jared Updike Nov 1 '10 at 18:40

I love 'liutenzia' as a dip for lapinja bread, but also like ajvar with grilled meats! It can be excellent. Zergut is a good brand for all these wonderful things from the Balkan. There are some things from Macedonia too that are great.

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