YugaTrip: Cuisine and an attempt at a Spinach Cheese Pie (zeljanica)

09/10/2008

cevapi
Kjebapchinja at Destan restaurant in the Old Bazaar (Stara Čaršija) in Skopje

Still very much processing impressions from the trip through the ex Yugoslav republics and autonomous provinces, my project of making something that includes pastry, spinach and cheese may have taken a turn in the direction of zeljanica, the veggie variation on the famous burek.

One of the things I found on the trip is that our southern cousins have great food and though the meats such as čevapi and pleskavice (my favourite was the one in Belgrade) are simply mouthwatering, especially when combined with kajmak and true burek is out of this world, the true riches are found in their fruits and vegetables.

tomato
open-air market in Skopje

I was finally able to eat REAL tomatos again. Tomatos with a delicious taste unlike the EU-prescribed reddish water in plastic wrapping offered in Slovenian supermarkets. Granted, such veggies can also be found in Slovenia on a few select open-air markets, when in season in our country.

red pepper
open-air market in Skopje

How could one not be impressed! Fruits and vegetables were diverse and plentiful so I could see myself very well switching over to a vegetarian diet, which would undoubtedly have been completely unimaginable both to the people in the area and to my travel companion.

Flia
Flia

In Kosovo, we were introduced to a dish we’d never heard of before: flia. It can take hours to prepare and is usually made at social occasions. The end result is akin to a lasagne made of multiple layers of crepes without filling, served with yoghurt. Mode of preparation: make crepe dough, bake a layer, spread oil and cream on the baked layer, spread oil and cream on top, bake in the oven, remove from oven and repeat the process until you run out of the dough. Sometimes, onions are used as well.

The fast food in the ex-yu area is so diverse and tasty that I can’t see the usual burger and pizza places making their way into the region big time anytime soon. Especially pizza in Kosovo as I’ve never seen anything like it before: a gas station every mile of the road from the Macedonian border to Priština and every gas station featuring its own pizza restaurant. Bizzare! Almost as bizzare as such signs alongside the same road:

tank speed limit
Speed limits in Kosovo

Back to the subject of the post. I’ve been planning on making a cheese spinach pie for weeks and yesterday finally did something about it. Having been preoccupied bothering MP candidates for the upoming Slovenian elections with questions on their political platform, I was running late so did not keep to a recipe but just threw some ingredients together in hopes the end result would feed my dinner guests and not leave any undesirable consequences.

I mixed a pound of spinach with salt, pepper, onion and chilli pepper seeds. Added a pound of cottage cheese, a spoon of sour cream, half a cup of grated cheese and an egg. Mixed well. Took ready-made pastry, oiled the pan then placed a layer of pastry, oiled it, topped with another layer of pastry, then a thick layer of the filling, topped with a layer of pastry, oiled it, added another layer of pastry, topped with filing etc, finishing with a layer of crumbled pastry which I sprinkled with oil. Baked at 180°C for about 40 minutes. I should have then poured more milk/sour cream or similar on top and bake for another minute or two, but well, didn’t. I like these pies to have crunchy tops as opposed to the soft, greasy ones.

So here is the result:

zeljanica

It turned out quite edible even if it’s not really zeljanica. Most people will use more eggs, more sour cream and pour one type of a dairy mix or another over the top before the baking is done.

With all the goodies from our own “down south” comfort food not boasting low-calorie properties, I think I’ve had my fix for a while and will be eating salads for a while 😈 , but nothing can stop me from having real coffee… Not now that I have my own coffee set from Sarajevo’s Baš Čaršija.

Enjoy! And possibly read Michael Flocker’s book on the Art of Hedonism kindly shared with me by our wonderful Belgrade hostess.

kava
Bosnian coffee as served in Sarajevo, with ratluk

Sea Bass Cooked in Wine

08/23/2008

To serve two, you will need:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup thinly sliced white onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups seeded, chopped plum tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup sliced stuffed green olives
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • red pepper flakes
  • 2 fillets sea bass
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onions until soft. Stir in garlic, and saute about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, and cook until they begin to soften.

sea bass

Stir in wine, olives, capers, and red pepper flakes. Heat to a simmer.

sea bass

Place sea bass into sauce. Cover, and gently simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

sea bass

Transfer fish to a serving plate, and keep warm.

Increase the heat, and add butter to sauce. Simmer until the sauce thickens. Stir in cilantro.

sea bass

Serve sauce over fish. With love.

Stuffed Mushrooms

08/22/2008

You can serve these yummy treats as a standalone dinner or as a side.

To stuff 12 mushrooms, you will need the following:

  • 12 whole fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Carefully break off stems. Chop stems extremely fine, discarding tough end of stems.

stuffed mushrooms

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and chopped mushroom stems to the skillet. Fry until any moisture has disappeared, taking care not to burn garlic. Set aside to cool.

stuffed mushrooms

When garlic and mushroom mixture is no longer hot, stir in cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Mixture should be very thick.

stuffed mushrooms

Using a little spoon, fill each mushroom cap with a generous amount of stuffing. Arrange the mushroom caps on prepared cookie sheet.

stuffed mushrooms

Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the mushrooms are piping hot and liquid starts to form under caps.

stuffed mushrooms

Serve. With a smile, of course 😀

coming tomorrow: sea bass cooked in wine

Rabbit Stew with Coconut Milk

08/21/2008

Last Sunday, I thought why not try something different for dinner. Humm… never tried cooking rabbit before. Why not, indeed. The result exceeded all expectations, so I decided to share. The recipe is originally Colombian. Thanks to the cook who originally posted it on a recipe site.

It takes a while for the rabbit to cook and I actually managed to get some fresh air, sun and exercise in the meantime 😉

To serve two, you will need:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds (450g) rabbit, cleaned and cut into pieces
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1/2 bird’s eye chile, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 large tomatoe – peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • rice

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the rabbit pieces until browned on the outside. Transfer to a soup pot or large saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, green pepper, red pepper and chile pepper to the skillet; cook and stir until onion is transparent. Transfer to the saucepan.

rabbit stew with coconut milk

Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, salt and pepper to the saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 2 hours. Just before the 2 hours are through, start cooking some white rice.

rabbit stew with coconut milk

Remove the rabbit pieces with a slotted spoon, and keep warm. Turn the heat up to high under the saucepan, and boil the liquid until it has reduced by half. Return the rabbit pieces to the pan, and stir in the coconut milk. Cook, stirring gently, until heated through.

rabbit stew with coconut milk

Serve over rice with a smile 😀

coming tomorrow: stuffed mushrooms

Vegetable Musaka (Moussaka)

06/05/2008

Vegetable Musaka

Made this for friends who do not eat meat or fish. With thanks to Binula for her tips!

Vegetable Musaka

Served 4:

Cooked eight large sliced potatoes and drained them well. Covered the ceramic pan (no grease necessary as the olive oil from the stir-fried zucchinis suffices along with the sour cream that drizzles through the potatoes and veggies) with half of the potatoe slices, salted.
Topped with three sliced stir-fried zucchinis.
The next layer were four large sliced quickly-cooked carrots. Topped that with a large aubergine, sliced, salted, grilled on the big toaster and cut into cubes. Sprinkled with some grated cheese to hold together.

Topped with another layer of the cooked potatoes and salted.

Mixed sour cream with two eggs, three large spoons of flour, salt and pepper and poured over the top.

Baked in the oven for 15 minutes at 220°C

Sprinkled with grated cheese and baked for another 5 minutes.

Voila.

Vegetable Musaka

As a side: shredded a large cucumber, added yoghurt, garlic, salt, pepper, some hot pepper seeds and dill.

Bon appétit, my vegetarian friends 🙂
And Bon voyage!

Chicken w Mushrooms & Cheese

05/19/2008

Took some time to cook at home. On a Monday, mind you. Sheer decadence!

Chicken w Mushrooms & Cheese

Here’s how to duplicate the above.

Preheat oven to 170°C.

Take chicken breasts.

Mix minced garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, chicken seasoning and I added some hot chilli seeds. Spread over the chicken breasts and sprinkle with some wine vinegar. Works well to put the breasts in a plastic bag, add the above, seal and turn all around with gusto.

Put in a cake pan with some olive oil on the bottom in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Slice up fresh mushrooms. I used champignons. Also slice up green onions. I didn’t have any green onions and used the extra fresh white (flatish?) ones. Came out more than ok.

Take the chicken out of the oven, place sliced up mushrooms and onions on top, spoon the oil from the bottom of the cake pan on top, add a bit more more oil if needed and again sprinkle with red wine vinegar.

Bake for another 20 minutes.

In the meantime, slice some good cheese or use the toast cheese.

Remove the chicken from the oven, place strips of sheets of cheese on top and return to the oven for a minute or two until it’s melted.

You can use a number of side dishes. Veggies, rice, potatoes, pasta. I opted for chestnuts and a couple of Brussels sprouts. Hey, why not.

Serve with a (smile and a) glass of good wine. We went for red 😉

Dober tek!

Double-Chocolate Walnut Brownies

03/24/2008

Another Sunday… or holiday at least gives another excuse and opportunity to bake. Here comes my friend Nina’s longtime favorite and a staple in my series of American desserts. Check out Nina’s Fresh Illustrations, they might be inspired with the newly supplied top quality energy…. chocolate… yummm! This is best with pecans, but walnuts do a mighty fine job as well.

I found the recipe on the Internet a few years ago, but can’t find the source to give due credit. All I remember is that the chef made this to get through a Superbowl with the family, stuck in front of their TV sets. Considering the recent events concerning Olimpija hockey team (somebody please post on this so I can link to it here) and tomorrow’s undoubtedly exciting match, this may be a good time to recreate the recipe.

EDIT 03/25/2008 (hockey links):
Pengovsky posted: Dej ga na gobec
Binula posted: Optimistični Brendan Yarema
Go get’em tonight, Green Dragons!

Making Brownies

You will need:

  • 2 x 100g / 3 1/2 oz. dark and I do mean dark chocolate bars (70% and higher for an intense experience)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 125g / 4 oz (1 stick) of unsalted butter
  • 65g / 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 20g/ 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 150g / about 4 oz walnut or pecan halves (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 100g / 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 100g / 1/2 cup light brown sugar

Bake in: a 9 x 9 inch / 25 x 25cm cake/brownie pan

Preheat the oven to 160 ° C / about 350 ° F. Line your brownie pan with a silicon baking sheet or butter and flour it.
Bash the chocolate bars, still in their wrappers, hard against a counter top or table until they are in small pieces. If the wrapper breaks, put the chocolate in a plastic bag and bang away. Bash the walnuts/pecans in the same way. You want the nuts to be fairly chunky still, not pulverized. Alternatively, cut up the chocolate bars and walnuts/pecans with a sharp knife (recommend banging and smashing on Superbowl or “Olimpija in the Austrian ice hockey league” night… better walnuts than humans press…).

Melt the butter and one of the chocolate bars over a low heat, stirring, until completely melted. In the meantime, combine the flour, cocoa and salt. Add this to the melted butter and chocolate.

Making Brownies

Add the sugars and blend well. Take off the heat and allow to cool a bit.

Making Brownies

Add the eggs and mix well until combined.

Making Brownies

Stir in the walnuts/pecans and the rest of the chocolate.

Making Brownies

Pour the batter into the brownie pan, and bake for about 40 minutes.

Making Brownies

Let cool and cut into 16 squares. Actually, I prefer to cut them up into smaller pieces given the taste intensity and how calorie-packed they are. My favorite (sorry about the spelling, Adriaan, but this is an American dessert) way of serving this is with a scoop of ice cream and a couple of strawberries.

(How to Make) Marble Cake

02/24/2008

Another Sunday and another recipe I promised a while ago.

Here is what you’ll need:
Marble Cake in the Making

120 g butter (one stick)
4 eggs (split yolks and eggwhites)
180g sugar (just under one cup)
0.2 l milk (one glass)
2 spoons of rum
300 g (just under 3 cups)
baking powder
1 spoon of cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 200°C (470 K)

Marble Cake in the Making

Beat the butter well, then start adding egg yolks and sugar and again beat untill well-blended. Set a bit of sugar aside and add to separately beaten egg whites.

Marble Cake in the Making

Stop the blender and pour in milk, rum and half of the flour, then blend again.

Marble Cake in the Making

Mix the other half of the flour with the baking powder and add spoon by spoon, together with the beaten egg whites, mixing gently.

Marble Cake in the Making

This is the dough, yeah! 🙂

Marble Cake in the Making

Grease the cake pan (and lightly sprinkle with flour, this should stop the cake from sticking and will allow for easier removal from the pan once baked).

Marble Cake in the Making

Put most of the dough in the pan and set aside about a third, mixing in the one or two spoons of cocoa powder. This is the brown part of the marbled cake.

Marble Cake in the Making

Now for the magic. Spoon the brown dough on top of the yellow one, take a fork and mix it deeply into the yellow one. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 45 minutes.

Marble Cake in the Making

You can sprinkle the cake with some powdered sugar. Or not.

Enjoy the cake in good company. Preferably with a cup of tea 😉

Cinnamon Kiss Cake – recipe

02/17/2008

I know some of my friends expected me to post on Kosovo right now. But hey as things are cooking over there, I’ve decided to use hot air for something useful.

Here we go, Maida. Better late than never and when we do it, we do it right. As promised, here comes the apple skuta cheese cake recipe. You can make it in a pie model (or a round cake model) but I prefer the rectangular as it maks it easier to cut into smaller pieces.

Cinnamon Kiss Cake in the Making

Mix 300 g flour, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of baking powder.

Cinnamon Kiss Cake in the Making

Add 0.15 l of oil (if you happen to be out of butter, hmm..)

Cinnamon Kiss Cake in the Making

Add 150 g brown sugar…

Cinnamon Kiss Cake in the Making

..and an egg.
Cinnamon Kiss Cake in the Making

Mix until a sort of bumpy dough is formed. Spread two thirds of the dough on the bottom of an oiled cake model and push down with your fingers. Put the remaining third of the dough away.

Cinnamon Kiss Cake in the Making

Let’s get the apples ready. Peel and cut up 500 g of apples, I like to use Idared. Put them in a pot.

In a bowl, mix 5 tablespoons of sugar, two tablespoons of water and a tea spoon of cinnamon. Pour over the apples, put the lid on and let simmer for 6 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the skuta cheese filling.

Cinnamon Kiss Cake in the Making

Mix three eggs, 8 tablespoons of sugar and a bag of vanilla sugar with a mixer.

Cinnamon Kiss Cake in the Making

I added some seeds this time around. A mix of sesame, sunflower etc… Add 500 g of skuta cheese and mix gently.

Cinnamon Kiss Cake in the Making

After the apples have been ‘cooking’ for 6 minutes, drain the liquid and place them in the cake model. Spread the skuta cheese filling over them.

Cinnamon Kiss Cake in the Making

Sprinkle the third of the dough you’d set away on top of the skuta cheese filling. Put in the preheated oven and bake for about 1 hour at 180°C.
Cinnamon Kiss Cake

When the cake is done, let it sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting it into pieces. Serve with a kiss.

Dober tek!

LA Times Loves Slovenian Wines

01/30/2008

I’ll break away from what is bound to be the No. 1 topic around here today (Slovenia’s ratification of the Lisbon Treaty) and post a link to a lovely article on Wild Wild Wines from Slovenia published by the LA Times along with a list of wines to watch for.

On a personal note, pinela is one of my favourite white wines and I did enjoy a glass of the 2004 Simčič Sauvignon Blanc Reserve from the list with this Sunday’s lunch.

Incidentally, just a few weeks ago one of my professors (politcal science) argued that no debate on politics at a high theoretical level is possible in the absence of good wine. It would seem Slovenians have the basics covered, eh? Or, as Luka would say, ne est-ce pas? 😉

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