Posts tagged ‘bosnia’
Figgy pudding. Fig Newtons. That used to be my only understanding of figs. And I was not a fan. That all changed when I ate my first fresh fig this summer in Bosnia. Azra had green figs, and Melissa and I were weary of them at first because you could pretty much just grab one and eat everything but the tiny stem at the top. Inside, the pink fruit was unique and like nothing I had ever seen before. There, I learned to love figs. They are sweet, not to juicy, and easy to eat. I definitely ate my fill while I was gone, in everything from sandwiches to gelato!
I thought my fig season was over when I returned, since they are usually quite expensive in the States when you can find them, not to mention that I had never even seen them at my grocery store. Costco, however, was selling figs when my mom went shopping for Amanda’s rehearsal dinner. Remembering how much I loved them, she bought a case of them and split them between us. Now my fridge is was filled with figs! I ate probably about half of them plain, but had fun finding other flavor combinations. Some good breakfasts:
Question: Have you tried fresh figs before? What is your favorite way to eat them?
Fig, Goat Cheese, Cucumber and Hazelnut Salad with Balsamic Viniagrette
for 2 lunch salads
small head of lettuce
2 oz goat cheese
4 figs, quartered
2 pickling cucumbers, sliced and quartered
2 tbsp hazelnuts, toasted and slightly chopped
4 tbsp balsamic viniagrette
Toast the hazelnuts in a toaster oven for 5-7 minutes until warm. Rip lettuce into bite sized pieces. Top each bowl with half the cucumbers, goat cheese, figs and hazelnuts.Drizzle each salad with 2 tbsp balsamic viniagrette, or simply dress with oil and vinegar.
Over the weekend, I received some beautiful tomatoes and cucumbers from my friend Azra’s mom. I was too sick to attend their family BBQ with little ones running around, but, as I have said before about Bosnian moms, she needed to make sure that I still was well-fed from afar. Her garden must be incredible, based on what I received! The tomatoes were huge, and the cucumbers were perfect (too big and they get bitter). What else would you do with a Bosnian’s gift other than make a tomato and cucumber salad?
Does that picture make anyone else want to sing silly songs with Larry? Veggie tales anyone? I’m the only one? K, just checking!
I was so excited to be back in the kitchen – I find myself there so much less than over the summer since I’m now only cooking for one! I chopped up my tomatoes, and then started prepping my cukes… only the veggie peeler was no where in sight! I searched through the silverware drawer, and then the cooking utensil drawer, both to no avail. I even looked through the dish rack (confession: without putting away the dishes…) and had no luck! Did the peeler sprout legs and walk away from me over the summer? I gave up and attempted to peel the largest of the cucumbers with a knife. I lost a lot of good cucumber flesh that way, and quickly became frustrated. For the next two, I gave up. I decided that the cucumber skins were safe enough, and so I just halved them with the skins on!
I did not stick to the traditional route for this salad, which is literally just a mix of these veggies, but decided to add a little of my own flare. I added some chickpeas for protein, a little onion, garlic, Balsamic vinegar, basil and olive oil for flavor. The result: amazing. Maybe I was starving for my morning run, or maybe it was exactly what my body was craving, but this was the best salad I have ever eaten. Of course, the fresh mozzarella I topped mine with didn’t hurt! Even better, the flavors will come together even more as it sits in my fridge and waits to be used as leftovers. Maybe I will add a bit of pasta or cous cous to it next time to avoid leftover boredom…
And for the end to the tale of the missing veggie peeler… I went back later that afternoon to unload the drying rack so I could wash my dishes from cooking. As I was putting away the utensils, the peeler magically appeared in my hands! Hadn’t I looked there already? Guess the lesson is learned about emptying the drying rack!
Question: What is something you have misplaced lately? Did you find it? If so, how?
Mediterranean Summer Salad
makes 4 servings
1 can chickpeas, well rinsed
3-4 tomatoes, cut in bite-size pieces
2-3 cucumbers, cut into half moons
1/2 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp freshly chopped basil
salt and pepper to taste
Wash the vegetables thoroughly, choosing numbers based on the size of your produce. Chop the tomatoes with a sharp knife into bite sized pieces and put aside in a bowl. Cut the cucumbers, either peeled or unpeeled, into rounds, and then in half again into half moons. Finely chop the onion and garlic, and add to the vegetable bowl. Drizzle with Balsamic vinegar and olive oil and allow to sit. Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly, and add to the vegetable mixture. Top with freshly chopped basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve cold as is, or mixed with cheese, pasta, cous cous, or on top of lettuce.
How does one have enough hours in a day to enjoy both leisurely meals and coffee? In America, we decide not to choose and rush through both. In Bosnia, however, day time meals tend to be slightly more rushed to ensure a lengthy coffee break in the afternoon. I have shared a little bit about my experience with Bosnian coffee and the way Bosnians celebrate with special meals, so now here is a glimpse into the daily food life in Sarajevo.
Fast food is definitely not an American concept. Just watch Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and you’ll see that fast, street food is ubiquitous. What is unique is that fast food actually tastes good in other countries, and is something people are proud of! A common sight on the streets of Sarajevo is a vendor selling roasted corn, leading to funny glimpses of people walking down the street just nibbling off the cob. Ice cream stands are everywhere, and they sure are marketed well! The pans are filled to the brim with volumes of fluffy flavors, and night they are back-lit so that they really stand out.
Not hard to sell ice cream on a hot day in the first place, but these were truly irresistible. The rest of the stands are filled with national favorites like cevapi, pita, and hamburger (not just any hamburger, but a pressed sandwich closer to the size of your face than your hand. My friend’s theory as to why the first McDonald’s being built in Sarajevo will be unpopular – the burgers are too small!). These are eaten quickly or taken to go, and for really cheap! Each meal on the street cost $5 – to feed three of us!
Ćevapi is actually the name of the meat served in the dish, but also refers to the platter that you order. They are like sausage links, but are made of ground beef and lamb, since most Bosnians are Muslim and there are no pork products to be found anywhere in Sarajevo (as far as I could tell). They come stuffed inside a giant piece of bread called somun, almost like pita since it forms a pocket but much fluffier and softer. This is served with raw chopped onion on the side, which sounds intense but actually really complements the sweet flavors of the meat and softness of the bread well. Alongside, it is customary to have a plain yogurt drink, which tastes like yogurt but is much thinner in consistency. That is nice to dampen any spice and onion flavor left on your tongue!
Pita is the general term for the pies that are found in most cafes and bakeries. They are made of layers of phyllo dough, stuffed with different fillings, and then rolled. Homemade versions lead to personal sized rolls, but the bakery makes gigantic pita that they then cut and serve. Pita filled with ground beef is called burek; with spinach and cheese, zeljanica; and with potato, krompiruša. They are greasy, but delicious and packed with flavor. We got a piece of each to try on our picnic to the Vrelo Bosne, the beautiful springs at the start of the River Bosna. I think the spinach and cheese was my favorite, but they were all so good it was hard to choose! The water at Vrelo Bosne is ice cold and crystal clear, and the park is naturally divided into perfect picnic spots by all of these little springs. A nice change of scenery from the usual people watching along busy streets in Sarajevo!
Question: How do you like the new look for my blog?
Confession time: I am a coffee addict. I am not so bad that I get a headache if I don’t have it, and I am not impossible to talk to in the morning before I have a cup, but I am definitely a much happier person when I do. I take my coffee black and like it to be strong and flavorful. I don’t like flavored lattes, and will stick with a plain cappuccino if I am in the mood for a coffee shop drink. Most of the time, however, I keep it simple with a plain old cup of American coffee.Little did I know that my affinity for strong, black coffee would prepare me perfectly for my time in Bosnia! The thing that struck me most about their culture was how much it revolved around coffee. They will sit in the afternoon for hours at a cafe, their spot reserved by their tiny cup of coffee that was finished long ago. This allows for good conversation and excellent people watching, two of my favorite leisure activities. I wondered aloud at how many people were out for coffee so early in the afternoon, but my friend pointed out the high unemployment rate in the city. With almost half of the adult population out of work, what better to do with your time than sit and discuss current events over coffee?
Bosnian coffee is made and enjoyed in a very particular way. It is often said that a girl is ready for marriage when she can make her own pita and perfect Bosnian coffee (too bad I am not Bosnian because Azra and her mom have taught me both!). To begin, a tiny cup of water is measured out into the pot and put onto the stove top. When the water comes to a boil, a small spoonful of finely ground coffee is added. When the coffee grounds rise to the top of the pot, it is immediately removed from the heat and allowed to settle. Like good espresso, perfect coffee is marked by a creamy layer on the top of the coffee. That layer is scooped into the cup, followed by the coffee. The cup is allowed to sit for a few minutes to allow the grounds to resettle. Some add sugar cubes as well, but I didn’t need the extra sweetness because, before taking a small sip, you take a small bite of sweet dessert. At home, we enjoyed sweet coffee cookies, and at the restaurant I got to try lokum, a super sweet jelly cube with bits of walnut that is traditionally served with the coffee. At the end of the cup, you have to be careful not to swallow the grounds. They are really bitter and not a pleasant ending, but can also be used to tell your fortune! I loved the ritual and tradition that is involved in a cup of coffee, and love the time that is devoted to the making, drinking, and talking afterwards.
PS: Forgive the red hue that dominates the pictures! We were sitting at a cafe that must be sponsored by Coca-cola, because everything was Coke red! Everything from tables and chairs to umbrellas were red, casting a red hue over everything. Not the best for pictures, but it was all I had!
Bosnian cuisine can be summed up in one word: stuffed. As my friend jokes, a Bosnian will try to stuff anything with rice, meat or cheese at least once. They certainly are good at it! From the ubiquitous pita (more to come on this!) to the stuffed cabbage leaves to sogan dolme (stuffed onions), many of their nationally treasured dishes are meat-filled delights. During our stay in Sarajevo, Azra took us to a beautiful restaurant in the hills where her brother held his wedding reception. While considered upscale in Sarajevo, the price of the food was still reasonable – comparable to The Cheesecake Factory pricing. More so, food is generally cheap at the market, so dinner is typically eaten at home. Like I have said, any visit to Azra’s parents house will yield a multi-course dinner made with love. Restaurant dinners are reserved mainly for special occasions, and for this reason, Park Princeva was populated more by foreign tourists (it was pretty much the only place in Sarajevo where we didn’t stand out while speaking English!) than Bosnian natives.
The restaurant was known not just for its food, but also for its breathtaking panoramic views of the whole city. We sat and soaked in the atmosphere while waiting for our food. Of course I had to try sogan dolme!
On my plate was a small green pepper, tomato, and onion, all stuffed with meat and rice. I was so impressed by this dish. Not only was the filling really flavorful, but also both the meat and the veggies were soft and tender while still being artfully stuffed. They sat in a delicious broth that I mopped up with some bread – couldn’t find a drop on my plate!
Although a bit stuffed already, we ordered dessert so we could extend our stay and watch the sparkling lights of the city. To our surprise, we got to see a thunderstorm roll in as well! We enjoyed palatschinke, a crepe (slightly fluffier than the French version) filled with Nutella and some homemade raspberry ice cream – the perfect end to a perfect evening.
Since returning, I have been inspired again to stuff veggies! My mom, sister and I trekked to the West Cape May Farmer’s Market on Tuesday evening to see what produce we could find to inspire dinner. We got some heirloom tomatoes and local cucumbers so I could show them an Eastern European salad, and we got a few huge green peppers and a sicilian eggplant to stuff. I will definitely be on the lookout for another one of these eggplants – they are a lighter purple and more round than your usual eggplant, and have a much thinner skin and delicate flavor. The inside is surprisingly easy to scoop out and stuff, but I forgot to take pictures of my eggplant exploits! Oh well, just excuse to make it again ;)
And I’m off! I have been alluding to my big summer trip since the start of my blog, but have been vague about the details. Time for me to share a little bit about where I’m headed for the next three weeks!
Country 1: Bosnia
My friend, Azra, from college is originally from Bosnia. She and her family moved to Boston during the Bosnian War in the early 1990s, and I have learned a lot about Bosnian culture over the past 5 years. Her mom is incredibly hospitable and loves to feed me. Her meat pies are incredible, her chicken and rice moist and tender, and her coffee ever flowing. It is impossible to decline a meal when visiting her: “Oh, you just ate? I’ll make something small.” She slaves away in the kitchen while Mr. B yells loudly on the phone in Bosnian about politics; 3 courses later and barely able to move, I can feel the love she pours into her family and guests through her hospitality. Now I have my chance to go and visit their home country! My roommate from college and I leave today for an overnight flight from Boston to Sarajevo. We have very loose plans and have left most things up to our native tour guide. Whatever Azra thinks is worth to show off in her home city is okay with me! Hasn’t stopped me from reading just a bit online though… some tourism websites say to look forward to beautiful mosques and cathedrals, wartime memorials, beautiful bridges, and an interesting fusion of architecture between the original Ottoman rule and the later Austrian influences. I can’t wait to see Azra again and get to finally explore where she and her family are from!
Country 2: Croatia
After exploring Sarajevo for a few days, we are heading with Azra to Croatia to stay at her family’s vacation home. Croatia sits like a cap on Bosnia and is a more well-known tourist destination. It is known for its hilly towns and beautiful beaches, so I am so excited to see this scenery in person! Again, we have left a lot of the planning up to our more well-known friend and guide. We will be visiting Orebic, Dubrovnik and Korcula, but will play most things by ear until we get there! I am beginning to explode with excitement as I type this… Those who have heard me talk about my trip in person know that I let out a little squeal of joy when sharing about our loose plans!
Country 3: Italy
At this point, my roommate and I will leave Azra and take an overnight ferry across the Adriatic Sea to Italy. Our ferry will land first in Ancona, and then we will take a train up to Bologna to meet our friend, Miriam. Her mom, originally from Boston, met her Italian husband on vacation years ago, and has been an American-Italian ex-pat ever since! Miriam grew up in Bologna, and has invited Melissa and I to visit her since our first year as housemates. We are finally taking her up on her offer! We have a little bit more planned out for what we will do/see in Italy since some reservations were involved, with some strong guidance from Miriam! We will spend a few nights in Bologna, as well as make day trips to Venice and Florence. We are also going to spend two nights in Cinque Terre, an incredible grouping of 5 seaside towns carved into the mountain. I am so looking forward to the food and wine, to the scenery, to the art and culture, and to meeting Miriam’s family! It is hard to choose which part of my adventure I am most excited for. The whole thing? :)
Country 4: Czech Republic
This last stop in Prague was totally spur of the moment. Azra was over for dinner way back in January and we were looking at airfare to Bosnia and back from Italy. We had a map open, and she remarked how she had family friends in Czech Republic, which was so close and yet she was unsure if she’d get to go because she had no one to go with. After a few clicks around Travelocity, we saw that it would be the same price for me to fly from Bologna to Prague to home as it would to go straight home from Bologna. A host in Prague plus no added cost for airfare? I’m in! Our plans are again quite loose, as Azra’s friend has told us she will let us know where are the best places to see. We will have 5 days in Prague, so may even take a day trip to visit Dresden, Germany. (It is only 2 hours away by train!) This will depend on funds and how much we have seen in Prague – keeping my mind and itinerary open!
I am excited to be a free-spirit for the next few weeks. I am packing my suitcase lightly, leaving my laptop at home, and immersing myself in the company of my friends and the culture of other countries. If I stumble into an Internet cafe or make an occasional email check on a friend’s computer, I will post brief updates about my adventures to let my friends and family know that I am alive and enjoying exploring! I also have some pre-scheduled posts (I have cooked more than I have posted in the past few weeks and have a few treats to share!) and will also have guest posts from my mom and my sister.
All of these pictures are from tourism sites, but I will share much more of my adventures through my own pictures when I am back!
Question: Do you have any vacations planned this summer?