New Foods, Wild Fruit

While attending field school in Croatia, I’ve been trying to be as much of a Food Explorer as I can bring myself to be.  Anything someone picks off a tree and says is edible and anything served on a platter without visible tentacles has gone into my mouth.  Mostly I’ve been happy with the things I’ve tried, though there are some foods I won’t be eating again any time soon.  I’ve been keeping one list of the new foods I’ve tried, and another of all the wild fruit I’ve picked off trees (whether ripe or not).

New Foods

  • fried whole sardines
  • carpaccio
  • sea bass
  • mackerel
  • hrapačuša cake (a cake traditional to the island of Brac made with lots walnuts)
  • walnut, plain, herb, and rose rakija (Croatian alcohol similar to schnapps often served first thing you visit someone as a welcome/display of hospitality)
  • veal
  • things cooked under a peka, which is a traditional almost bell-shaped dish for cooking with hot coals
  • young (fresh) sheep’s cheese
  • sheep’s cheese cured in a traditional sheepskin bag
  • mojito-flavored ice cream
  • mojito-flavored  Schweppes soda
  • dried figs

Cooking under a peka, and veal peka with potatoes and vegetables

Wild Fruit

  • red, yellow, and green plums
  • blackberries
  • strawberries
  • olives (not ripe)
  • grapes (not ripe)
  • pomegranates (not ripe)
  • kiwis (so close to being ripe but not ripe)
  • figs

Blackberries on Brac, wild yellow plums in the Hinterlands

Exploring Sarajevo’s Old Town

Last month I visited Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, where east truly does meet west!

Baščaršija Square, Night

The main square in Sarajevo’s old town.

Ok, Reader, I know I can’t keep making excuses but I just didn’t have the time this past week to get up my usual posts.  This one has been sitting in the back of my head for a while, so in the spirit of What I Ate Wednesday, here are some of the things I ate while visiting Bosnia in June!

Before getting to Sarajevo, I didn’t know much about it.  I did enough preliminary research to know it sounded like an intriguing city a few years ago on study abroad while planning trips.  Since I didn’t end up getting the chance to go then, I figured I could hit it this time around.  I’m glad I did!  While traveling through Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia, I learned so much about the history and culture of the region.

Sarajevo has changed a lot in recent years.  It was under siege from about 1991-1995 as the country fought for independence from Yugoslavia, cut off from water mains and electricity.  What’s there now is a fascinating mix of east and west.  The different empires that ruled Bosnia left their mark on the city in the architecture of the buildings–the oldest section of the city is Ottoman, just outside that are the 19th century buildings erected under the rule of Austria-Hungary, and on the outskirts are the mid-late twentieth century structures built under the communist regime.  I stayed right in the old city center, across the street from the main square of the Ottoman section, and explored some of the culture through food.

One of my favorite things to eat in the Balkans when on a budget is pita or bürek.  I think I’ve mentioned bürek before, as I try it in every country that has a version (it’s kind of like Bulgarian banitsa).  In most places it’s called bürek, but in Bosnia it is only called bürek if it is filled with meat, otherwise it’s called pita.  Pita is phyllo dough stuffed with cheese, spinach, or potato, usually baked in a large pan and afterwards cut into manageable(ish) slabs for selling.   To buy pita and bürek you usually have to go to a special shop called a buregdzinica.

Another staple of Bosnian cuisine, cevapi, is also best purchased at its own specialty restaurant.  Cevapi (or cevapcici if they are small) are grilled minced meat sausages.  Typically cevapi are served with onions, a cheesey spread, and a traditional bread called somun.  Cevapi make a quick meal and can be purchased at one of many cevabdzinica.  Around lunch time everyone in the city seems to be sitting at a cevabdzinica chowing down!

To end with dessert (always), among the many souvenir shops, coffee shops, and restaurants in the old city center, there’s a small baklava shop, aptly named Baklava Shop.  Baklava, like pita and bürek, are also made from flaky phyllo dough, but that’s where their similarities stop.  Baklava are super sweet, stuffed with nuts, soaked in honey.  It took me a long time to like baklava because of the intense sweetness and almost overpowering honey flavor.  What I liked a lot about the baklava shop was that there were so many different flavors.  I tried three: pistachio, chocolate, and walnut.  Each cost 1,50 KM.  Of the three I tried, I was most disappointed by the walnut, which had good flavor but an odd texture.  I was impressed by the chocolate baklava, which tasted like a brownie soaked in honey.  Definitely something I had never seen before!   Unfortunately I can’t tell you the name of the street where you can find the baklava shop, as the streets in old town are a complete maze BUT I do know if you wander just off the main square, Bascarsija, you’ll find your way there!

Halloumi & Couscous

Delicious Cypriot fried cheese and couscous packed with red veggies makes for a quick and easy meal!

halloumi01

Reader, have you ever had halloumi?  I first had it in 2011 and I fell in love with it right away.  It’s a hard, salty brined cheese from Cyprus (also popular in places like Turkey and Greece) that is served fried or grilled in large slabs.  Sometimes it’s called “grill cheese.”  If you like feta cheese, or any cheese really, you should see if you can find halloumi at your local grocery store and whip up some for dinner.

Making halloumi is so simple.  All you do is pop it in a pan with some oil for a few minutes and BOOM, done.  Tasty fried cheese.

I also really enjoy eating couscous, especially in the summer when I try to use the stove as little as possible.  It’s basically pasta, and so in the summer as my potential pasta meals–on nights when I don’t want to cook, or at lunchtime when I need something quick but don’t want a sandwich–become couscous meals.  I’ve included one recipe below, but you can really use whatever you want.  This roasted veggie version is great but involves turning on the oven so it isn’t ideal for those realllly hot July days.  Of course, you can skip the roasting and use fresh veggies!  If I were to make this now rather than six weeks ago when I had a kitchen, I probably wouldn’t have roasted them.

Anyway, I’m off to do some more exploring in Croatia, so once again excuse the short post!  And please, if you haven’t had halloumi, go try it!

Halloumi & Couscous

serves 2

For the halloumi

  • 1 – 8 oz block of halloumi cheese, cut into 4 slices
  • olive oil for frying
  • black pepper, to taste

For the couscous

  • 1 red pepper
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry couscous (I used whole-wheat)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.  Drizzle red pepper with olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes. Rotate the pepper as needed.  Add the tomatoes, also drizzled with olive oil, and continue roasting for about another 15 minutes until very tender.  Set aside to cool.  When cool, peel and chop the red pepper and halve the tomatoes.  (Or skip the roasting entirely and use the fresh vegetables.)

In your favorite couscous receptacle (I like to use a large tupperware), place the 1/2 cup of couscous.  Pour the boiling water on top, and cover the container with a lid.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes before stirring in your peppers and tomatoes.

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat.  When hot (water flicked onto the surface should “dance” and sizzle), place the four slices of halloumi in the pan.  Sprinkle with black pepper (don’t add any salt!).  Cook on one side until golden brown, then flip and cook until the other side is golden brown.  Total cooking time should be about 5 minutes.  If the cheese seems like it’s sticking to the pan, it probably needs another 30 seconds or minute on that side.

Serve hot!

Chocolate-Raspberry Sweet Rolls {Daring Kitchen}

This month the Daring Bakers kept our creativity rolling with cinnamon bun inspired treats. Shelley from C Mom Cook dared us to create our own dough and fill it with any filling we wanted to craft tasty rolled treats, cinnamon not required!

sweet rolls01a

Reader, I am having a blast at this field school.  We’re not doing anything too strenuous thus far, other than spending 3-4 hours each morning learning limestone carving techniques.  And by that I mean I spend 3-4 hours pounding on a massive limestone block.  The only downside is I seem to not have inherited my stonecarver great-great-grandfather’s hands, as mine blister pretty easily.  Apparently.

After a morning of slamming hammers and chisels into limestone, afternoons involve sketching and swimming.  The sketching is required, the swimming is encouraged.  It’s a small field school, so all of us students have quickly become friendly.   The drawback to the whole school is we eat out or get cafeteria food a lot.  Like, all meals except one so far, which is so not what I’m used to.  We also have pretty limited options right now as we’re staying at a school.  Meat overload.  Croatians certainly like their beef.  However, the way we’ve been eating has given me the chance to be a food explorer.  I discovered I can add sea bass to the list of fish that I like (it currently consists of fried white fish, canned tuna, and salmon).  And that even if it’s Croatian prosciutto rather than Italian or Austrian, I’m not really a fan.

I miss my kitchen for sure.

sweet rolls02a

Anyway, these were one of the last things I made before moving out of my apartment three weeks ago.  At home we don’t make sweet rolls with raised dough, we do whole wheat biscuit dough filled with cinnamon and brown sugar.  I’ll pump my mom for a recipe sometime and share it with you, because I think it’s my favorite type of cinnamon roll.  However, with this month’s Daring Bakers Sweet Rolls challenge, I thought I’d try a filling completely different from anything I’d ever had in a roll.  Chocolate and raspberry isn’t a totally original flavor combination, but it’s a delicious one.  An oldie but a goodie.

The original recipe is for “Chocolate Chip Cookie Sweet Rolls.”  It’s supposed to taste like cookies, and the dough definitely does.  I will certainly be using this dough recipe again the next time I want to make special raised sweet rolls.  I had a little trouble with my filling being super wet, and I think it was from the raspberries being too juicy even though I tossed them with cornstarch before using them.  The parts that didn’t get soggy were definitely tasty!

Chocolate-Raspberry Sweet Rolls

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Makes 8-9 rolls

For the dough

  • 1 cup milk (I used skim)
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (I used half vanilla sugar as I had no vanilla to add to the filling)
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used a 1/2 cup whole wheat and the rest white)
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

For the filling

  • 2 T butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 granulated sugar
  • 3.5 oz raspberries, tossed with 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions

In a medium saucepan, gently heat the milk and canola oil until it is just warm enough to dissolve the sugar.  Stir in sugar, and remove from heat.  Let cool until lukewarm, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Add the yeast and 2 cups flour to the milk mixture.  Stir until completely incorporated.  It will be extremely sticky!  Cover and place in a draft-free place and let sit for 1 hour.

Grease a medium pie pan or baking dish (I used a 9×7 nonstick pan).

After an hour, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Roll the rough into a rectangle, about 14×10 inches.  Mix the vanilla and melted butter together, and spread onto the dough.  Sprinkle sugars, raspberries, and chocolate chips on top.  Working with the long edge of the dough, tightly roll and pinch ends closed.  Slice into 8 equal portions, place in baking dish, and cover to let rise for 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

After 20 minutes, place rolls in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

A Room with a View

Hello, Reader!  I totally meant to get a recipe up yesterday (as usual) or today (one day late) but due to unforeseen difficulties and circumstances out of my control, I’m getting wayyy behind on posts.  I’ve got about forty-five minutes of free time, so I just thought I’d post something quick so you know why I’ve been slacking, and try to get back to recipes soon!  Hope you enjoy the travel photos as well as the food posts.

A Room with a View

I’m currently doing a historic preservation field school in Croatia.  We’ve been orienting ourselves in terms of local history, cultural, and architectural techniques by visiting different types of settlements, from abandoned villages to Roman palaces.  We’re starting our first real preservation projects tomorrow on the island of  Brač, where we’re currently staying!  This is the view.

You can see more of my travel photos here.