Month: July 2010

Photo Courtesy of The Bulgarian National Museum of History

Three Interesting Facts About Bulgaria (with Poll)

It’s a beautiful morning here in Tulsa. The birds are chirping, the sky is blue, and Keith got up with the baby last night! Here’s a few fun facts … Bulgarian Rose oil Bulgaria is one of the world’s largest producers of rose oil. This liquid gold is used to flavor chocolates, liqueurs, and jams. Oh, and rose scented perfume, but you shouldn’t eat that. The primary producer is called the Valley of the Roses (located in central Bulgaria, in the town of  Kazanluk). Hidden treasures in Bulgaria In 1985, a villager from Rogozen was digging a well in his vegetable garden and unearthed 165 silver and gold vessels. The loot is now on display in Bulgaria. This is just one of several similar stories! What would you do if you found treasure in your garden? Turn it in, sell it, or keep it? Yogurt & cheese are staples Cheese and yogurt are extremely popular in Bulgaria. Sirene cheese is salty, crumbly, and firm – much like feta. Kashkaval is technically the Bulgarian term for any …

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Savory Cheese Pastry | Banitsa

Serves 6 My husband is officially in love with Bulgaria. To be fair, he didn’t stand a chance. Second only to pure sugar, Keith loves anything that includes butter, pastry, or cheese. This recipe boasts all three, and in eye-popping quantities. Not to say it was love at first sight. It wasn’t. After all, my pastry skills are minimal. But, hey, we can all use a little forgiveness in the kitchen, from time to time. Especially when it comes to pastries. Thankfully, phyllo dough spreads, puffs and crackles haphazardly, hiding flaws brilliantly. Bulgarians serve this vegetarian cheese pastry room temperature or cold with plain yogurt on the side. Add spinach for a healthy variation. Note: Bulgarian yogurt, a little runny and decidedly tangy, is available for purchase at health food stores. Ingredients: 6 eggs 1/2 tsp baking soda 3/4 lb sirene cheese (or feta) 1/2-1 stick butter 1/2 package of thawed phyllo dough (about 21 individual sheets) Method: 1. Preheat oven to 350F. Melt some butter. NOTE: You’ll need half a ton of butter, or …

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Menu: Bulgaria

We’ve been huddled around the air conditioner for, oh, about 2 months now. That’s why, this week, I’m making a completely “cool” dinner, made possible by Bulgaria. Thank goodness for chilled soup, dips, drinks, and pastries. Mmm. P.S. This meal just so happens to be vegetarian (with one vegan dish). Chilled Cucumber Soup (Tarator) [Recipe] Refreshing blend of Bulgarian yogurt and cucumber, with a hint of garlic. Garnish with dill and/or crushed walnuts. Savory Cheese Pastry (Banitsa) [Recipe] Phyllo dough filled with salty cheese, egg, and baking soda. Quick, easy, and impressive. Serve room temperature or chilled. Roasted Eggplant & Bell pepper dip (Kyopolou) [Recipe] Smoky roasted eggplant, bell pepper, and tomatoes pureed with fresh garlic, parsley, vinegar, and olive oil. A great dip for parties, kyopolou is best served the day after preparation. Vegan. Chopped Salad (Shopska Salata) [Recipe] We made Shopska Salata for Bosnia and Herzegovina. This refreshing tomato, pepper, red onion, and feta cheese salad is also popular in Bulgaria, with the common addition of sliced cucumbers. Iced Fruit Drink (Kompot) [Recipe] …

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About Bulgarian Food

Bulgaria will always make me smile. Exactly one week before I was to cook our Bulgarian Global Table, a young man from – you guessed it – Bulgaria came knocking on our door. I still haven’t pick my jaw up off the floor. I live on a tiny street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for goodness sakes! These things just don’t happen. Tall, gawky and very kind, Nick had one mission: to sell educational children’s books during his summer break. When my mother discovered the origins of his thick accent, she threw caution to the wind and pulled him inside. Cornered, he had no choice but to cooperate while I gave him the third degree. What did you eat as a child? What’s your favorite dessert? After thirty minutes, when the color had completely drained from his face, I finally let him talk to me about his books. It was the least I could do. I learned several important points from Nick. Bulgarians eat many of the things we eat here, in the United States. “We have …

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Monday Meal Review: Brunei

Thanks Brunei. You have lovely curries, interesting rice, and tasty vegetables. However, you have the most impossible dessert. I am both amazed and impressed that there are people who are able to make Getuk Lindri properly. I wish I was one of them. My family, while they appreciated my effort, barely took a nibble-taste and left the rest for the birds. Come to think of it, do birds eat yucca? Hmm. Thank goodness I redeemed myself with Sayur Lodeh and Lontong. Together, these two dishes make dinner a special occasion, like eating out, but better – because we were at home. Shrimp and Vegetable Curry (Sayur Lodeh) [Recipe] What I liked most about this dish: Rich, creamy curry made with coconut milk is my absolute favorite way to enjoy coconut (although I do love me some Spiked Coconut Water on a wicked hot day). Sayur Lodeh also has the benefit of being incredibly versatile. Any number of vegetables can be mixed in – why not try eggplant or loofah? A nice vegetarian option would be …

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Yucca/Cassava Balls | Getuk Lindri

Makes two dozen Mildly sweet, bite-sized balls of mashed, sweetened cassava (yucca). This unusual treat is a big hit in Brunei. Read on to learn my struggles with this dessert. My first epic fail. Ingredients: 1/2 cup sugar 1/8 cup water 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 1 pound cassava root, peeled, rough fibers removed, and cubed 1/4 tsp salt red & green food coloring Method: 1. Peel and cube cassava (yucca). Steam for 30 minutes or until cooked. 2. Add sugar, water, and vanilla extract to a small saucepan. Heat over low until sugar dissolves. This is unbleached organic sugar, which is why it looks a little darker. Vanilla extract is possibly the best thing in the whole wide world. Don’t forget that bit of salt. 3. Now, let the games begin. I fought and fought to get my cassava (yucca) smooth, creamy, and without fibers. The battle ended with a food mill, but I’m not sure, even then, that I got everything out. I may have stomped my feet around and yelled a few times. …

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Shrimp and Vegetable Curry | Sayur Lodeh

Serves 4 This yellow, mild curry is a great way to mix up monotonous meal plans. A little spice and creamy coconut milk do the trick for a show-stoppingly good meal. Ingredients: Rempah Curry Spice Mix 1 can coconut milk 1/2 cup water 1/2 head of green cabbage, thinly sliced 3 cups mushrooms, sliced 3 cups long beans or green beans, trimmed and cut into small pieces 2 carrots, sliced 16 shrimp vegetable oil Method: 1. Add rempah to hot vegetable oil in a large pan and cook for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant and slightly browned. Add one beautiful, thick can of coconut milk. And a little water to thin things out. 2. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop your veggies. First the cabbage. Cabbage is so underrated. Then the mushrooms. If you don’t love them like I do, add something you love. Or just leave them out. Mmm, into the pan. I like to pretend the mushrooms have to to be in the dish, so my husband has to eat …

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Curry Spice Mix | Rempah

Makes enough for about 2 curries (more if you like them mild) Rempah, a common curry blend in Brunei, will infuse your meal with the most haunting flavors of garlic, ginger, lemongrass… spicy chili pwder and golden turmeric. The entire kitchen smells like paradise when you cook with Rempah. PS. You can use this in our recipe for Sayur Lodeh. Ingredients: 1/8 cup cashews 1 onion, chopped 3 cloves garlic 1 tsp chili powder 1 tsp ground turmeric 1 tsp ground coriander 1 Tbsp belachan or anchovy paste 1 Tbsp chopped, fresh lemongrass 1″ fresh ginger, chopped 1 Tbsp vegetable oil Method: 1. Add all ingredients to a small food processor. The fresh lemongrass is actually from my garden! It looks like a giant piece of overgrown grass, but with the most incredible, lemony-spring scent. Clip the lemongrass as close to the ground as you can. Here’s what not to do: The bottom ends have all sorts of tasty goodness that gets infused into the curry, when it cooks. Don’t forget the bechalon/anchovy paste. It …

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The Durians of Brunei (with polls)

I don’t think I told you. Keith’s been out of town all week so my mom’s been helping me and Ava pass the time. An extended pajama party, really. We’ve been to the water park, played with dollies, cooked, cleaned, torn apart my closets and made mounds of donations. We’ve been really busy and had tons of fun, but today I’m just counting the hours until I see my sweetie. He’ll be home at five. Tick. Tick. Tick. Is it five yet? What are you counting down to? Help pass a little time with these fun facts (and poll) from Brunei. Happy Friday! Brunei Fun Facts: Brunei is in both the northern and western hemispheres. I guess that technically makes Brunei a country with “food around the world” within its own borders. Relative humidity is high throughout the year, averaging 93%. That’s so humid, it might as well rain! Food is passed and eaten with the right hand only. The left hand is considered unclean. One exception – when holding a heavy plate with the …

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Rice in Banana Leaves (Lontong)

The people of Brunei are brilliant. I’ve got proof – the lontong. This compact, slightly perfumed packet of white rice, stuffed inside a banana leaf, is portable, sliceable, flavorful, and affordable. Oh, and cutting the rice logs up into neat coins makes for easy portion control. Well. Ok. I’ll be honest. The coins just make it easier to pop a hundred million of them into my mouth. Yum. Lontong represents everything I love about food around the world. While we share similar staples – rice, potato, pasta, beans – it is the seasoning and the preparation which gives each country a unique spin. In the case of lontong, banana leaves infuse long grain rice with an earthy, grassy flavor. The result is mild “other-worldliness” – and insane, instantaneous addiction. I totally get why lontong is adored throughout Indonesia. Kids will love the novelty of this savory treat with curry and soups. Serve at room temperature or chilled.   Ingredients: 2 cups white long grain rice 4 cups water (or 2 cups water and 2 cups …