Month: November 2010


About the Food of Cuba

Beam me up, Scotty. I’m ready for incredible stews, rich soups, and mind-blowing sandwiches. I’m ready for Cuba. Heck – it isn’t even all that spicy. Just flavorful goodness. Count me in. Most of my Cuban research kept linking me back to Florida. There’s one big reason – the size of Cuba (it is the largest country in the Caribbean)- and one simple reason – how close it is to Florida. Still authentic Cuban food has a distinct identity, whether it is enjoyed on the island or in the United States. That being said, let’s start with the famous Cuban Sandwich (recipe). Incredible.  Soft, fresh Cuban bread is a must (recipe), which is then topped with roast pork, ham, pickles, mustard, and swiss cheese. Some include salami and provolone. Others shout blasphemy. Either way, they all get pressed like a panini and toasted through and through. While I’m always in the mood for a good sandwich, you might not be. So be it.  There’s more goodness to be found. Cuba is one of several countries …

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Monday Meal Review: Croatia

I gave the wine bottle opener a final twist of the wrist, dropped the bunny ears, and smiled at the satisfying “pop” as the cork released the wine to the air. I brought my nose closer and gave the bottle a  cautious sniff. I wanted it to be bad. Terrible. One step shy of vinegar would be okay. But I knew. I knew that, having paid an exorbitant fee of $5 for the wine, I was probably destined for a perfectly mediocre bottle. Darn. I took a sip and, as feared, the bottle was not terrible. I swished it around my mouth like mouthwash. On second thought, there were some slightly sour notes. I could work with that. With two quick motions – splish, splash – I poured the wine together with some cola. Perfectly mediocre wine ruined by … cola. Ugg. I cringed, feeling my brain tighten around the thought. I tried to get Mr. Picky to sample the Bambus first, but he simply smiled at my outstretched hand. Reluctantly, I brought the fizzing …

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Celebration Drink | Bambus

Makes 1 serving Bambus is a creative way to help make poor wine pass. Simply sweeten with equal parts cola and wine. This clever technique is popular in Croatia, as well as many neighboring countries. Ingredients: 1 part cola 1 part “cheap” wine Method: Get a bottle of “cheap” wine. I was looking for Two Buck Chuck, but the liquor store I went to apparently doesn’t sell booze that “cheap,” so I was stuck paying $5 for this Cabernet Sauvignon. The cola was a bit easier to find … Pour together into a glass. We used a wine glass since they are prettier and, plus, there’s still a great deal of wine in this drink! Give it a taste and see… does it make that “cheap” wine taste better? Hmm. What does Mr. Picky think? Here, have a glass. You can play this game, too! Votes: 0 Rating: 0 You: Rate this recipe! Print Recipe Bambus is a creative way to help make poor wine pass. Simply sweeten with equal parts cola and wine. This …

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Warm Christmas Potato Salad | Seasoned Potatoes with Salt Cod

Serves 6 This warm salad benefits from the resourcefulness of Croatians who still enjoy preserved fish with salt. Mixed with creamy red potatoes, a bit of bacon, and green onion – this salad makes a great side dish for any eastern European meal. Ingredients: 1 pound boned, salted codfish 2 lbs red potatoes 3 green onions, sliced thinly fried bacon – 2-4 slices, crumbled olive oil Method: The day before serving: First, gather the salt cod. Salt cod is literally fish packed in salt so that it won’t spoil. Our box came with some nifty directions. Thank goodness since, frankly, I was a little scared. As soon as we opened the box, the scent of fish wafted through the kitchen. The salt looked exactly like snow. Nice fluffy seasalt. If it didn’t smell so fishy, I would have boxed it up and used it on something. But… wow. No choice but to follow the instructions. Rinse the salt off of the fish with cool water. After a little while, the pieces will begin to separate. …

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Ham & Cheese Bread | Prisnats

Makes one 9″ square casserole Breakfasty, bready prisnats are great comfort food. You’ll want to cut the ham smaller or add more flour so the little pieces won’t sink to the bottom. Enjoy warm! Ingredients: 8 eggs, room temperature 8 oz ham steak, cut into small cubes 4 oz bacon diced & fried 3 green onions, sliced 1 cup cottage cheese 1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature 2 cups flour (perhaps up to 2.5 cups so the ham won’t sink) 2 tsp yeast 2 oz Monterey Jack cheese, cubed Method: Preheat the oven to 350F. Meanwhile, gather the ingredients. Beautiful ham… but cut yours 1/2 the size of mine, so they won’t sink. Fresh, green onions. A taste of spring, even in winter. Then, crack 8 eggs into a large bowl and whisk until light and frothy. Add the milk… Cottage cheese… (this makes everything nice and moist) Yeast… And flour… Top it off with the rest of the ingredients…bacon, ham, cheese, and green onion. Pull out the whisk and put in a wooden spoon. …

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Crepes or Pancakes?

Morning, noon, and night, Croatians love a good pancake. There’s just one catch. They aren’t really eating “pancakes,” … if you define pancakes as thick and fluffy, griddle-fried, chemically leavened batter (i.e. baking soda and baking powder). Which… they don’t! So what exactly are they eating? Thin, delicate, crêpe-like “pancakes.” These sort of pancakes don’t have any leavening at all, unless you count a splash of bubbly water.  And they aren’t alone – most of the countries I’ve run into prefer this style of “pancake.” All these fun facts inspired me to write an ode to the Croatian Pancake: Fill ’em with jam, fill ’em with cheese. Eat ’em with ham, eat them for tea! Bake them til bubbling, Eat as many as you please! It’s an amazing work of poetry. I know. I’m expecting a call to be featured on the Writer’s Almanac. Any day now, any day. And that’s about all the fun I can stand this Friday… but, if you’re still looking for amusement, take our poll and hop on over to Jim’s …

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Croatian Holiday Nut Roll | Povatica

It’s all in the wrist. The secret to making good Povatica, that is. This famous Croatian Holiday Nut Roll gives its maker a workout. You will be rolling, and pulling, and stretching the dough until it is thin, thin, thin. We’re talkin’ paper thin, like a curtain of dough, blowing in the breeze. I bet Croatian grandmother’s everywhere compete for the most delicate, thin walled Povatica. (Note this bread is also common- under various names- in other areas, such as Poland, Austria, etc) Unlike cinnamon buns, which ooze fluffy bready goodness as much as anything else, Povatica is all about showing off the filling, framed by delicate layers of bread. And Povatica is worth the effort. Here’s one Croatian’s description of good Povatica: I’ve tasted many different versions of Povatica. Some are made with honey and tend to be heavy, others are too doughy. My grandmother’s version is, to me, the perfect balance of dough and filling. Made properly (with dough stretched thin), it is delectable. My mother put together the recipe while watching my grandmother make the bread, as …

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Menu: Croatia

The leaves outside my window are gold, crimson, and brown, but have yet to fall completely to the ground.  I can’t believe it is already November. In the spirit of the times, I’ve loaded our Croatian meal with holiday foods. So… feel free to spread the table with Balkan cheer this year. Warm Christmas Potato Salad (Seasoned Potatoes with Salt Cod) [Recipe] Red potatoes tossed with salt cod, bacon, green onion, and a splash of fresh olive. This dish is often served at Christmastime in Croatia. Ham and Cheese Bread (Prisnats) [Recipe] Yeasted batter bread loaded with ham, bacon, green onions and cheese. Croatian Holiday Nut Roll (Pavotica) [Recipe] Fill your loaf pans with sweet, doughy Pavotica. This bread hides a lovely spiral sweetened with brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and loads of finely crushed walnuts. Bambus (Celebration Drink) [Recipe] Wondering what to do with subpar wine? Have a little fun, Croatian style, and try mixing it with coca-cola. You’ll be falling in line with the Croatians and many other Balkan countries.

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About the Food of Croatia

Croatia is a rambling collection of mountains and forests with bursts of plains which hide secrets of scrumptious food, wonderful olive oil and tasty, age-old wine. But what about bad wine? Well, if you happen upon such a dismal thing as a bottle of bad wine on their turf, the Croatians (and other nearby countries) know what to do. The remedy includes coca cola or fanta. You’ll just have to wait a week to find out what Mr Picky and I think about that! (Officially, you’ll have to wait another 20 years to get Ava’s take on the whole thing. If you leave it up to me? You ‘ll have to wait another 98.9 years.) Thanks to a meandering and lengthy coastline, eastern Croatia boasts an abundance of seafood, including oysters, shrimp, and other fresh fish.  Eating fish must be like breathing – the houses on the shore literally seem to float on the water. Incredible. For those who like the old standbys our grandmother’s loved, salt cod – literally fish dried and stored in a …

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Monday Meal Review: Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

This week we had a friend join us for our Global Table dinner. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, I assure you – it is.  You see, we aren’t really doing dinner parties any more. I could list all 97.5 reasons but I’d rather highlight the two most important reasons. 1. I don’t like to vacuum. It makes Ava (and my back) cry. 2. We cook during Ava’s nap. This means we’re subject to the whims of a 16 month old. Whether she sleeps 45 minutes or 3 hours, can make or break our… sanity… not to mention our eating schedule. If we even get to finish cooking! But. This week. We mixed things up. We took a risk. We had a friend over. Well, as you know, our kitchen is torn to shreds – the cabinets are being painted and new counters recently went in. Our glassware is on the TV armoire and liquor bottles are strewn about my sofa table. Some days it feels like I am living in a frat house. …

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Fat Rice with Beef & Carrots | Riz au Gras

Serves 6 This spicy one pot dish is a meal unto itself. If you have a band of merry-men coming over for dinner, serve them heaping spoonfuls of this hearty and wholesome rice and they’ll leave with full bellies and even merrier grins. While Riz au Gras is eaten throughout West Africa, 0ur version is from the Ivory Coast as taught me by Linda of Tropical Foodies. NOTE: You may cut down or omit the chili powder if you would like a mild dish. Ingredients: 3 Tbsp vegetable oil 1 small onion, chopped (or half a big one) 4 cloves garlic, crushed 1 lb stew beef, cubed 2 cups white rice 4 cups water 1 1/2 cups tomato puree 1 tsp oregano 1/2 tsp chili powder (for medium heat) salt & pepper Method: Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot. When shimmering, add in two of my BFF’s – onion and garlic. Cook them until translucent and fragrant. Next, increase the heat to medium-high and add seasoned beef. There will be a sizzle as the meat …

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West African Shrimp in Avocado boats

Serves 6 This elegant appetizer showcases creamy avocado and delicate shrimp.  Your guests will never know it only took you a few minutes to throw together (make the shrimp salad an hour or two ahead – cut the avocados immediately before serving). Ingredients: 1/2 lb cooked & cooled shrimp (shelled) 1T ketchup 1T mayo 1/4 of a fresh lime, juice (or to taste) 3 avocados, halved and pitted Method: Cut shrimp into little pieces. Behold the little nuggets of shrimp goodness. A bit of ruby red ketchup for sweetness. And creamy white mayo for richness. That’s how they roll in the Ivory Coast. A splash of lime juice pulls all the flavors together. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Spoon into avocado halves and serve on a pretty platter to pretty people. Preferably by the beach. With a smile. Votes: 0 Rating: 0 You: Rate this recipe! Print Recipe This elegant appetizer showcases creamy avocado and delicate shrimp. Your guests will never know it only took you a few minutes to throw …

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