All posts filed under: Montenegro

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Monday Meal Review: Montenegro

I’m at the grocery store, eyeing shelf upon shelf of neatly stacked packages of noodles. There are about 25 brands – each boasting some variation of regular, whole wheat, gluten-free, or loaded-with-spinach pasta. Three feet over there’s another 5 brands sitting pretty in the chiller. These are the fresh pastas. The ones that taste like you made them yourself. The ones that cost $10 for two servings. Hello. I feel my anxiety mounting. Deep breath. It’s just pasta. It’s just pasta. How difficult can it be? But it is difficult. So. many. choices. And yet, between these 30 brands of pasta, I cannot find anything labeled buckwheat – the noodles I need for my Montenegrin Global Table. I inquire and a kind grocery clerk leads me over to the international aisle, where I find another 15 brands of pasta. Rice noodles and squiggly ramen fill most of the shelves. The clerk gestures on the bottom row, just by my ankle. There it is – three brands of buckwheat noodles. The clerk casually adds that there …

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Chilled Buckwheat Noodle Salad with Feta & Cracked Black Pepper

It only seems natural that we eat something black during our week at the Black Mountain (a.k.a Montenegro).  But here’s the thing – nothing in life is black and white. There are all sorts of shades of gray (that’s where the beauty is – somewhere in the muddled middle). So, in the spirit of variety, we’re adding a few shades of gray to our pasta. We’ve got black pepper, white feta, and charcoal grey buckwheat noodles with a bit of sparkle from pools of golden olive oil. This is simple as can be and a fantastic chilled pasta salad for a hot summer’s day. And did I mention? It’s also gluten-free. You can buy buckwheat noodles (a.k.a. soba noodles) or make them yourself for a fun afternoon project. I tried this both ways and, while I loved the satisfaction of making the noodles myself, I also loved the easy, breezy simplicity of popping open a package of pre-made buckwheat noodles and having dinner on the table less than ten minutes later. NOTE: You can find buckwheat/soba noodles …

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Balkan Burger

You don’t have to know how to pronounce it to enjoy eating it. Pljeskavica. If this long, meandering string of letters makes you stutter, just clap your hands, because that’s what Pljeskavica means – the sound of hands clapping as the “Balkan burger” patties are formed. And this is not just a big word. This is big food. This is the original “super-size.” Not only are the patties large enough to cover a small plate, they contain as many as 6 cuts of meat from three different animals.  Everyone has their variation and you’ll typically find beef, lamb, and pork (for non-Muslims) in every bite. The entire animal is fair game. You can’t help but smile as your mouth stretches open with every bite. While each region (country, town, family, person!) has their own variation, most chow down on pljeskavica with a knife and fork. More recently, tucking the patty inside lepina, or thick pita bread with onion and tomato, is gaining popularity. Either way, don’t forget to slather each bite with roasted ajvar spread! For …

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Roasted Pepper Spread | Ajvar

Some days I dream about reinventing myself – pulling myself up, out of the ordinary into the wildly wonderful. On these ornery-sorts-of-days, I imagine myself strutting around in a bold color I’ve never worn before, like mustard yellow. On really good days I actually make these dreams happen. I become a mustard-wearing queen. Other days I just end up wearing mustard. Literally. That’s the way life goes: sometimes change works, sometimes it doesn’t. The fun is in the trying. Are you willing to reinvent yourself – even just a little? What about your eating habits? Today, in the spirit of trying something new, we’re going to reinvent our ketchup eating habits. Here’s how it’s going to work: instead of slathering our food with globs and globs of ketchup, we’re going to be bold, sassy, and totally Balkan. We’re going to slather it in Ajvar. Ajvar is a pepper spread popular all over the Balkans. Typically made with fresh, roasted paprika peppers and (sometimes) eggplant, the bright garden flavor goes great with all manner of meat, especially burgers. The versatile …

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Menu: Montenegro

I might be a little ahead of myself this week. I can’t help it. People have been asking me when the pools open. Women are wearing sun dresses and sunglasses.  On Sunday Ava said “my head is crying,” with a look of astonishment, as beads of sweat dripped down her head after a good play session. You see, way back in April the weather spiked straight up, into the 80s and 90s. It might be May, but we might as well be in the heart of summer. I’m ready to kick off my shoes, run through the sprinkler, and eat a summery meal outside, in the sunshine. Good news. This week’s menu can make that happen. The great thing about being at the Montenegrin Global Table during this heat wave is how much of the food can be made on the grill. How much can be enjoyed in the great outdoors. In fact, two of our dishes are grilled and the other is happily served chilled. That’s summer eatin’ if you ask me. So slide up your chair …

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Black Lake, Montenegro. Photo by Nije Bitno.

About the food of Montenegro

This week we’re eating Montenegro – where the mountains reach right up, into the clouds, like giant forks. By all appearances, they hold up the very sky herself. And then there are Montenegro’s lakes which sparkle like eternal springtime. With beauty that has even captured National Geographic’s attention for their coveted magazine cover photo, Montenegro is at once rugged and disarmingly serene. Funny that the country means “Black Mountain,” a name which sounds straight out of Lord of the Rings, because as far as I can tell, there’s nothing even a little sinister about her beauty. This eastern European country is home to an array of comforting dishes which will seem Yugoslavian (thanks to being part of Yugoslavia), as well as a little Italian, somewhat Hungarian, a tad Turkish, a bit Asian, and – of course – very, very Montenegrin. One dish that I didn’t expect to see on the list of specialties was Buckwheat pasta (a.k.a. soba noodles in Japan) tossed with feta and olive oil [Recipe]. In fact, I had never realized buckwheat noodles were …

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