All posts filed under: Europe

slovenia.food.recipe.img_0375

Braided Heart Bread | Pleteno Srce

We are closing in on spring …  that special time of year, when weddings and baby showers sprinkle our calendars, and everything is awash in the promise of new love. In Slovenia, such times are marked with Pleteno Scre – an ornamental, braided, tender loaf of bread, shaped into a heart. Pleteno Scre is an honored gift. The slightly sweet loaves are painstakingly decorated with edible tokens, like wedding rings and flowers (as I have done), or even astonishingly detailed birds, or paper thin leaves that seem to crackle under the slightest breeze. This art form takes time to master, so I stuck with simple flowers, a wreath, and rings. The best part is that this is something you can do as a family. Little ones love to have a piece of dough to play with. Mashing and rolling, twisting and turning – it’s what they do best. Ava didn’t even want to make any shapes for the heart – she just wanted to play next to me, while I worked. It was sweet. And …

default-image

Menu: Slovenia

“Pray for a good harvest, but keep on hoeing.” – Slovenian Proverb This old Slovenian proverb teaches a clear lesson: it is the work we put into life that ultimately leads to the “good harvest.” We must roll up our sleeves and put in the hard hours and back breaking labor. There’s simply no escaping it. Case in point: Slovenia is known for her comforting food, seemingly plucked straight from the countryside, but much goes into the effort, whether it be the extra fancy, ornate Pleteno Srce bread, or the slowly simmered soup. There’s love, finesse, and more than a bit of decor in each. Even with spring right on the edge of the horizon, we can’t be sure when the warm times will come. So… let’s stay cozy with Slovenia until winter finally breaks for the year. And let’s keep on hoeing. *All recipes and meal review will be available throughout the week. Bean n’ Barley Soup | Ričet [Recipe] If you’re wondering how Slovenians spend a cold winter’s afternoon, Ričet is the answer. Imagine a …

Ptuj, Slovenia. Photo by Marcin Gierszner.

About the food of Slovenia

This week we explore a land of sharp mountains and sunlit grasses, where sheep meander and grapevines hang heavy with fruit. This is Slovenia, a natural wonderland, a place where the simple way of life is preferred. Nowhere is this clearer, than in the food. There are salads of bitter dandelion greens (harvested from right outside the back door) tossed with potato and hard-boiled egg, and bowls of sliced cucumbers in sour cream.  There are turnip strudels (!) and cranberry stuffed omelets (!!). The ingredients are common, but the combination is anything but… Like most of the region, potato dumplings are considered a mighty good thing. It’s that age old search for comfort… an itch that can also be scratched with homemade rye bread accompanied by barley bean soup  [Recipe], carrot turnip soup, buckwheat balls, or plated sausages. Speaking of bread, Slovenia also has an incredible assortment of baked goods, from the glorious rye breads (which we tried with Belarus)  to intricately braided wedding breads [Recipe], Easter rolls, fig or olive bread, nut or fig potica (or even …

slovakia.food.recipe.img_9989

Monday Meal Review: Slovakia

“Everything bad is good for something.” – Slovak Proverb Have you ever done something, only to find it didn’t work out as you’d planned… but somehow it worked out even better? Last week I casually substituted a video for my written meal review. I thought it’d be a fun change of pace- a more visceral experience for you. Almost immediately, the comments filled with a resounding “no,” – an outcry that was astonishing both in it’s passion as in it’s consistency. Almost every single person felt the same way, which is remarkable in itself. And the fact that every comment was worded thoughtfully, kindly, and compassionately? So awesome. As I read through the comments, I was moved by your devotion to the blog and especially to the written word, referred to as a ‘dying art’ by some. I thought about your responses while I cooked this week’s comforting menu – soup, bacon bread, and blueberry bubbly cake. Maybe it was a subconscious move on my part – after last week, a big bowl of coziness was just the …

slovakia.food.recipe.img_9787

Slovak Sour Bean Soup

When winter raindrops slide down the glass… when the droplets are  so close to ice that they sting on my wind-chapped face… there’s nothing better than a piping hot bowl of soup. Thankfully for me, Slovakia knows what’s what in this department. The fine people of Slovakia could probably make this staple soup with their eyes shut, and – for the first part, at least – that’s exactly what they do. While the house slumbers under the bright moon, a quiet bowl of bean sits in the shadows, soaking overnight. In the morning, after a big stretch, the softened beans are put to a bubble with bits of bacon (or perhaps a ham hock), potato, and – not to be forgotten – a splash of vinegar. The whole thing is thickened with sour cream and flour (or sometimes cream). The result is a bowl of warm, thick goodness – but of course every family has their own version… versions so good, you’ll want to snag a bite (or three) from under each other’s noses.   While traditional …

slovakia.food.recipe.img_9850

Grilled Garlicky Bacon Bread | Hrianka

“Better to eat bread in peace, than cake amidst turmoil.” – Slovak Proverb Oh, Slovakia. My husband has been woo’d, my daughter smitten. As for me, I’m in love. No, it’s not because of Valentine’s Day. It’s because of Bacon. Garlic. Oh, and a nice, thick slice of Sourdough Rye Bread. Yes… Slovakia really did us in when it comes to Hrianka. At her most basic, Hrianka is plain toast rubbed with garlic. At her most beautiful, she’s a collection of hearty slices griddled in hot bacon drippings, then rubbed with cloves of fresh garlic. And so my heart sings on… Serves 2 Ingredients: 5 slices of bacon 2 large slices bread (rye or sourdough a plus) 1 large clove garlic Method: Fry up that bacon. Eat the bacon. Or perhaps use it to garnish some Slovak Sour Bean Soup (recipe coming soon). Now for the fun. Griddle your bread in the drippings. Health Tip: If you have too many drippings, you can just brush both sides of the bread with a little to taste …

slovakia.food.recipe.img_0213

Blueberry Bublanina | Bubbly Cake

From early springtime all the way into the deep heart of fall, Slovakia’s mountains and hills burst with nature’s bounty. For those who search, a perpetual harvest reveals herself. Here, trees swoon with the weight of delightfully sour cherries, juicy, grapes, apricots, and apples. There, bushes bloom with blueberries, woodsy and sweet. This land, surely, is magic. When there is more fruit than can be gathered in an apron, Slovakia makes Bublanina, a.k.a. Bubbly Cake. Just one secret makes this slightly sweet cake light and fluffy: whipped egg whites. Fruit, sliced, chunked, or left whole, is scattered across the foamy surface and, as the cake puffs up in the oven, it bubbles around the fruit. Some fruit sinks down. Some fruit does not. Once out of the oven, the whole thing is covered with a cloud of powdered sugar, until even the air around it tastes sweet. It’s all kinds of whimsical and the perfect way to ring in the hope of spring (I promise it’s coming – I even witnessed a few daffodil leaves …

menu-slovakia

Menu: Slovakia

This week is a culinary jackpot: a frugal collection of recipes, good for using up bread, beans, and bacon fat. While I had no idea Slovakia would be this enticing, Keith said “just looking at the ingredients on the counter, I knew I’d be happy.” And speaking of happy, I thought I’d share a great Slovakian quote about happiness… “He’s so pleased, he keeps getting younger.”* I love it.. although I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure what it means… All recipes and posts will be shared throughout the week. Grilled Garlicky Bacon Bread | Hrianka [Recipe] This is quite possibly the most amazing recipe in the course of this blog. Thick slices of bread griddled in bacon drippings, then rubbed with raw garlic. Easy. Smart. Bacony. Hello, friend. Slovak Sour Bean Soup [Recipe] This is stick-to-your-ribs comfort, as good as any creamy potato soup the world around… but with it’s own regional twist: a splash of vinegar and a swirl of sour cream. Inside you’ll also find beans and bacon. Win. Win. Quick Blueberry Bublanina [Recipe] The …

Vrbové, city center. Photo by Stanislav Doronenko.

About the food of Slovakia

Just when I thought I’d seen the most beautiful castles in the world, Slovakia slides into my vision. Her mighty mountains, sparkling lakes, and deep forests are as lovely as any other in Eastern Europe, but the castles are simply unreal. It is not the architecture that speaks most strongly to me, but the way these stopping posts for the weary hearted reach out of nature with almost alarming boldness. One look can lead a dreamer to distraction. I can’t help but wonder…What lives once stood small and proud amid these mighty walls? A view like this can keep love alive for centuries… just nestle me somewhere in this photo and I’ll live out my days content. Call me an eternal romantic. I don’t mind. I’d rather have a heart that melts like a waterfall than a one of clammy stone. The best part? The castles aren’t Slovakia’s only comforts. Step out of the cool air, into their welcoming homes, and you’ll find kitchens a-bubble with the warmth of hearty stews – beans, pork, or …

default-image

Monday Meal Review: Serbia

Oh, goodness. Where to start? As you may already know, tremendous, life-changing things are in the works with National Geographic. I don’t have all the details yet, but what I do know I shared our Facebook page, so go take a peek. Friends, this is pure insanity. All I can say, is that it’s amazing where a little imagination – a little stovetop travel – can take us. Rest assured, when I know more, I’ll be writing it up here on the blog. Until then, we’ll have to settle ourselves with the requisite happy dance and a healthy dose of humble gratitude. What else can we do when National Geographic is on the line? Ironically, everything else this week was pure chaos. All three of us were ill (in day-long, misery-laden shifts, I might add), my cooking was in shambles – I had to remake the musaka twice (the first time Ava gobbled it up eagerly, the second time was post illness and, well, the results are in the video), worse yet, I made the cake three times and at no …

serbia.food.recipe.img_5924

Serbian Salad

Although the air still hangs crisp with winter, seed sowing season is nearly upon us – that time of year when the window sills of the industrious are stocked with small, peat lined plastic containers. With careful gifts of water and radiant window light, small seeds will crack open and send vivid green shoots through the black, crumbling soil, into the glow. In a few months time, these brave seedlings will make their way outdoors, into the deep, hot sunshine, where they will mature into edible gardens.  Food for our souls. Today, we’re imagining ourselves in this garden, though winter is still upon us. And we’re doing it by nibbling upon a Serbian Salad. This isn’t a recipe, so much as a guide to freshness. The key to a beautiful Serbian salad is simplicity – cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers, topped with oil and vinegar… and especially cheese. You want to grate the cheese over the top until your salad looks like a snow-capped mountain. Serves 4 Ingredients: 3 vine-ripened tomatoes 1 cucumber 1 bell pepper …

serbia.food.recipe.img_5954

Potato Musaka

Every once in a while we need chow down on good, ol’ fashioned home cooking. The kind that reminds us of mom, checkered aprons, and creaky kitchen chairs. We all need this edible comfort, especially when the wind chill drops down into the single digits. Keith informed me that, against all odds, I happened upon one such recipe when I selected Potato Musaka for our Serbian Global Table. “This is kind of like my mom’s ‘Hobo dinner,’” Mr Picky said, after his first taste. “Hobo what?” I asked, brow furrowed. I need not have worried. Clearly this was a good thing; he forked bite after bite of the layered potatoes and ground pork into his mouth, working quickly, looking more like a teenager than a 40-something who generally shows more restraint around food than I can fathom. After scraping his plate clean, he went back for seconds. Then thirds. He’s in good company. Potato Musaka is much beloved in the Balkans, especially in Serbia. She’s quite similar to her somewhat sloppier cousin, Eggplant Moussaka which can …