Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cremini Mushroom Soup for the Winter Solstice

One of my favorite days every year is the day of the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year, after which I know, the day starts growing and the mornings and evenings will not be so dark. 
The soup in my today's menu is easy to prepare and very, very tasty. Do you know what makes it special? The mixture of cremini and wild mushrooms and, of course, the cognac, which adds its specific aroma. This is the source of the recipe.
Bulgarian icon from Etura

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Marinated Raw Red Beet Salad with Shredded Greens

Raw beet salad

The red beets included in this salad are nearly raw - they are not boiled or roasted as most of the recipes call for. They peeled and cut into chunks beets are just added to a hot marinade for some hours. Hot marinated beetroot is crisp, but not as hard as the raw one and it is packed full of flavor due to absorbing the taste of the marinade. All the important nutrients are preserved that way. Vinegar prevents the nice red color from leaking out and balances well with the clear sweetness of the honey.
So you get a salad which is healthy, beautiful and full of taste.
If you wanna try a delicious salad with raw red beet without marinade, I highly recommend you this one.
Marinated raw beet

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dolmades with Minced Meat (Bulgarian Sarmi with Vine Leaves and Meat)

Dolmades (called in Bulgarian ‘Sarmi’) are perceived as a strictly Greek dish, which is a kind of misunderstanding. Rice stuffed grape leaves (which are vegetarian and very tasty) or meat stuffed vine leaves are specific for all the countries on the Balkan peninsula and are widely served in Bulgaria and Turkey. In fact, they are probably part of the heritage of the Ottoman cuisine (even the word 'dolma' used in Greece has a Turkish origin) and every nation has adapted the recipes in line with the specific taste of the population. Stuffed grape leaves take a little bit of time to prepare and require some patience, but nothing is as tasty as the slow food prepared at home. Meat dolmades are served warm with a dollop of yogurt and vegetarian dolmades are served cold. Another very tasty dish prepared during the winter months in every Bulgarian home are the Sauerkraut rolls with chopped meat. Unlike most of the popular recipes for stuffed vine leaves I pre-cook the rice and the minced meat which provides a far better and intense taste.
Vine leaves

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Baked Carp with Tomato Sauce for Saint Nicholas Day

Baked carp
As I wrote last year, St Nicholas day is one of the widely celebrated feasts in Bulgaria and according to the tradition carp shall be served on the table.
Frankly said, we eat carp only on this day of the year - we definitely prefer the sea creatures or the fast-swimming freshwater fishes like trout. Carp is kind of lazy freshwater fish which tends to contain a lot of fat and has often a kind of strange taste, referred to as muddy. I prefer smaller carps, slightly above 2 pounds (about 1 kg), which contain less fat. 
Today I prepared my carp with some tomatoes and oregano and it was light and tasty.
Baked carp with tomato sauce

Friday, November 14, 2014

Mario Batali's tomato sauce with carrots - naturally sweet and tender

This is the perfect tomato sauce for spaghetti, pizza and meatballs in tomato sauce. There is a 'secret' ingredient which provides natural sweetness and silky taste - carrot. You do not see the carrots in the sauce, but you will deffinitely taste the difference. It is a basic tomato sauce and I've prepared it many times without remembering the source, but I read somewhere lately that this is a Mario Batali's recipe which is quite possible - he knows best how to prepare Italian food. The only difference between his original recipe and this one here is that I add some tablespoons of butter which, according to my opinion provide even more silkyness to the sauce. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Crispy Pork Cracklings for Saint Dimitrius Day

Pork cracklings
Pork cracklings
In spite of being one of the tastiests appetizers which match perfect with a glass of ice-cold beer, pork cracklings are not a type of food poets dedicate poems to.
Most of the women I know think that eating pork skin no matter how prepared, is disgusting. But I love to eat most of the things declinded by 'sophisticated people' - I prepare myself and order in restaurants where offered such things like crispy chicken cracklings (you can not imagine how crunchy they are), trippa alla fiorentinapacha, the typical Bulgarian Shkembe chorbapig trotter's soup...But let's go back to the pork cracklings. They are crunchy and dry on top and melting soft inside.  And something also important - they do not need much time to be prepared. My husband loves them and today I make them for him - he has a nameday. Today is Saint Dimitrius day - one of the most important Orthodox saints who is celebrated every year on October 26. Happy nameday, Dimiter! Wish you all the best!
Saint Dimitrius

Pork cracklings

Monday, September 22, 2014

Greek fried eggplants - Melitzanes tiganites

Along with crispy fried zucchiniTaramosalata and Tirosalata, fried eggplant - Melitzanes Tiganites (μελιτζάνες τηγανητές) is part of nearly every menu of a Greek restaurant, being one of the favorite Greek mezedes. Meze is not just an appetizer you order before the main dish. Close to the Spanish tapas, this is a dish, which accompanies a glass of alcohol - tsipuro, ouzo or just Retsina and people can spend hours enjoying meze and having long talks without moving to heavier dishes. 
One of the most important things while preparing eggplant is not to let it soak too much fat - so there are some important rules, which shall be kept.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Bulgarian stuffed peppers with cheese and eggs - Chushki Bjurek

Bulgarian cheese stuffed peppers

Lots of my memories are related to different smells – cinnamon of a cup of cappuccino sipped on a first date, the clear skin of a baby I kiss, freshly ground coffee, perfume of a friend. I perceive huge part of the world based on smells –every season, every month has a specific smell and the smell of late summer and early autumn is the smell of roasted peppers.  At least it was. During my childhood there were no air conditioners in Bulgaria and the only way to lower the harsh summer heat in the apartments was to keep all the windows wide open. And August and September were the months for home canning when part of all the abundance of vegetables available in this sunny country was put in small and larger jars for the winter months. Homemade is always better than anything you can buy. So this was the time for roasting peppers in large amounts. The distinctive smoky aroma of the roasted peppers went through the open kitchen windows, filled the streets and evoked memories and imagination.  
In today’s terms, everything prepared with roasted peppers shall be probably called slow food. Because although there are no refined ingredients in the dishes with roasted peppers, they are slow to prepare and require patience and a lot of devotion.
You can do so many things with roasted peppers… for instance Roasted peppers salad, Mish-mush with roasted peppers,  fried roasted peppers with tomato sauce or roasted peppers with charred eggplant dip (Kjopoolu), and of course - Chushki Bjurek .
Chushki Bjurek (hard to pronounce, easy to eat) is a vegetarian dish, which represents roasted red peppers filled and fried with a tasty mixture of crumbled Feta cheese and whisked eggs.
Roasted peppers

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Walnut brittle

Candied walnuts

Candied walnuts or walnut brittles are easy to prepare and they are great as an additive to salads (think about Gorgonsola, mixed greens and candied walnuts salad, which will appear soon here), as an ingredient of a cake or just so - to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee.
Walnut brittle

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Opatia and the different colors of water


Probably in my previous life I was sailor or fisherman, this is the only way I can explain my love to the sea. I learned how to swim with seven and although I've never won a single competition, I feel best in water and especially in the sea. 
The feeling of getting rid of gravity is uncomparable. Swimming slowly, looking around to watch the creatures, while all the bitter thoughts dissolve in water imperceptibly and hours later I get out of the water free and light like after a meditation. Or swimming fast, up to exhaustion, finding my way between layers of water, feeling the rise of my body temperature. Nothing matters in water, no problem seems to be so heavy as it is on the heavy ground. Just water and me. 
Probably this is only one of the reasons I loved Opatia so much. This seaside resort is placed in the northwestern part of Croatia, not too far from a border to Italy and it is called the Pearl of the Adriatic riviera. It has fancy restaurants and cafes, expensive shops and the lungomare - the kilometers long promenade along the sea, but I liked most the water. Because of the bura wind which blows here, water is cold, because of the pebbles it is not turbolent and provides meters of visibility in depth. Its colors change throughout the day, they are different on the different places, so many hues of blue and green. 
And all you have to do is just swim.  
Nothing else matters.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes with Feta Cheese and Kalamata Olives

Quinoa stuffed tomatoesThe theory: Quinoa is named 'superfood', one of the staple foods of the Incas civilization. It has nine essential amino acids, is gluten-freeI and contains lots of magnesium and iron. So, it is good for your health.

The practice: Quinoa has fluffy crunchy texture and nutty taste. It is really very tasty, no matter as a part of a sweet or savoury dish.  

The ingredients: young zucchini, salty kalamata olives, Feta cheese and quinoa. And, of course, do not forget the hot peppers. This stuffing is also excellent as a dish on its own - in that case you can add some lemon juice to increase the acid taste.
Quinoa stuffed tomatoes

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mexican Bean Salad

Like any other dish we prepare at home, this one is based on a certain amount of hot peppers. Here they are paired with crunchy cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, soft avocado and creamy beans Mexican way. Do not forget the onion and tangy lime juice.
This salad is great on its own or with some tortilla chips. Let there be summer!

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Zucchini with Tomatoes and Hot Peppers

With the beginning of the first warm days here, we've started preparing one of the family's favorite summer dishes - zucchini with tomatoes and hot peppers, prepared in a saute pan. The dish is really simple and easy to prepare and is filled with the flavours of the fresh vegetables. It is so low in calories, that no matter how much you eat, you will weight less on the next day. 

Zucchini with tomatoes and hot peppers

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Russian Salad Bulgarian way

Russian salad with some slices breadNo, this is not the recipe for Salad Olivier, although many of the recipes for Russian salad throughout the Internet refer to it as if both salads were one and the same.
Frankly said, I don’t think anybody prepares Salad Olivier at home (or anywhere at all) nowadays. 
Salad Olivier was created (predictably) by a Belgian or French chef Lucian Olivier back in 1860. 19 century was obviously tolerating mayonnaise, salads with mayonnaise were seen as more sophisticated - for reference see the original recipe for Waldorf Salad
Unlike Waldorf salad, created in New York, Russian Salad Olivier was invented in Moscow. It was not intended to be a simple everyday meal – it contained boiled veal tongue and grouse (a type of bird), crawfish tails and aspic. 
Boiled potato The salad called Russian salad nowadays and served widely around the world represents a distant echo of Olivier Salad and although this is one of the recipes which are not followed exactly and which contain varying ingredients according to the local taste or the ingredients available, it still shall contain mayonnaise, pickled cucumbers, boiled carrots and potatoes. Many people add diced ham, boiled eggs, apples. I prefer the version without them. 
And actually this is the recipe perceived as Russian salad in Bulgaria. 
Sandwich with Russian Salad

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Stuffed Lamb Shoulder for St George's Day

St George - Bulgarian icon
St George's day is celebrated widely in Bulgaria. Along with Ivan, Dimiter and Nikola, George is one of the most common names here and all the people having the name George celebrate their nameday today. That means, a lot of relatives and friends gather around the table and have a long, long lunch and the main dish is based on a lamb meat - whether a whole lamb turned on a spit (the so called 'cheverme'), lamb roasted with potatoes, or my favorite recipe - whole lamb shoulder stuffed with rice, stewed lamb offal and a bunch of herbs - 'drobsarma'.
This impressive dish is served widely for the Easter lunch and for St George's day. 
As a result of the long roasting, the meat remains tender, the skin is crispy and the stuffing is full of aroma.
There are some significant differences between the Bulgarian recipe for stuffed lamb shoulder and all the recipes popular abroad.

First - This recipe does not call for boned shoulder, to the contrary - it is based on the idea of stuffing the pocket between the outer membrane of the shoulder and the meat.

Second - Offal is important part of the recipe. Lamb liver and lung shall be boiled in advance and included into the stuffing.

Third - The typical strong taste of the lamb pairs well with the fresh and grassy flavor of mint and green onion, so the combination of tastes in this recipe includes a lot of spring onion, mint and freshly ground black pepper.

Slow cooking makes the flavors blend, so this dish requires a lot of time to be prepared properly. Women get up early on St George's day, only the roasting in the oven takes about three hours.
Stuffed lamb shoulder

Roasted lamb shoulder

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bulgarian Tripe Soup - Shkembe Chorba

Shkembe Chorba
People on the Balkans like this spicy soup, which is served broadly over the Peninsula. 
As the name suggests, it has Turkish origin, but over the years it was adapted in the cuisines of the different coutries. Even though the names of the soup are local and there are some variations concerning the included ingredients (with or without milk, onion, veal knuckles etc.), the recipe is nearly the same. It is not a sophisticated dish, but it is very tasty and it has the reputation of one of the best hangover cures. 
A man healing tool probably. I can't imagine a woman, feeling giddy and suffering from head-aches, who sips tripe soup in the morning, but who knows?

But bear in mind: tripe makes the soup gelatinous and its surface tends to become solid very fast. So the soup should be eaten really hot, which makes some slurping inevitable. This fact and also the strong taste and the garlic garnish make the soup not very proper part of the menu if you inted to invite the President for dinner. Otherwise it is a very tasty soup for an evening with the beloved ones matching perfectly with a glass of ice-cold beer. 
Bulgarian Tripe Soup

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Rosemary boiled potatoes without boiling

Rosemary boiled potatoesBoiled potatoes without any boiling, can you believe that? 
At first I didn't. But Peter made me a present about a year ago - a cookbook for children with many tasty and easy recipes. The present was for me, but as he told me, we would cook together the recipes from the book. Peter is nearly 10 years old. He is one of these contemporary children, who are not afraid to help their mothers cook and who do not divide work in women and men types, which is such a huge progress for country on the Balkan Peninsula like Bulgaria. 
So, he likes to help me while I prepare the dinner - to shape the meatballs for our favorite Italian wedding soup, to hold the mixer while we beat egg whites for our Tiramisu or to create dishes like trout stuffed with yellow cheese, which is one of his signature dishes (soon to be published here). 
So, the present was for me, but I knew, we would be together with him to prepare the dishes. Two of the recipes really surprised me - boiled eggs without boiling and boiled new potatoes with garlic and rosemary also without boiling, I really liked the idea. So here is how to do it and I must assure you, these potatoes are soft and tasty on one hand and on the other - such a perfect dish to prepare with your little ones.
Rosemary growing in Tuscany
Boiled potatoes

Monday, March 03, 2014

Green Salad with Sun dried Tomatoes and Zucchini

Green salad with pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes
O, I wish it were summer. 
Wish I were at the sea and there were sand between my toes. 
Wish I was taking one of my long walks along the sea collecting seashells and listening to the tidal waves and to the laughter of my children. 
Every year is divided into two - the cold season which last nearly five months when all my hopes circle around the forthcomming summer, and the warm season when we do our best to be as much as possible at the Mediterranean sea. 
Ordering this salad is part of the ritual for welcoming summer. Every summer we go to our favorite restaurant and we know, this salad will be still at the menu. 
And this is such a comforting thought - everithing is there just waiting for us.
And every summer we inevitably go back there because this is our favorite spot in the world. 
Green salad with sun-dried tomatoesOur sea