#56: Montenegro

Здраво!! 

(you can say it “Zdravo” which means “hello” in Serbian)

Hope you guys are enjoying the awesome weekend we had! The SCOTUS was the talk of the town and the sunshine was the best way to celebrate. We got to celebrate a wedding mid week here in Brovskyland and National Jewish (the hospital I work at) found itself flooded with the torrential rain we encountered. Honestly, it was pretty much like a scene from Titanic, guys, and for the record, Leo was not there and I am unbelievably upset about this. In no uncertain terms, we needed a little escape from the crazy so we up and took a little trip to the Balkan Sea this weekend.

THE DINNER: I felt like a Bond villain for a hot second when my sister suggested this for our country this week. Casino Royale was set in this nation and as such, conjures all sorts of fanciful thoughts of high stakes poker games, sandy beaches graced with Daniel Craig in a speedo and of course Aston Martin wreckage littering dark coastal highways… alas, not much of that is probably true. But a girl can dream, right? 🙂

In all truthfulness, Montenegro just because independent from Serbia in 2006! So it’s a baby as far as countries are concerned. For that reason, and many others, it has all the same hallmarks of Serbian and Adriatic/Balkan cuisine. Seafood is common because of their placement on many waterways and Mediterranean spice palates are typical. We made a dish called Pljeskavica ( that’s  “PLYESS-kah-vee-tsah” for those of you that look at those consonants piled together and panic like I do. ) which is the Montenegrin answer to the western burger. It’s naked (though sometimes wears clothes in the form of pita bread when forced into conventional burger-dom) and served with cabbage coleslaw. It’s typically made with three meats, much like it’s Mediterranean cousins, Italian meatballs. Traditionally it’s beef chuck, pork and either lamb or veal.

Pljeskavica Recipe: http://www.healthyrecipescenter.com/gluten-free-recipes/serbian-pljeskavica-hamburger-recipe/

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: HALF a STAR out of five this Dinner!
So if last week was a veritable minefield of cooking terror, this week was a walk in a tree lined park in the spring while the birds chirped and you sip lemonade. IT WAS THAT EASY. I can’t physically give it no stars but I was tempted for sure. It’s basic and simple, which is the nature of so many Mediterranean and Balkan cuisine. There are a handful of ingredients that you simply mix and make into patties and then fry. It’s wham, bam, thank you ma’am. And it’s good to know that not every trip to a foreign country is difficult or exhausting. Sometimes it really is straight forward and easy. No excuses to not try this one, kids.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR STARS out of five for Dinner!!
As mysteriously as Montenegro appeared, it was gone. It left behind a very satisfied and sated pack of Brovskys in it’s wake, but none the less it was not very memorable. It was good. It was filling. It was all the easy cooking you could want out of a Sunday meal, but it just wasn’t something to write home about. Even now, as I’m writing home about it, I’m just at a loss for words on this one. In the end, I’m a meat lover and nothing goes better with grilled meat than cool coleslaw. It hit all the bases, it just didn’t hit it out of the park.

We are going to hit week #57  as we celebrate American Independence Day this weekend! I would announce the country, but it’s a secret that I don’t even know yet. L gets to pick this week and she’s been tight lipped about our next culinary destination! Be ready for a surprise when we post next as we could be anywhere! (which makes me feel a little too much like Carmen San Diego…)

Cheer on those USWNT ladies Tuesday VS Germany!!!
Catch you on the flip-side!
– L & K

#55: Slovakia

Happy Father’s Day Weekend!!

Hope that this weekend found all you fathers and fans of fathers celebrating in style. It was prefect weather to kick back on the golf course or hit the local fishing hole with your dad. For me, father’s day weekend and mother’s day weekend are just special excuses for me to celebrate my parents. I’m very fortunate in that my parent’s are pretty cool cats– so I try to make sure I don’t put off showing them that till one weekend a year.  We know that grilling is a particularly “manly” and “dad like” past time for the weekend, but as tradition would have it, my dad isn’t the grill master in the family.  Instead, we picked the country that his family is from and cook him some nostalgic Slovak food for his father’s day dinner. Last year he picked Australian food (Week #6) for father’s day feasting.

THE DINNER: Slovak food reminds my dad of his mother mostly. I would hear stories of how Grandma Dutch would make all sorts of dumplings and stews like it was no big deal. The core of Eastern European food is hearty– basically whatever the equivalent of meat and potatoes is for the farm culture in the States. All in all, it is very wholesome, down-to-earth cooking. It’s simple and as a hallmark of the region does not usually contain spices or special “fluffy” ingredients. It’s what was on hand and available. No bells. No whistles. It’s like spending everyday at your grandparents. Slovak food is very cheap, easy to cook, and best of all, extremely delicious!

The main meal of the day is typically the largest. Much like the parallels I’ve previously drawn to American farm life, that meal was supper and the dinner meal, which is usually the largest in many cultures, was more like a light snack. traditional Slovak cuisine can be traced to times when the majority of the population lived self-sufficiently in villages, with very limited food imports and exports and with no modern means of food preservation or processing. So things were killed and then immediately served, which makes “farm to table” movement nowadays seem like it’s vintage throwback. We picked a dumpling dish that includes cabbage and goat cheese called Haluski. The idea of potato dumplings makes my dad’s whole face light up. Which is most wonderful and off sets any and all hard work that making fresh, homemade dumplings brings.

Slovakian Haluski Recipe: http://www.thestayathomechef.com/2013/09/slovak-haluski-czech-potato-dumplings.html

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: FOUR STARS out of five this Dinner!
Be ye warned!! Alright so making dumplings from scratch is something of an art form. My mother, the expert leftsa maker, can make anything with potato dough look like a synch. Let me be real here for a minute and lay down from knowledge for you kiddos, it’s not that easy. She works the sticky, unmanageable dough like it’s her job. Kicks ass and takes names later… and if you ask her, she gives this meal a 2 for difficulty. That’s insane. I’m going to cut to the chase and make sure you know it’s a four for the rest of us mere potato dough mortals out there. But please, don’t let that deter you! You can substitute kugel or egg noodles and still make this meal (and it’s still semi authentic!). The remaining ingredients and instructions are a piece of Jablkový Koláč (Slovakian cake…)!

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR and a HALF STARS out of five for Dinner!!
As a adamant and vocal hater of bread and potato dumplings, I was the biggest skeptic this week. I cannot be won over or bought. I have tasted the actual dumplings straight from the plate in Bratislava and still could not be moved. So, if I’m giving this meal and 4.5– that should move mountains. My dad was impressed and he’s a tough critic. We all raved at the addition of the pancetta and the cabbage. It was delicious. It didn’t lack any seasonings, though one might expect it to since it only contained salt and pepper to taste… it was anything but bland! I think my favorite part was the goat cheese. Perfect addition: it was creamy and tart and complimented well. I had to give it to the dumplings too, they were pretty tasty and they cook up so quick! Overall, this one made everyone in the kingdom of Brovskyland leave with very happy tummies.

Rolling into week #56 with a full head of steam, my sister picked the country! The great and powerful J has spoken and she has picked Montenegro as our next culinary pit stop on AW195S! In true Bond villain form we will spend some time in the Balkan country… shaken and not stirred.

Stay cool, Denver!! (Cheer on the USWNT tonight )
– L & K

 

#54: Cote De Ivoire

So much soccer this weekend!

It’s been mostly on the warm and sunny side here in Denver, which is a nice departure from the gloom and doom rain-palooza we had last month! I’m completely happy to have some fun in the sun. This weekend was packed full of soccer tournament games and yard work. It’s supposed to be around 90 degrees today… can’t say that I’m disappointed. Though I’m not one for the extreme heat, a little change of pace is always welcome. Bring on the rays!

THE DINNER: In honor of the Women’s World Cup opening game against Cote De Ivoire, we picked Ivory Coast as our meal adventure this week. This is a coastal region of Africa and therefore the main fare is seafood (typically fish). Common Ivorian food staples also include grains ANNNDDD it’s one of the world’s most prosperous producers of cocoa and coffee!! As a certified chocoholic and caffeine addict, this makes my heart way more happy than it should. I think I’ve found my people.

The Ivorian cuisine is mainly inspired by French influence. Typically though it involves a lot of grilling of meats which is not typically a French cooking technique commonly seen in formal cooking circles. It’s alright by us though as we love to grill! We picked a grilled fish with rice recipe that’s a main staple on a weekly basis for the residents of the Cote. Poisson Braise (braised fish) is something very common in the country. They serve this with cassava/couscous or with rice. Our recipe called for a marinade of onion, garlic, tomato, parsley and oil accompanied with a little spicy pepper action.

Poisson Braise Ivorian Recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/poisson-braise-ivorien-ivoirian-grilled-fish-50141660

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: TWO STARS out of five this Dinner!
Grilling fish steaks can be challenging and also if you purchase the whole fish it requires scaling, filleting and boning said meat before you can score and marinade and then grill. So this one earned a little higher difficulty rating this week, though I’m positive it’s nothing you can’t handle. Beyond that, no special ingredients– except for the fish stock cubes that we were unable to find so we subbed chicken stock cubes. Apart from that, it requires a firm fish and we chose copperhead (though rockfish, trout, halibut or cod would be just as good). We also used a wild rice mix that we used when we did Mozambique’s Peri Peri Prawns, which again paired well for this country.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR and a HALF STARS out of five for Dinner!!
We were very pleased with how this one turned out. The best part was the skin– guys, trust me here. Leave that skin on when you marinade and when you grill it, it will be crispy and crunchy and amazing texture pairing with the soft fish. Brilliant marinade. It was overall a very good meal. It was light and didn’t make me want to go into a food coma, which was appreciated. I’m pretty sure that in general it was something that we would easily be able to replicate during the course of a regular week. It wasn’t spicy… but I’m sure that can be adjusted for taste. As with Chad during week #20, pairing tomatoes with white fish still gets my goat… I’m just not entirely comfortable with it, but with the track record in it’s favor I’m excited about trying to reprogram my brain in this avenue because it’s been nothing but delicious.

For week #55 we are simultaneously celebrating Father’s Day and my parent’s wedding anniversary… as such we will be doing Slovakia for our country. A few anniversaries ago, we went to Slovakia as a family to celebrate because that’s where my dad’s family is from. So this seemed like a perfect pick for our father’s day/anniversary weekend!

Can’t wait to get our celebrate on!!
– L & K

#53: Tajikistan

What’s happen’, Food Friends!?

Thankfully this weekend found us with lots and lots of that Colorado sunshine– and not a moment too soon as we were all feeling the rainy day(s) blues. It’s any wonder how I didn’t manage to spend ALL of the weekend outside, but 90% of it was all me and the blue skies. Little puppy dogs had bath days; farmers markets were meandered; soccer was played; walks were had; drinks on the patio at Linger were sipped; Little Man Ice Cream lines were happily tackled. It was the definition of lovely. I’m sort of feeling like the little sunburn I obtained at our outdoor game was a badge of honor after weeks and weeks spent watching raindrops hit window panes.

THE DINNER: We hit up the nation of Tajikistan, which for those not versed on the ever changing geographical climate of the Middle East, this nation resides in West/Central Asia. It’s a not-so-well-kept secret in the 303 that Tajikistan’s capital city of Dushanbe is a sister city to Boulder. So as a gift of this relationship, the Tajik capital gave us a Tea House. That’s right. An entire house! It’s gorgeous. It was shipped in almost one piece and it’s got some of those most incredible and detailed carvings on it’s ceilings and walls and pillars. When I was a student in college there, it was the absolute perfectly tranquil place to study– not only is it serene (fountains, atmosphere, etc) — it has tea! Not to mention some fantastic grub.

So, we stopped at the Dushanbe Tea House to pick up some authentic Tajik tea to go with our meal this week. Turns out, tea is a very big part of meals and culture in Tajikistan. Tea accompanies every meal and is frequently offered between meals as a gesture of hospitality to guests and visitors. It’s served hot and does not have additions like sugar, milk or honey. Food is eaten with reverence and no one eats till the eldest member of the group has taken their first bite. Food is eaten with the fingers and typically meals include at least 3 courses. We picked a very typical dish to make, Samosas. Ours that we pulled are vegetarian and included wild greens and onions— and for those who don’t know, samosas are generally veggie with potatoes or greens, but occasionally include meat.

Samosas Recipe: http://pages.kiva.org/fellowsblog/2013/05/01/tajikistan-kiva-cooks-vegetarian-samosas

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: HALF STAR out of five this Dinner!
Basically this is as easy as it gets. We wilted some greens and put them into the pastry crusts and baked them! We got super lucky because we picked a weekend when the Boulder Farmer’s Market was going on- which takes places right outside the Dushanbe Tea House! So we picked out our tea, then proceeded to be able to pick out the most incredibly fresh organic greens for our filling. L decided that pea shoots and sorrel were the winners with some good red kale. It was an excellent choice (more on why below in the critique). We had the option of making our own dough, and typically as you have seen we jump at that; but this time we decided to enjoy the great outdoors and purchased our dough. Can’t win them all I suppose 😉

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR STARS out of five for Dinner!!
Delicious! It was hard because half of us wanted to shoot for 4.5 stars and the other two were at 4 stars… but we all agreed it was amazing. The combination of the kale, which always wilts down well, and the pea sprouts which were sweeter was great. The pea sprouts tasted a lot like the snap peas you typically munch on for snacks. We had never tried (or heard) of sorrel before, and though, “Hey that sounds interesting! Why not!”. Sorrel, as I educated myself via Google, is part of the spinach family. It’s very very very bitter. We were initially concerned, but we went with it! This is after all, an adventure. We also threw in some flat leaf parsley to the green mix for kicks. The flavors were perfect together and the sorrel ended up being our favorite part. It would have been WAY too sweet without it. Well played, mom! We would definitely eat this in a heartbeat. It took 30 minutes from start to finish to boot, BONUS.

Rolling into #54, we are heading to Cote de Ivory (Ivory Coast). I have all these dreams of what the Ivory Coast might be like, and many of them include this mental image of rolling down the jungle rivers with Humphrey Bogart on a tug boat… But I’m not Katharine Hepburn and this is probably not going to be a scene from African Queen. Probably. A girl can dream…

Catch you on the Flip Side!
– L & K