Monday, March 2, 2009

Ajvar, burek, ćevapčići: A Serbian food primer

It's snowing, and we're snowed in out here at the house where we are house sitting (in the NoVA 'burbs). Both M. and I aren't going in to work today. The roads were pretty treacherous last night, and it's currently (lightly) snowing like the dickens (love that phrase, definitely underused) and windy to boot (another great phrase). School was canceled for me (not D.C. schools though, maybe in part because of what our president had to say the last time DC public schools closed for inclement weather? ).

What can I say? It warms this Minnesota ex-pat's heart. I'm enjoying my day of cooking (for the first Bento Society bento, to be delivered tomorrow) and catching up on blogging and work and such. Hopefully we can take the dogs out later for a snow walk when M. gets up.

M. and I had a great weekend, food-wise. On Saturday A. threw a belated birthday dinner party for him, a Twin Peaks-themed vegan meal complete with homemade cherry pie (her first, definitely an achievement!) and home baked bread. Pretty awesome - thanks again, A.!

Twin Peaks Meal - Pie not pictured...

Then, last night we drove back into town for my Serbian teacher's party, complete with buffet spread, which was also amazing. It was my first time having a Serbian meal. Our hostess did a commendable job - it was a lot of food, and I believe there were over 20 guests there!

Loading up our plates

Bread, ćevapčići, and burek (in the back)

Here's a sampling of the menu, with links for the curious:
* ćevapčići (my teacher told me it was from Restaurant Cosmopolitan in Alexandria) with delicious fluffy-chewy bread reminiscent of ciabatta but fluffier, and raw onions and sour cream-butter
* burek (also from Restaurant Cosmopolitan)
* gibanica - really buttery and delicious
* sarma - Serbian cabbage rolls. I was told by another dinner guest that they are made with pickled cabbage leaves, unlike the Russian/Polish versions (golubtsy/golabki). The Wikipedia article I've referenced here states that sarma can be made with either fresh or pickled cabbage.
* proja/projara - mini muffin style
* several different salads: green salad with radishes, potato salad with peas (was too full to try that one), and a cucumber and tomato salad topped with grated kefalotiri
* ajvar - I finally got to try it! Roasted red pepper spread - delicious.
* a stewed dish of chicken, carrots, and potatoes whose name I did not catch
* two desserts: "the prince's doughnuts" (basically cream puffs) and this layered creamy nutty bar that was really good. I can't remember all of the food names, unfortunately...
* all kinds of alcohol including šljivovica. We also tried this Serbian Coke (Cockto) and red wine concoction called bambus ("bamboo"); I had heard the term calimocho before for the Spanish version of the same

While poking around Wikipedia, I learned that the word sarma is derived from the Turkish verb "sarmak," meaning "wrapping" or "rolling." A different etymology from the Polish term for the same dish, golabki, which means "little pigeons."

Made me want to go on a food tour of the Balkans. So good. I also miss Serbian class...that was a great semester.

To my Serbian teacher: Hvala for the odlicno meal!


Anastasia said...

Oh there it is, my "brown food". Thanks so much for coming to my little thing! And not to toot my own horn or anything, but the ragout did turn out really well, didn't it?

The Serbian spread looks fabulous, too. We should make ajvar sometimes, have a little canning session or something.

Jaemus said...

The ragout was awesome, dude, made even more palatable by the presence of your henley. Thank you, again, for the birthday fete-ing!

I would love to make ajvar - have you made it before or do you have a recipe to try out?


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