Apr 29, 2008

Presnac & Cheese Pita

This dish has a very special meaning to me, it brings back memories, and it is very, very old…Only few women I have ever known have made this, and I myself don’t know the true recipe, but have recreated it to the best of my ability.
I grew up in Dalmatia (yes, I’m a Dalmatian, but not one of the 101 or 102 : ) in a little village nested at the feet of mount Velebit, the largest mountain range in Croatia.

Growing up there, it was just a blast, and I am so proud of my memories, and my enchanted childhood. People were so hardworking, honest, and although seemingly poor, really and truly, they were very, very rich, because they were happy with what they had, and happy with simpler things life had to offer. A word and a firm handshake was still the best form of contract, homes were never locked, and crime was read about in newspapers from elsewhere…

Women were strong, hard working as well, blessed with new age technology, but still each house had their own smokehouse, and bread was still made old world style. One of the treasured dishes made was this “sort of cheese cornbread in fillo sort of dough”, we called it presnac. I can only remember few women ever made it, and one of them was my dad’s cousin, who sadly died last year, so I can’t get the right recipe, but I have recreated it to the best of my taste memory, and ability. It sure turned out delicious, and almost exactly how she used to make it. The only ingredient I didn’t have was good Kačkavalj cheese, which is aged semi-hard cheese, that wouldn’t lose it’s shape when baked in the dish. I know she used to layer slices of it in between fillo, and the cheese/cornmeal filling.

I can find it here in the USA, only it’s a 40 minute ride, one way. Marija, you probably have it sitting in the fridge right now : ) It’s very popular in Serbia, as well as all of the Balkans.

So, here is how I have made Presnac( and cheese pita or burek with cheese as well)

For fillo dough:
500 g AP flour(a bit more than a lb)
Salt to taste, small handful
Enough hot water(as much as you can handle hot)to make the dough, not to hard but not soft

For the filling:
1lbcottage cheese
1 lb cream cheese (I make my own, you can use Farmers cheese)
3 eggs
Salt, to taste
Mix all well, divide into two bowls, and add 6 Tbsp of cornmeal into one of them ---that’s for Presnac.
½ Tsp of baking powder to add later.

Make fillo dough, knead it well, transfer to a floured work surface, and divide into two balls. Now place the dough balls onto a clean kitchen towel, flatten them with your hands, put a Tbsp of oil on each and flatten them again to spread the oil all over the dough.
Now, mix ½ Tsp of baking powder into the cheese mixture with cornbread.
Take one dough like a pizza dough, and work the middle a bit, then place it on a clean table linen (I have one just for these dishes), and from the middle stretch it with your hands gently, and keep stretching away until it’s all done. If it starts ripping you stop.
Cut off the edges, and put about a third of cheese/cornmeal filling down the middle of fillo dough.

Prijesnac 1Prijesnac 2

This is when you would be layering slices of hard cheese. Cover with one side of fillo, put another third of filling, cover again with other side of fillo.

Prijesnac 3Prijesnac 4

Put some more filling, and then sort of make an envelope to close it all up and form it into a baking dish shape, and transfer to an oiled baking dish, and brush with egg yolk. Bake @ 405 F for about 25mintues, then you raise the temperature to about 450 F, and bake until golden brown.

Prijesnac 5Prijesnac 6Prijesnac 7

Other fillo you use to make cheese pita, or burek with cheese. You stretch the dough, cut the edges off, sprinkle with oil, and cut into three (look at the 3rd picture, cut into 3), spread each third carefully with cheese filling and then just roll it up by lifting the table linen. Didn’t take pictures of that, I was all alone, really needed help : )

It’s simple, just lift the one edge of the table linen, and let the dough start rolling itself, you might need to start with hands if it’s stuck to the linen, then you just roll away. Once rolled up, you connect the edges towards the middle, like in the picture, and transfer to an oiled dish, repeat with other two thirds, and then sprinkle all with some more oil, very lightly. Bake @450Funtil golden brown. Fillo can be filled with many different fillings, like ground meat, potatoes, apples, and much more.

Pita sa sirom 002Pita sa sirom 001-Burek with cheese

Cheese pita- burek with cheese

Apr 25, 2008

Easter Eggs

Before we came up with food coloring, Easter eggs were traditionally colored by use of onion peel. There are other natural resources of color, but this is how my ancestors did it, and I continue to do it every year, at least half a dozen for my own enjoyment.
Kids, of course get to mess up my porch and color with food colors, and stick the stickers where you didn’t think they would : )
For me Easter is this Sunday (Orthodox), and I color the eggs on Good Friday, which is today. It’s very simple, all you need is some stockings (need I say new- c'mon they're cheap), cut up into pieces, fresh leaves which should be available by now, onion peel, and water.
The more onion peel you have the deeper red the color will be, but of course if you have a husband who threw away your onion peel (by mistake : ), which you have collected for months, than you will have to settle with the peel of maybe 10 onions, urgh!!!

First you position your leaf, then you secure it with a piece of stocking, tying it in the back, and you boil the eggs as usual, only with addition of onion peels. When done, and cooled down, reveal your art!

Here is the process in few pictures:
Easter eggs 6Easter eggs 5Easter eggs 4Easter eggs 3

Apr 24, 2008

Choco Vanilla Cookies

Craving chocolate!? I do --- every day. I also love vanilla, and these cookies comfirm that chocolate and vanilla are a match made in heaven.

I got this recipe from Coolinarika (in Croatian), and have done it a few times, and my kids love it. Tonight they were sad and missed their dad (he‘s on the road), so I made them these cookies for comfort.

Also, on Sunday I am having a ton of people coming over because it’s Easter for me, and I need to cook and bake for days to have enough for everyone.

I made peaches cookies again, and combined the cookies for my kids---choco vanilla, and peach halves to create cute little hats, which I got inspired to do by my friend from Canada. I just played around a bit, and I love the ideas that were coming to me. Well, need to buy some decorating material first...

Cookies 5

This can be done with many different versions of cookies, and decorated even nicer, just check my friends’ little hats out.

Chocolate cookies with vanilla frosting - Išleri

Cookies 3

For the cookies:
10 Tbsp of unsalted butter
200 g flour
70 g powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
3 Tbsp of baking cocoa

Mix butter (room temperature) with egg yolk and sugar, then gradually add flour. Roll it out to about 1/3 of an inch, and cut with cookie cutters. Bake @ 355 F for 15 minutes, then lower it to 300 F for another 5 minutes. Let them cool, and then cover half of them with melted chocolate (I use 100 g baking chocolate with 3 Tbsp of oil). Spread the butter cream on the halves with no chocolate, and put chocolate coated ones on the top.

For the vanilla buttercream:
3 eggs
150 g sugar
1 vanilla sugar (2 Tsp)
7 Tbsp of unsalted butter

Mix eggs with sugar and vanilla sugar, then cook in a double boiler, mixing continuously until it thickens. Let it cool completely, and then add butter.
Cookies are best the next day, to let them sort of soak the moisture from the cream in.

Happy Mother's Day!

Apr 21, 2008

Banana roll cake

This is my sons favorite, and one of my favorite cakes to eat and make! It’s delicious and pretty too, yet all it takes is decorative assembly of a simple jelly roll, vanilla butter cream, bananas and whipped cream on the top. The recipe is used in many places, so I cannot give credit to one particular person, or site, and it varies a bit. Some people put some eggs in the filling, I don’t, and so on.
It’s a crowd pleaser!

Never fail jelly roll...

For the jelly roll:

6 eggs
6 Tbsp of AP flour
6 Tbsp of sugar
½ Tsp of baking powder

Mix the egg whites with sugar until stiff, then add the yolks, one by one, then flour mixed with baking power. Bake in a jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper, @ 385 F until lightly golden. Transfer onto damp kitchen towel, along with the parchment paper, and roll it up. Let it cool down completely, unroll it, and as you do it peel off the parchment paper, spread your favorite jam or jelly on (not too much, you don’t want it oozing out), and then cut it up into slices.

Now, you make the vanilla butter cream. You’ll need:

1 liter milk
2 packages Dr.Oetker (or some other kind) vanilla pudding
7 Tbsp of finest flour
6 Tbsp of sugar
2 ½ stick of unsalted butter or margarine
Powdered sugar to taste
4-5 bananas
Alternative fillingInstead of vanilla pudding use 5 Tbsp of corn starch and some vanilla extract, and instead of 7, use 5 Tbsp of flour.

Mix all the dry ingredients with some milk (that you take from 1 liter), and put the rest of the milk to boil. Make sure you beat the mixture with the mixer to ensure there are no lumps. Add the mixture to boiling milk, stir for a minute, don’t let it burn, and then transfer to a bowl and cool down completely. When cool, add the butter cut into slices, and as much powdered sugar as you like, adding it little by little until sweet enough o taste. I don’t like it too sweet…

Jelly rollBanana roll cake 5

Banana roll cake 4Banana roll cake 3

Now, to assemble the cake. Place some jelly roll slices on the bottom of the spring form pan (I did it directly on the plate this time) to create a cake layer. Then put jelly roll slices around the spring form pan, and as you do this you can start adding the cream, because the slices won’t stick to the form.
So, you need to fill half of the cream, then you place bananas in circle, cutting them appropriately to fit them and bending them a little if needed to make the nice circles. In the middle you can put a little piece of banana. Do this fairly quickly, you don’t want the bananas to turn brown, and then put the remainder of the cream on top of bananas. Top with whipped cream.
Once they are stuck in all that cream, they won’t brown, and will be fresh when you cut the cake the next day. I say the next day because this cake is the best next day, as bananas sort of release their flavor, and it smells so good, mhmmmmm, yummy! Enjoy!

Apr 8, 2008

Baron Trenk Cutlets

Barun trenk 6
May not be the real deal, but the concept is great, and so is the taste!

I love meals like this, and most of you already know that : )
Just look at my other food photos, right? It just has to have that artistic touch, must be interesting, and of course, taste great! I can’t get the right salami for this cutlet here, the recipe calls for Slavonian kulen, so I hope I am not offending the Croatian traditional dish by substituting it with country ham slices. I wish I didn’t have to. I have other meats in mind for next time. For those interested more in who this Baron was, you can get that info here. Interesting, he is considered to be the father of military music…

Baron Trenk Cutlets

For 4 cutlets you’ll need:

4 pork cutlets (beat them until thin)
1 hard boiled egg, cut into quarters
4 Tbsp of Ajvar (Red pepper spread, I make my own)
8 slices of Slavonian kulen, or something like that
Salt to taste
2-3 Garlic cloves
Some oil for frying
1 hot pepper (optional)
½ lb mushrooms
1 Tsp of Vegeta seasoning
2 Tbsp of sour cream
1 Tsp of corn starch
Some parsley
Some vine if you like at the end

On each cutlet spread a Tbsp of Ajvar, put 2 slices of Slavonian kulen (or what I did, I put the slice of country ham), and a quarter of egg. Roll it up, secure with a toothpick. Season with salt a bit, and fry, turning often to ensure they’re cooked evenly. Add diced hot pepper, and continue to fry adding some water occasionally, until done.

Take the cutlets out on a plate, and in the same pan stir in minced garlic, add Vegeta seasoning, mushrooms, and if necessary more water. Now put the cutlets back in the pan, and stir for a minute or so all together. You can now add some vine, if you like, and then combine it all with sour cream mixed with corn starch. Garnish with parsley - if you like. Serve with mashed potatoes (traditionally served with them), or rice. It is delicious! Enjoy!

Barun trenk 2Barun trenk 3Barun trenk 4

Corn bread with cheese - Projara

Projara is a corn bread with cheese in it (can also be with spinach), and it is widely consumed in Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, and the rest of the formerly Yugoslavia. Here in the United States I make it with feta, and cottage cheese. It is prepared with yogurt and oil, so you get a real nice, yummy, moist corn bread. As with many traditional recipes, ingredients vary from region to region, and so there are many recipes to choose from. I love it because it’s delicious, quick, and easy!

Projara 3

To try it out, you’ll need to mix (with the mixer) the following ingredients in the order given:

5 eggs
¾ of cup oil
¾ of cup plain yogurt
Pinch of salt (feta is salty, don’t over salt)
16 Tbsp of AP flour mixed with 1 Tsp of baking powder
16 Tbsp of corn meal

You’ll get a nice compact mixture, sort of like cake batter, quite thick.

Projara 1Projara 2

Now, fold in the cheeses. Don’t mix, or you’ll compromise the texture of the cheeses:

1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup cottage cheese

Transfer to the greased and floured baking dish, or lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated oven @ 385 F until lightly golden. Enjoy!

Apr 4, 2008

Polenta pie


A while back I took note of this great polenta pie @ Culinary in the (desert) country, and I just had to try it.
I have tailored it to my taste a little bit, and made a smaller one ( just for 2 : ), and I love it!
(Great job Joe!!! Thanks for sharing! )
Can’t wait to try it with different cheeses, and spinach. So many different ingredients can be played with, in this polenta pie. There are no limits. I thought of adding eggs for the appearance, and eggs can be added like this to many dishes, as they go well with just about anything. Can’t wait to present this on my next diner party!

Here is how I made it (adapted from Culinary in the (desert) country )

1 ½ cup water
1 Tbsp oil
½ cup corn meal
¼ Tsp salt (or to taste)
1 Tbsp parmesan

Preheat oven to 405 F, make polenta on stove top as usual, mix all ingredients in a pot, bring to boil while constantly mixing, reduce heat and keep mixing until it just about starts separating from the pot.

Transfer to a baking dish ( I have used small spring form pan, just love baking in them). Even it out and bake for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime make the filling by combining following ingredients in no particular order.

8 oz ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
¼ Tsp basil
¼ Tsp salt (or to taste)
Ground black pepper, to taste, I just sprinkled a bit
I have added chopped scallions, this is an option you can change.
Next time I am going to add spinach.

Polenta 1Polenta 7Polenta 4

Reduce heat to 350 F, transfer filling into crust, even it out, if you like, embed 5 or so hard-boiled eggs in circle into the pie, sprinkle with some mozzarella, and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Broil for a minute to get a golden top! Enjoy!