Alex and I took our first real shot at Balkan cuisine tonight, serving 12 adults and a few kids. Our plan was simple: an appetizer of bread and ajvar, a fresh šopska salad with feta, and a main course of grilled, grass fed beef, here in burger form (alas, we have yet to master the more traditionally Bosnian chevapi).
Our main goal was to preserve the essential spirit of Bosnian / Balkan cuisine: fresh, fresh, fresh, flavor, flavor, flavor. A celebration of life. And without our prompting, our friends marveled at the freshness, the deliciousness, of every phase of the meal.
Alex’s ajvar stole the show. She roasted four bell peppers, two eggplants, and a sweet onion at a high temperature (475 degrees) until they started to blacken. A typical Bosnian ajvar would be pureed and come out a deep, bright red, but we loved the chunky texture and variety of color she got from using red and yellow bell peppers and a potato masher. We served it on slices of bread from a grocery store baguette (the horror!), since she only bakes gluten-free, but the baguette served its purpose well.
For the šopska, I chopped eight bell peppers, three garden tomatoes (I could have used one or two more), and one large scored cucumber. Then I added a splash of fresh lemon juice and a blanket of feta.
And for a final substitution for fresh Bosnian bread — a final flourish of Balkan-American fusion — we used Martin’s potato rolls as burger buns, which come from Alex’s home soil, south central Pennsylvania. 🙂
For dessert, decaf coffee (too late at night for Turkish!) and gluten-free brownies. Yum. We’ll definitely make this again for ourselves, and for company.