The first dish I made today is called japrak. I changed up the dish a bit, so it’s probably not authentic by any means. It’s basically meat and rice stuffed in grape leaves. Right off the bat, I substituted ground lamb, only because I was looking for an excuse to cook with lamb again, and I actually found ground lamb at Meijer. Second of all, I couldn’t find any grape leaves. I don’t know if it’s something that’s out of season or that I was never looking in the right places. Both may be valid. So, I used cabbage leaves instead. But then again, I must’ve picked the worst cabbage out there. I could hardly tear any leaves off of it without ripping it to shreds. And to top it off, my folding skills are at a minimum. (But if you’ve met me, I can’t fold anything. Whether it be towels, clothes, origami, cabbage leaves, it’s just not happening. If only there were a Wadding Something into a Ball Award, I would totally rock that.) But somehow, by the grace of all that’s sacred, I managed to finagle it all together into something that slightly resembled what I was making. So, while it technically may not be japrak as the Bosnians know it, it was still tasty nonetheless.
|When it's filled with my favorite meat, lamb, it doesn't matter what it's wrapped in.|
The second dish on the menu is the burek: the most iconic Bosnian food item. In fact, the musician Dino Merlin has an entire album entitled “Burek” (I put it in my Spotify playlist just because of this). I used this as my bread recipe. I had to guess at making the dough somewhat since my recipe had sort of forgotten to list some measurements. After I made the dough and divided it into four pieces, I rolled each piece out into a circle. I placed a mix of minced beef and onions in the middle and rolled the dough around it, making a tube of sorts. Then I spiraled the tube around, but the pieces weren’t that large, so it was hard to make a tight spiral. And of course, I got confused on my recipes, so I needlessly gave each burek a sour cream and milk bath. No harm, no foul though. It was much better tasting than I imagined.
|How do you get better than meat-filled dough? Why were they keeping this a secret?|
And finally, I made something I’ve always enjoyed but never had to guts to make myself: spinach and cheese pie. The recipe reminded me of one of my favorite Greek dishes, spanokotirapita. Mine, as you might have guessed, didn’t quite turn out the same. I mixed the spinach with the sour cream and ricotta cheese and laid it between layers of fillo dough. The problem was that the fillo dough I had had been in my freezer since when I made empanadas from Argentina. So, needless to say, it was pretty crumbly, but that wasn’t stopping me. It definitely wasn’t as many layers as the recipe suggested, but it was still really good.
|Prior to the last layer of fillo dough and sour cream on top.|
The kids had a different opinion, but that was to be expected. Not even YouTube videos of classic Popeye cartoons were changing their minds. But I did get my son to help tear up the spinach with me, even though I was saving him from being in trouble at this moment.
|What he doesn't know is that he's helping make a dish he won't touch.|
I really liked this meal, and my husband told me to definitely put this in the “do again” pile (especially the burek). If this meal had a theme, it would be “it may not look pretty, but it tastes good, so who cares?” There is something in food presentation; if it doesn’t look appealing, you’re far less inclined to eat it. But then on the other hand (where I mostly reside), I really try not to stress out about formalities. If it’s mostly there, then it’s good enough for me. There’s a zen proverb I try to adhere to that says “80% is perfect.” So even though it didn’t turn out how it was supposed to if I was strictly trying to go for authenticity, who’s to say it wasn’t perfect as a meal that my family enjoyed?
|The final product! Perfect for a moderately cool, rainy December evening.|
Up next: Botswana