Sunday, February 3, 2013


Today is Superbowl Sunday, and I’m probably one of the few people in America serving Bulgarian fare for the big game.  But I’d take this food any day. Besides, last Tuesday the temperature in Indiana was 64 degrees, and by Friday we had wind chills of -15. So, needless to say, no one in the house is feeling all that great.

I had looked forward to making this bread recipe for about a week and a half. The recipe I chose is called Bulgarian Pitka bread with butter and honey. It’s basically a three-layer crescent roll. The dough is a yeast dough, which required it to sit for an hour before making the rolls. When you roll out the first layer of dough, you brush melted butter and drizzle honey on it. Then you lay the second layer of dough on top and do the same thing. And finally the third layer goes on top. I tried to get my dough as close to a square as I could, and then used a pizza cutter to cut a large X across it (so that I have four large “triangles”). Then I placed each of these triangles with the point at the top and scored two more lines down, making long, skinny triangles (like you would find when you buy precut crescent rolls in a can). After drizzling a bit of honey along the longer edge, I rolled up all twelve rolls and shaped them like crescents. It has to sit another hour at this point again to rest. Then I brushed them with an egg yolk-water mixture and sprinkled brown sugar on top of it (the recipe actually called for demarara sugar) before placing them all in a greased round cake pan. They were so good, but my son and husband didn’t like the brown sugar on top. My husband suggested mixing the melted butter and brown sugar into a glaze and drizzling it on top instead.  

Pitka bread, or crescent rolls of goodness
I saw the recipe for Bulgarian shopska salad mentioned on several sites as a national favorite. So, of course, I had to make this. It’s a combination of diced green onions, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes), cucumbers, and black olives (I used pitted kalamata olives). It’s topped with vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper, and feta cheese crumbles. It also called for chopped parsley, but I used fresh marjoram which complimented the kalamata olives quite nicely. Marjoram is a mild herb with hints of a light citrus taste/smell. It’s my new favorite fresh herb. (It actually ties fresh cilantro.) To me, this salad tasted like a light pasta salad without the pasta. This is the perfect dish to bring to cookouts or pitch-ins at work. However, of the four people in my house, I’m the only one who feels this way. But it’s my blog, and I’m the mom, so there.

I'm glad no one else liked this. They don't know what they're missing. That means I don't have to share. 
The main dish tonight is called Monastery Gyuvetch. It's named for a dish from the Rila Monastery, a famous monastery that has survived numerous attacks from the Ottomans and is now a popular tourist site. It starts out with browning beef in a skillet (the recipe called for “braising beef” but I didn’t know what that was, so I used stew beef instead, and it worked quite nicely). Then I added some onions, paprika, beef stock, mushrooms, a can of diced tomatoes, rice, and whole black olives and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Then I transferred the whole thing into a casserole dish and baked it for another 20 minutes. When I pulled it out, I topped it with the rest of the marjoram. This was one of the best parts of the meal. It was so comforting (which led to a discussion between my husband and I on what constitutes a comfort food. A nice follow-up from our debate for the past two days on whether no-bake cookies are by definition a cookie [I say yes, he says no.].).  

I really enjoyed the food from Bulgaria. For the most part, it was simple with easy-to-find ingredients and didn’t take a lot of time to make. Minus the bread, of course. I feel that I know Bulgaria a little better now, and realize what an incredibly fascinating country it is. I wish I had known all of this when I had ties to the woman from Bulgaria who was a student at the adult ESL classes I volunteered tutoring at all those years ago.  Some students I had kept in contact with and run into every now and then, but by now, I had lost contact with all of them. It must be hard to come to a different country with a different culture and try to assimilate, yet maintain your own. After studying to teach English, I know it’s a difficult language, and I’ve studied many other languages at one point or another. So, I commend anyone who can learn a second language. And after researching Bulgaria for the past couple of weeks, I actually did brush up on my Cyrillic.

Who thinks this is the best Superbowl food? This girl does. 

Up next: Burkina Faso

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