Monday, October 24, 2016


Well, it’s finally time for my birthday again. This week, I’ll be celebrating the 16th anniversary of being 21. So, this weekend I started a little early and spent some money on myself: something that rarely gets done enough. Of course, I also paid a ton of bills because I like having electricity and running water and other amenities. It’s also been a strange fall. Typically, the temperatures should have dropped, followed by an Indian summer, which makes the tree colors peak around this time. But that hasn’t happened yet, and most of them are still green. Maybe they’ll peak on my birthday this year for the first time??

It's so pretty from this angle. And won't damage your teeth!
But it was a nice day for cooking Montenegrin food. Finding a Montenegrin bread was more difficult than I imagined. I did find a recipe for Cesnica. It’s a bread that’s typically eaten at Christmastime and made with a coin buried inside the bread. The person who finds the coin gets their wish come true or something. My wish is to not have to use my dental insurance, so I left out the coin. That and 7% of US coins carry E. coli. So, that being said… I did cut my recipe down slightly. I mixed together 4c flour, a large pinch of salt, a yeast packet, and 1 beaten egg into a bowl. Then I poured 250ml of lukewarm milk into the flour slowly as I stirred it in. Once I stirred everything together I kneaded it on a pastry mat, adding a little more milk here and there to make it stick together. Then I covered it with cheesecloth and let it sit for about an hour. I pulled off about a third of the dough and broke that into three equal parts. I rolled each part out into a long rope (which should’ve been way longer) and braided them together. With the larger section, I re-rolled it into a ball, and then laid my braid around the top like a crown. Then I brushed the whole thing with an egg wash, covering it in plastic and letting it sit for another 40 minutes. Before I put it in the 400ºF oven for 35 minutes, I gave it another brush with the egg wash just because. During the baking, my braid came up a little short on the ends. But otherwise, from the point of view I took my picture, it looks beautiful! The taste was not quite as flavorful as I imagined, but the crumb was nice. It was on the dense side, but I like it like that. That means, it would be good to use with butter or jam. The outside was hard and crusty and had a nice flavor, though.

This definitely made people jealous.
The main dish for today was Montenegrin Stuffed Cabbage. I had recently made a stuffed cabbage dish for Moldova, but this one offers a slight variation. I removed the stems from my cabbage leaves and blanched them, setting them aside to cool when I was done. Then I fried my onion, green onion (in lieu of a leek), and dried bouquet garni (in lieu of thyme). When my onions were transparent, I added in some minced garlic and some diced mushrooms. After about 5 minutes, I added in a ½ c rice, stirring to mix it with the other ingredients before adding in some chicken stock. Once the stock was all absorbed, I poured this into a bowl and set to the side. Then I browned my minced pork, adding in some Dijon mustard, fresh dill, Parmesan cheese, and a beaten egg. Once that was mixed together, I added the mushroom mix back in. Then I made my sauce: 150 ml of tomato passata (I found it in the Italian section of the grocery store – it’s like uncooked tomato puree and supposedly tastes different – the jury’s still out on that), 150 ml chicken stock, some paprika and some honey. I set this off to the side. Now time to do the dirty work: I took a cabbage leaf, put a piece of prosciutto on top, then a spoonful of the pork-mushroom mix, and folded it all up like a parcel. I secured them with toothpicks and put it in a casserole dish. After I finished the whole thing, I topped it with the bits of cabbage that didn’t make the cut, a little bit of sauerkraut, and the tomato sauce I made. I baked this at 335ºF for about 1 hour 10 minutes. I thought this was really good. The prosciutto added to the flavor along with the tomato sauce. My husband really liked this. I thought it was spectacular and reheats pretty well.

You can never go wrong with this.
While the stuffed cabbage rolls were baking, I made the next two dishes. First I made Blitva. This easy dish called to boil some cube-sized potatoes until they were soft. I used new red potatoes and kept the skin on. When they were soft, I threw them into a skillet with some olive oil and garlic and fried them up. Then I threw in some sliced collard greens (in lieu of chard). I added a little salt and pepper to it. The kids loved this and ate all of it up. Luckily there was a little left to take in my lunch tomorrow! 

Surprise of the day. It was so good, there was none left when I got home from work thanks to my husband.
Finally, the last dish I made was Njuguski Fruit Salad. This salad was pretty easy to make and the flavors surprised me. Actually, it surprised my husband who said it would probably be gross when I described it to him (which he later recanted on). In a large bowl, I mixed together diced cantaloupe, crumbles of asiago cheese, small bits of prosciutto, diced red onion, sunflower seeds, parsley, and drizzled with a little bit of olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Essentially, I just eyeballed the amounts to make it consistent (or at least “look about right”), using a half cantaloupe as the first ingredient. I truly enjoyed this. Amazingly the flavors came together in a new way, and I have to admit I was quite surprised. It was a nice balance between the other two heavier dishes. 

Overall, this was an amazing dinner. Thanks, Montenegro!
For a country that I was only moderately familiar with (as in, I saw it on the map when I did nearby countries earlier for this blog), I learned quite a bit. Enough that I wouldn’t mind visiting one day. Photos probably don’t do it justice. It’s hard to believe that this country became a country not long after my daughter was born, yet I don’t remember ever really hearing about it. You would think that watching a country be born would be a really big deal, right? I guess it just depends on who’s reporting it and who’s listening. That might be true for all news stories these days....

Up next: Morocco

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