Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Home Made Bosnian Pita: Burek and Sirnica (Phyllo Pies Filled With Meat and Cheese)

This weekend we finally made our first home made burek and sirnica from scratch.  Ivan's cousin Sinisa is a great cook and he came over to teach us how to make the dough and the filling and everything was really tasty!  We had a fun time cooking, talking and drinking beer and we hope to do it again soon.  Next time, Sinisa said that he is going to teach us how to make his special pizza from scratch. 

Pita is a very traditional dish in Bosnian and Herzegovina.  It is also made in the neighboring countries such as Croatia and Serbia.  Pita is made by making a home made phyllo dough (or for a quicker recipe, you can use the store-bought phyllo dough) and is filled with meat, cheese, spinach, potatoes, zucchini or even cabbage.  Each type of filling gives the pita a different name.  For example, pita filled with meat is called burek, with cheese is called sirnica, with spinach is called zeljanica, with potatoes is called krompirusa, etc.  It is traditionally rolled in a spiral or can be lined up straight and it is cut up into sections for serving. 

We started by making the phyllo dough first.  This is the most difficult part of the recipe and may take some practice to get it right.  If you wish, you can skip this step and just use store bought phyllo dough

Ingredients for pita phyllo dough: (Serving Size: 8)
- about 9 cups of all purpose flour
- salt (about 1/2 teaspoon or to taste)
- about 2 1/2 cups of warm water
- 1 tablespoon of oil (we used sunflower seed oil) or to taste (more oil makes the dough easier to stretch)
- clean white tablecloth to stretch the dough over it

- Put flour into a big bowl, make a small hole in the middle, like seen in the photo
- Add salt
- Add oil to the middle of flour
- Add warm water to the middle of flour
- Start to slowly mix with a wooden spoon and keep mixing until well blended
- Keep adding warm water to the middle if needed
- Dough should look similar to pizza dough

- When dough starts to form into shape, knead and form into a ball
- Take dough out of the bowl, pour some flour unto the working space and knead for a few minutes
- Cut dough into 5 smaller even pieces, knead until smooth, form into balls and then flatten them, like seen in the photos below
- Place in a separate dish, cover with some oil and let rest for about 30 minutes

Ingredients for the ground beef filling for burek:
- 3 potatoes, peeled and grated or cut into very small squares
- 3 medium onions, chopped
- 3 lb ground beef
- 2 egg yolks (you can save the egg whites for the cheese filling mix)
- 1/2 cup of milk
- Vegeta to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- oil (optional - if needed)

Directions for the ground beef filling for burek:
- Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and leave to rest until the dough is ready

Ingredients for the cheese filling for sirnica:
- about 1 1/2 - 2 lb of unsalted farmer's cheese, ricotta or something similar (we used a country style cheese)
- you can add some stronger cheese such as feta cheese to give it a stronger flavor (we used Mediteraneo soft cheese)
- 3 eggs (you can also add the left over egg whites that were separated from the yolks used for the meat filling)
- add a little bit of butter if you would like
- add a little bit of sour cream if you would like
- salt to taste

Directions for the cheese filling for sirnica:
- Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl and leave to rest until the dough is ready

Pita Phyllo Dough Directions (Cont'd):
- After the flour has rested for about 30 minutes and you made the pita filling in the meantime, you can start with the next step of this recipe
- Put the tablecloth over the table
- Pour some flour on the working surface and on the one of the five pieces of dough and start to knead.  
- Make a ball from the dough, then flatten it and slowly start to stretch it out over the tablecloth, using a wooden rolling pin, then with your hands
- Try to make the dough as thin as possible without breaking and try to stretch it out over the entire table (if it breaks in some places, that's ok since it won't be seen when the pita is done)

- Next, start putting the filling (in this case meat filling) around the longer edges of the table, like seen in the photo below (make 2 to 3 rows of meat filling on the sides) 
- Go around the table and tear off the edges of the dough
- Pour some oil over the entire dough with filling
- Start to roll the dough on both sides by lifting the tablecloth towards the middle, like seen in the photo below (you should end up with two rolls in the middle of the table)

- Cut the dough between the two rolls with a knife, then take one roll and make it into a swirl like seen in the photos below
- Take the other roll and continue where to other roll ended, to fill a round baking dish like the one in the photo (if you are using a regular baking dish, you can use instructions on how we made sirnica to cut it and place it in a baking dish)
- Put to bake in the oven at about 250 C (or about 470 F), then after 5-10 minutes, lower the heat to about 200 C (about 400 F) and turn the baking pan occasionally and make sure the pita doesn't burn
- Pita should be done in no more than 30 minutes
- When you take it out, spray a little bit of water over it (or you can spray it with a mixture of water, little bit of oil and salt for even better results)
- Cover with a cloth and let cool

- Do the same process with the next piece of flour and fill with cheese
- If using a regular baking dish like seen in the photos below, after rolling the dough on each side of the table, cut rolls into about three parts, depending on the length of your baking dish
- Place side-to-side next to each other and repeat the same process for baking

- Repeat same process with the rest of the pieces of dough
- When done cooling, serve with yogurt or kefir
- You can put some sour cream over the sirnica (cheese pie) if you wish

- If you decide to use the store bought phyllo dough, this recipe will be much more simple and you can skip all of the steps of making the dough and stretching it over the table and can place these already made phyllo dough sheets on the tablecloth and repeat the same process with the filling, rolling, and placing in the baking dish

This dish takes time and practice to make perfect, but it is definitely worth it!  Thanks to Sinisa I now feel ready to try to make pita on my own and practice until it's perfect!  ; )

Prijatno! : )

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Baked Lamb Loin Chops With Green Pepper, Potatoes and Onion

Last night we made a very simple dinner, but it was really tasty, so I decided to share it on our blog.  We both love lamb, but don't get to eat it too often.  We were shopping at City Fresh Market the other day and came across these nice pieces of lamb loin chops and wanted to try them baked with potatoes.  This is a great idea for those days when you come home from work tired and just want to put something in the oven to bake while you relax.  Here is our recipe:
Ingredients: (Serving Size: 2)
- 6 pieces of lamb loin chops
- 8 potatoes
- 1 green pepper
- 1 onion
- oil (Sunflower Seed Oil/Olive Oil)
- Vegeta to taste (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste

- Set the oven to 400 F (about 200 C)
- In the meantime, wash potatoes and slice into 4 or 6 pieces each, seen in the photo below
- Chop green pepper and onion
- Wash lamb loin chops and dry with paper towel
- Pour some oil into a large glass baking dish and add all of the ingredients, then add salt, pepper and Vegeta and mix everything well

- Cover with aluminum foil and put in the oven to bake for about 30 minutes
- Take out, remove aluminum foil and flip meat or other ingredients if needed
- Put back into the oven (without foil) and keep baking until potoatoes are browned (about 20-30 more minutes)
- Take out, let cool for about 5 minutes, and serve with salad and your favorite drink
If you decide to try this recipe, let us know how you liked it!  Enjoy! : )

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Crepes (Palacinke)

This time I am going to write about my mom's palacinke (crepes).  She makes awesome crepes and mine never turn out as good as hers do.  So I decided to have her take some photos and write up her recipe for our blog.  My mom usually doesn't follow a recipe and they always turn out perfect, but I asked her to write down her ingredients and directions this time.  So here is her recipe:

- 3 eggs
- 5 cups of flour
- 5 cup of milk
- 5  cup of warm water
- oil (vegetable, canola, or sunflower seed oil)
- pinch of salt or sugar (optional - my mom does not add this)
- pinch of vanilla powder (optional - my mom does not add this)

- Beat the eggs in a large bowl
- Add 1 cup of flour and mix
- Combine milk and warm water and gradually add 2 cups to the egg/flour mix 

- Add 1 more cup of flour and mix
- Add more milk and water and keep mixing
- Keep adding flour, then milk and water, until the mix gets a texture of a thick soup (like it is seen in the photo below)

- Heat up about 1 teaspoon of oil in a medium sized pan
- Use a soup ladle, scoop the flour mix (like seen in the photo) and pour over hot oil
- Leave on one side for about 1 minute until golden, then flip to the other side using a spatula
- When the other side gets golden, transfer to a plate and do the same with the next crepe
- Making crepes can be complicated at first and takes practice to get them perfect.  They may rip or stick to the pan at first.  (Please let me know if you have any questions about this process.)

- Keep adding more oil if needed, but only about 1 teaspoon at a time since the crepes should not absorb too much of it
- Use should make about 15-20 crepes and this should be enough for a bigger group of guests
- Serve with Nutella, Lino Lada Hazelnut Spread, or your favorite jam or jelly.

Crepes are always a hit when inviting friends over!  I hope that you are going to like this recipe!  Enjoy!  :-P

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Maja and I love brussel sprouts and we frequently prepare them. Over time we've tried many simple and delicious ways to cook them: from simply steaming them and seasoning with olive oil, to the much less healthy approach where they are fried in bacon fat and then tossed with the bacon bits. This very simple recipe is one of our favorites.

- about 20 fresh Brussels Sprouts cleaned and sliced in half
- olive oil to taste
- salt and pepper to taste

- Set oven to 400 F
- Wash and clean Brussels Sprouts and slice them in half
- Put them in a baking pan lined with aluminum foil
- Add olive oil, salt and pepper to Brussels Sprouts in the baking pan
- Mix well

- Put in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, turning occasionally
- When done, take out, let cool for a few minutes and either serve as a side dish or enjoy on its own as a snack


Vegetarian Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

We did not get to go to the store this time and wanted to make something out of the ingredients that we already had at home, so we decided to make this Vegetarian Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna recipe that Ivan found online.  We had to substitute some ingredients, but the lasagna turned out better than we expected.  We put less cheese and tomato sauce than the original recipe asked for, therefore it was not as heavy as you would expect it.  Here is our recipe for this tasty vegetarian lasagna:

- 1 1/2 pounds of mushrooms (shiitake and button mushrooms), chopped
- salt, to taste
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 4 green onions, chopped
- olive oil, about 3 tablespoons or more if you would like
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 small can of tomato sauce (16 oz) (reserve 1 cup for the end)
- 1 tomato, chopped (or more if you would like)
- 1 small can of cream of mushroom soup (optional)
- 1 cup of water
- 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tablespoon of sugar
- 1-2 pounds of fresh spinach, washed and squeezed in clean towel of excess moisture
- 1 pound of lasagna noodles (16 to 20 noodles)
- 1 container of ricotta cheese (15 or 16 ounces) (we did not have as much left, so we added some sour cream and cream cheese and mixed it)
- 1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil
- 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
- 4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 large glass casserole dish, preferably 10x15 inches (ours was a little bit smaller, but still worked)

- Place mushrooms in a large (6 to 8 quart) pan on medium-high heat.  Stir them with a wooden spoon or shake the pan from time to time.  
- Sprinkle salt over the mushrooms and they will start to release water
- Once the mushrooms start to release water, add the chopped onions and green onions.
- Cook until the mushrooms are no longer releasing moisture and the water has evaporated (about 5 more minutes)
- Add the olive oil to the mushrooms and onions and stir to coat and saute for about a minute.
- Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Reserve 1 cup of tomato sauce (it will go in the bottom of the casserole dish), and put the remaining tomato sauce and chopped tomato into the pot with the mushrooms.
- Add 1 cup of water.
- Add the cream of mushroom to the mix (if you decide to use it).
- Stir in the thyme, sugar, and red pepper flakes. (If you are using dried basil instead of fresh, add it now.)
- Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and simmer on low for about 20 minutes.

- Once the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta in salted water (I add a little bit of olive oil to the water too). Stir gently, making sure that the noodles are not sticking to each other and cook uncovered for about 8 minutes (or however long is indicated on the package) until 'el dente'.  Drain the noodles in colander and rinse them in cold water.  As you rinse them, gently separate them so they don't stick to each other.
- Turn off the heat for the sauce after cooking for about 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Spread the one cup of reserved tomato sauce over the bottom of the casserole dish.
- Place a layer of lasagna noodles over the tomato sauce, slightly overlapping.
- Spread half of the ricotta cheese (we also had sour cream and cream cheese mix) over the noodles. 
- Sprinkle half of the spinach over the ricotta cheese.
- Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese over the spinach.
- Then add a quarter of the Parmesan cheese on top.
- Add 1/3 of the mushroom sauce over the mozzarella and sprinkle half of the fresh basil over the sauce (if using).

- Repeat the layering process.
- Place a second layer of noodles over the sauce.
- Spread the remaining ricotta, spinach, mozzarella and Parmesan over the noodles.
- Top with another 1/3 of the mushroom sauce and the remaining fresh basil.
- Layer the final layer of lasagna noodles over the sauce.
- Spread the remaining mushroom sauce over the noodles, then sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese. 

- Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the casserole dish to cover. (Make sure to spread a little bit of oil over the inside of the foil so that the lasagna does not stick to it.)
- Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake uncovered for an additional 25 minutes.
- Take the lasagna out of the oven when done and let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting to serve.

Bon appetit! : )