Monthly Archives: June 2013

Bosnian BBQ–Cevapi, Cevapi, Cevapi

Cevapi (cheh-vah-pee)

Cevapi (cheh-vah-pee)

Considered by many to be Bosnia’s national dish, cevapi is to Bosnia what the hamburger is to America. Jas requests cevapi every birthday and it is the one food he talks about for weeks before we head to Bosnia. Every Bosnian has their own recipe and you’ll find it in every Bosnian restaurant (some spots only serve cevapi).  My father-in-law made it the best but I think I come in a close second. Thankfully it’s easy to prepare in an American kitchen.

Cevapi are little rolled beef sausages classically served with bread, diced onion, and kajmak (a Bosnian cheese). A simple tomato and cucumber salad on the side completes the dinner. While cevapi are eaten year-round (we also make them for New Year’s Eve), they are great on the grill. If you’re looking to change up your traditional barbeque menu this summer, cevapi are the way to go. They can be prepared ahead of time, are easy and affordable to make for a crowd and you can even get your little one to help you roll them.  Served family style, eaten with your hands—what could be better?

Cevapi summer dinner

Cevapi summer dinner

A few notes about adapting this dish to your kitchen:

Cevapi are served on a type of bread called lepinja which is firm and doughy at the same time. I haven’t found it in America and you could make it, but who wants to knead dough in the summer heat? Sort of defeats the purpose of summer cooking. A bread that comes closest to lepinja and that is much easier to find is ciabatta though a doughy pita bread or even  naan could be used  with success.

Vegeta is a seasoning blend used widely in Slavic countries. It is easy to find online and some supermarkets are beginning to carry it, but if yours doesn’t or you don’t want to hunt online you could replace it with your favorite blend such as Lawry’s or McCormick’s. I do recommend going the extra step to secure some Vegeta as its uses are endless (Jas sprinkled it on our turkey this past Thanksgiving and it was fabulous).

Kajmak (kai-muk) is a spreadable sheep’s milk cheese. It’s like a cross between butter and cream cheese and the textures vary depending on where you buy it in Bosnia. It is not easy to find in America. There are a number of recipes online detailing how to make your own but I haven’t mastered the process and again, it defeats the purpose of summer cooking. Using a blend of easily found cheeses and some butter, you  can whip up your own kajmak to serve with your cevapi. The recipe is below.

Cevapi

Serves 4 -6

  • 3 lbs. ground beef (aim for 8o/20 meat/ fat ratio)
  • 2 Tbs. vegeta
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup sparkling water
  • 1 cup hot beef broth or water
  • Salt & pepper (to taste–I use 1 tsp. salt & 1/2 tsp. pepper)
  • Bread (ciabatta pref)

Soak the minced garlic in a little cool water for 15 minutes and drain. Place all ingredients into a large bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands (if the mixture feels too dry–you’ll know if it’s difficult to mix with your hands– add a bit more sparkling water).

Begin forming the cevapi–roll meat into a two inch ball and then roll between your palms into a log shape about two inches long. Place on a cookie sheet and keep rolling until all the meat is done. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Heat your grill, grill pan or flat top on high until screaming hot. Lay cevapi onto grill making sure not to crowd them. Turn the heat down to medium high and cook on all sides to desired done-ness (we prefer med-well which take about 5 – 7 minutes total). Note: Cevapi is properly seared when you can easily turn it on the grill, if it sticks, wait another minute or so before trying to turn again.

When all of your cevapi are grilled, slice your ciabatta bread in half and spoon hot beef broth or water (about 2 Tbs) over the insides. Place the bread face down on the hot grill and spoon more of the beef broth or water over the top. Note: if using pita or naan, place directly on the grill without slicing and sprinkle both sides with the broth or water. When the bread has grill marks on the bottom and the broth has steamed away (about 2 minutes) remove and serve with cevapi, diced onion and a bowl of kajmak.

To eat: Some pile their cevapi onto the bread and eat like a sandwich. We tear a piece of bread, slather it with kajmak, wrap it around an individual cevap, and sprinkle onion on top, like little mini hot dogs.

Loved by all ages

Loved by all ages

Kajmak

5 Tbs. sliced unsalted butter

8 oz. cream cheese (I use reduced fat)

8 oz. feta cheese crumbled

5 – 7 tbs. sour cream

Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Place them into a food processor or blender and blitz until you have a smooth, uniform mixture. It should have a spreadable consistency–use the extra sour cream if your kajmak is too thick.

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Naming a Babe Bosnian-Style

We are expecting Babe #2 and as with our first, do not know whether we’re having a boy or a girl. We’re currently in the throes of picking out names for both genders. If we were to follow Bosnian tradition, we’d simply take Cookie’s name and locate the male version of it or restrict ourselves to a name that has the same first letter for a female and be done. Hence, Jasmin (my husband) and his sister Jasmina. When I first heard this pairing–I’ll admit it– I laughed. A bit hysterically. I figured this naming approach was a quirk his mom and dad possessed, but after spending time in Bosnia I soon realized that this “quirk” is a full-fledged cultural norm.

A man named Amir will likely have a sister Amira. There are Bojans and Bojanas, Darios and Darias, and Ivans and Ivanas—all male/ female siblings. And when siblings are the same gender, or the brood is larger, all of the siblings will have a name with the same first letter. A trio of sisters could be named Mirsada, Melisa and Mirhunisa.

Of course, these are not hard and fast rules, and the younger generations are beginning to break with the tradition. But, where does it come from? How did it begin? It’s all a mystery. Jas has no clue (though he does know that it’s not particular to any ethnicity) and my research turned up nothing as well. (If you have any knowledge of this, please share with me).

It also hasn’t helped us come up with a name for the new babe (we’re particularly stuck trying to find a boy’s name). So much pressure giving a human being a name s/he will have for life! On one hand, I envy the way Bosnians narrow down the process. On the other, the American in me relishes the wide array of choices available to us as evidenced by the two baby name books I own, the four apps Jas consults and the six lists we have going. And it’s nice to know that should we have a boy, our children will never have to deal with some idiot  cackling hysterically upon meeting them.

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Differences Between Mamas & Tatas–A Visual

“Mama, sing Number Five” my girl said to me as she snuggled down for bed.

Number Five?” I asked, wracking my brain.

“Yah. Number Five” she nodded.

“Um….I’m not sure I know that song.”

“Ok. Sing Silly Dogs Mama.”

“Huh. How about…She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain?”

“Yah. That’s good too.”

Later that night I told Jas, “Cookie asked me to sing Number Five and Silly Dogs.”

He nodded. “Those are my songs.”

“Oh?! How do they go?”

“I’m not really sure. I just make them up as I go along.”

I’ve been reading a lot about fathers lately–how their approaches to parenting expose children to different styles of communication, and how their methods of play introduce unpredictability. Ultimately the way men (speaking generally of course) parent help children become more independent, preparing them for dealing with all types of real-world situations. Following are some visual parenting differences I’ve captured over the past couple of years–a celebration of mama and tata (daddy) styles in our home.

How Mama dresses me:

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Easter dress

How Tata dresses me:

"She picked it out."

“She picked it out.”

How Mama plays with me:

At the touch museum

At the touch museum

How Tata plays with me:

"Higher Tata! Higher!"

“Higher Tata! Higher!”

"Yaaaaaaah!"

“Yaaaaaaah!”

Tools Mama lets me play with:

Making muffins.

Making muffins.

Tools Tata lets me play with:

Building a shelf.

Building a shelf.

Snack with Mama:

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Shucking corn

Snack with Tata:

Ok, she didn't actually have Nutella this young, but it was only a matter of time...

Ok, she didn’t actually have Nutella this young, but it was only a matter of time…

...before we had our first Nutella face.

…before we had our first Nutella face.

Sharing Mama’s loves:

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Pulled all the books off the shelf

Sharing Tata’s loves:

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Goal!

And yet, we still snuggle the same:

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Happy Father’s Day to all the unpredictable, delightful Tatas out there!

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I’d love to hear your own mama/tata parenting/ parented observations, so please share with me.

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Kafa vs. Coffee

Sitting on Jasmina’s couch, I found myself alone with my niece’s new nanny–a young woman who spoke beautiful English. This was the first time we had met. She asked me where in America I was from and indicated she was familiar with my particular location in New Jersey. “Oh! Have you been there?!” I asked enthusiastically.

“No, no” she replied, flipping her hand. “I watch a lot of movies. The truth is, I don’t like Americans.”

Oh. As I struggled for both a response and a film that my small town had been featured in, she quickly followed it with “No offense to you. It’s just….I don’t understand people who walk down the street drinking a cup of coffee.”

It’s hard to think of a culture that takes its coffee, or kafa as seriously as Bosnians. Their passion for the drink is so great that if you spit in any direction, you’ll hit a coffee bar. Most Bosnians drink several unadulterated espresso-sized cups a day. Ask for milk and you’ll get a sideways look. Forget finding a spot that serves it with whipped cream, caramel or any of the other accoutrements so popular in America today. Kafa is served straight up with a bowl of sugar cubes on the side. It’s drunk before one heads to work, never on the way to work. Nor is it swallowed in one shot as some cultures are prone to do. Coffee drinking in Bosnia is a part of the day that one slows down for, not a means to an end.

When you knock on a neighbor’s door, kafa is brewing before you step over the threshold. Boiling water is poured into a long handled pot and a few tablespoons of kafa are added. The pot is placed on the hot burner to simmer for a minute or two and then is brought to the table with tiny espresso cups and a bowl of sugar cubes. Some sip it straight, while others dip the sugar cube into the cup, bring the cube to their mouth so the dipped sugar breaks off, and then follow it with a sip from their cup, ensuring that each taste of kafa has the perfect amount of sugar. (I’ve never seen anyone drop an entire cube into their cup).

Traditional Bosnian coffee pot

Traditional Bosnian coffee pot

“Sip” is the operative word here though, as kafa is a daily indulgence. An event. It is a time of day to sit and rest. To breathe. To talk with your family, your neighbor, or a complete stranger.  It is a symbol of hospitality, respect, and even superstition as some Bosnian women claim to have the power to read your future in the stray grounds left in your cup. And yet, I’m sheepish to admit, I’ve never been able to join in this daily tradition as coffee has always given me dreadful stomach aches. As an American, I’m allowed such “odd” behavior (hosts will pat me on the back and give me a cup of juice), but Jas is also not a coffee drinker simply because he does not like the taste. This is not as acceptable and he often finds himself “drinking” a cup for the two of us. What he really does is use it as a dip for the ubiquitous sugar cubes. It’s not uncommon for a host to rise and refill the bowl repeatedly when we visit.

The honest nanny was not employed by the family long–something about eating her weight in Eurocrem–but her observations on our different approaches to coffee drinking did , and still do, ring metaphorically true. When I’m home in America, I think of her everytime I see someone speed-walking, cell phone in one hand, styrofoam cup in the other.

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The Season of Roses

We have a rose-bush in our backyard and the first bud bloomed today. I imagine the same thing is happening in Bosnia, a place I cannot help but think of whenever and wherever I see roses. Though the official national flower is the golden lily, the country is awash in roses. If you travel there in the spring and summer months you will find roses in the garden of every home no matter the economic status of the owners. And if the wind catches just right…their scent will overwhelm you.

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See?!

A beloved flower, they appear in the most unlikely places. These beauties?–

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–they’re outside of a Target-type department store.

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This little group graces the exterior of a car insurance company.

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You’ll even find them outside of gas stations.

Excuse the long view.

Excuse the long view.

Roses are used to make juice

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…and they have become a metaphor for the losses from the war in Bosnia as Sarajevans saw their familiar petals in the grenade blasts on the street and subsequently filled the crevices with red paint. (That is a topic for another day though).

*

*

To mark the season of blooming roses, here is a bud for you–similar to the ones my father-in-law Akif would cut and give to me every morning after I’d stumble down to breakfast bleary-eyed and jet-lagged.

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Enjoy!

*Thanks to wikipedia for the image of the Sarajevo rose.

 

 

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