Category Archives: Recipes

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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Bosanski Lonac–Beef & Cabbage Stew

It’s New Year’s Eve!–a big holiday in Bosnia where children get gifts, large meals are consumed, beer and spirits are drunk, and fireworks are set off in every neighborhood. As I’m writing this, 2013 has already begun in Bosnia. My sister-in-law Jasmina is no doubt putting her feet up after hosting friends and family with a multi-course feast.

On our corner of the globe we’re still recovering from Christmas and the weather has been bitter cold and windy.  I can think of few meals more comforting and belly-warming than a good stew. This is the first Bosnian meal I’ve ever had and the first meal Jas cooked for me when we were dating. It defies all the rules of good-stew making–  the meat is placed into the pot raw with vegetables, seasoning and water and it’s simmered until every sweet ingredient melts in your mouth. Have some bread on hand to mop up all the yummy broth and life is good.

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You want your veg to be a decent size so they don’t dissolve into the stew.

Start with the seasoned meat.

Start with the seasoned meat.

Layer with veg (we left the peppers out of this one).

Layer with veg (we left the peppers out of this one).

Layer cabbage and seasoning.

Layer cabbage and seasoning.

Continue layering ingredients until the pot is full, then submerge ingredients with boiling water.

Continue layering ingredients until the pot is full, then submerge ingredients with boiling water.

It's not the prettiest dish--but one taste and you won't care.

It’s not the prettiest dish–but one taste and you won’t care.

Here’s the complete recipe:

Bosanski Lonac–Beef & Cabbage Stew

  • 1- 1.5 lbs beef chuck cut into cubes
  • 1 lg. carrot cut into large chunks
  • 5 potatoes cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 head of cabbage cut into chunks
  • 1/2 onion quartered
  • 2 tomatoes cut into chunks
  • 2 cubanel peppers cut into chunks (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbs. vegeta (spice blend) separated
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil (separated)
  • Boiling water to cover
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Drizzle some of your olive oil in the bottom of your stew pot/ dutch oven. Sprinkle all of the beef with 1 Tbs. vegeta and layer half of it in the bottom of pot. Top with a layer of onion, carrots, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes. Top with a layer of cabbage. Sprinkle the cabbage with vegeta and drizzle some though not all of the leftover oil on top. Repeat the layers until you have no more ingredients. Tuck the bay leaf into the pot and add salt and pepper to taste. Add your boiling water to cover all of the ingredients and bring the whole pot to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Check if the stew is done by forking a piece of beef–if it’s fork tender, you’re ready to eat. If not, continue simmering and check every 15 minutes.

Yields: 4 – 6 servings

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Christmas Breakfast Bosnian-Style–Palacinke

For years I’ve struggled to figure out how to inject a little Bosnia into our Christmas celebration. Before we started dating, Jas never celebrated Christmas and so the holiday has always been an onslaught of Italian-American tradition. I’ve asked Jas if he wanted to add an extra dish to either the Christmas Eve or Day menus, or if there are any other traditions he’d like to incorporate but again, as he’d never celebrated it before, such traditions did not exist. Until now.

One morning, a few months ago Jas announced he was in the mood for palacinke (pah-lah-cheen-kay) and began whipping up a batch. Palacinke are Bosnian-style pancakes similar to the French crepe though a bit sturdier and while the crepe is eaten both savory or sweet at varying times of the day, palacinke are always served sweet as a snack or dessert. They are filled with nutella, chocolate, ground walnuts, or jam (strawberry or plum). They are not breakfast food and yet that didn’t stop Jas from fulfilling his craving one morning. As I watched him whisk the batter, ladle it in large circles onto a hot griddle and then flip the pancake the air–it hit me. Why not bring Bosnia to Christmas breakfast?

Chocolate palacinke served with ice cream at a cafe in Bosnia.

Chocolate palacinke served with ice cream at a cafe in Bosnia.

Christmas breakfast has always been a mixed bag in my family. Some years my mom would make apple fritters dipped in beer batter and dusted with cinnamon-sugar–a heavenly concoction and one that I quickly abandoned after trying it myself one year. Deep frying on Christmas morning prior to preparing all of the other Christmas Day foods does not a happy girl make. Other years we’d have scrambled eggs with bacon, or almond olive oil cake with macerated oranges, while others we’d simply nibble on some Christmas cookies or dip into the platter of leftover struffoli (Italian cookie/pastry). This year we made Bosnian pancakes.

Or, Jas made Bosnian pancakes. On Christmas morning. In his pajamas. Hair askew. While he whisked, ladled and flipped (did I mention he flips them in the air? It’s one of the reasons I married him), I arranged the fillings on a serving tray. Again, traditionally palacinke are filled with Nutella, jam or ground walnuts. I added some French touches to the choices such as butter, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and orange zest. I stopped short of placing some cheese and ham on the tray for those who might be in a savory mood–it’s good to adapt but some changes fall into the realm of sacrilege.

Once the pancakes were ready we simply placed them out with the tray of fillings and let everyone help themselves. It’s true–palacinke are strictly a Bosnian dessert, but if you can’t eat dessert for Christmas breakfast, then what’s the point of it all?

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Cookie enjoying palacinke with Nutella.

Here’s the recipe:

Bosnian Pancakes (Palacinke)

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup sparkling water or water
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Whisk all ingredients together. Melt 4 Tbs. butter. Drizzle the butter into a hot 8 inch frying pan. Then pour in about 1/4 cup batter. Tip the pan until the batter fills the bottom (should look like a giant pancake). When the edges start to curl up, flip the pancake and cook for another 60 seconds. Flip into a large plate. Repeat until you have no more batter left.

Pass palacinke at the table with Nutella, jam, and/ or ground nuts. You can fold them into triangles as seen above, or roll them up.

Yields: about 12 pancakes

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