My Macedonian Kitchen

life and cooking in macedonia and around the world

For the past few months, we’ve been living in ‘Washington’.  By this, I mean Washington D.C., District of Columbia, our nation’s capital, etc, etc.  Being from the real Washington, this can get a little confusing.  Some of the highlights–visiting historic sights around D.C., checking out the city’s great museums, taking advantage of the mild winter and beautiful spring by spending lots of time outside…until the pollen count got so high we were forced back inside, hosting friends and family during their visits to D.C…

 

After several good months in ‘Washington’ it’s finally time to say goodbye.  We didn’t get much cooking done while we were here, but anticipate our kitchen will get busier in the next few months!  But for now we’re off–so long Washington!

March may be a strange time to do a recap of the last year, but since we are officially back in our (not so) Macedonian Kitchen, I thought I would at least share a couple of photos fromt he last year to give you a little idea about what we’ve been up to.  Last July, we left Macedonia for Seattle.  We spent a couple of wonderful weeks enjoying all the best parts of summer in the Pacific Northwest–fresh fruit, sunshine, and time on the lake!

We then headed east, to ‘the other Washington’.  We were excited to spend some time in our nation’s capital and our first few weeks were full of excitement.  In less than a month we experienced an extreme heat wave, an earthquake, and a hurricane!  Yikes!

After a few months in Virginia, we bought this little beauty.  Having lived without a car for three years in Macedonia, depending on our wonderfully generous friends for rides (thanks guys!) it felt pretty nice to be the ones offering a ride for a change.

Compliments of our new wheels, we were able to get out of D.C. for a while and explore the Virginian countryside.  Who knew I would move from one apple loving state to another? Interestingly, apples originated in Kazakhstan…coincidence?

Finding covered bridges was on my list of ‘must-do-East Coast activities.

We also enjoyed a beautiful drive down to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

Of course, we stopped along the way for a pint of cider.

The weather began to change.

Christmas decorations started popping up in our neighborhood.

Presents started arriving and making their way under our tree.

We found an awesome website that directed us to all kinds of crazy Christmas lights in Virginia.

We took advantage of the mild winter by strolling around the city.


We are still enjoying our last few months in D.C., before we meet our next new city–Astana!

There’s something about being abroad that makes me hungry.  You might be thinking, of course you’re hungry, you’re in Europe!  You are surrounded by delicious and exotic delicacies of every kind, that delicious European full fat butter, beautiful pastries, rich chocolate truffles, thousands of kinds of cheese, pasta, crepes, bread, the list goes on and on–the fact that you can stop eating ever is an absolute miracle!

Before you get carried away, imagining me sipping tiny cups of italian espresso while nibbling on a warm buttered croissant, and a macaron or two–let me remind you that while Macedonia is like Europe, Macedonia is close to Europe, and technically, Macedonia is even geographically in Europe, Macedonia’s delicacies are not all that delicate…think a pot of various meats and vegetables tortured (as my Taiwanese friend in MK would say) until the whole mixture is virtually unidentifiable.  Or another famous (and admittedly delicious) Macedonian delicacy, Ajvar, where the same procedure is performed on peppers and eggplant until they too no longer resemble their former selves.   Second, I would like to remind you that we are not actually in Macedonia at the moment, so my coffee experience pretty much consists of waiting in line at Starbucks with the rest of you and drinking my coffee as I drive.  Ah, America!  Finally, I am afraid there won’t be too many tiny coffees or macarons in my future either, as we are gearing up to move to Kazakhstan, where the national culinary delights consist of boiled noodles, boiled horse meat, and if you are a particularly honored guest, the boiled head of a sheep.  (There are actually a few other dishes that sound marginally better and even verging on tasty, but I’ll have to let you know once I try them for myself…)

Now that we’ve established the kind of experience I am not having, let me get back to my main point, which is, being abroad makes me hungry.  Hungry for things that remind me of home.  Of course, being from the ‘Apple Capital’ there’s been a time or two when I had a hankering for a crisp, juicy Washington apple, or the tail piece of a King Salmon from the Copper River prepared with lemon pepper and onions, or a spear of my grandma’s spicy pickled asparagus, but usually, my cravings run a little closer to the kind that can be satisfied at a convenience store–a few oreos, a reese’s peanut butter cup, a slice of cheddar cheese…  Somehow these things that I don’t even notice while I am in America suddenly become more than necessary once I am abroad.

By now, I’ve been in and out of America enough times to accept this hankering I get for American junk food, and I’ve even been know to throw a bag of mini reese’s peanut butter cups into my suitcase so I am prepared for such emergencies.  Interestingly, now that I am living in America again, I find myself occasionally craving some kind of European junkfood…a bite of baklava from Macedonia, a polvorone from Spain, or a bag of mushroom flavored potato chips from Russia. (You heard me!)  When we used to travel back and forth between Macedonia and the U.S. at Christmas time, we often flew threw Amsterdam.  Each time, I had the same routine–Starbucks for a chai latte, and a package of stroop waffles from the gift shop.  Due to the fact that we spent this Christmas in the U.S. I haven’t been able to satisfy my stroop waffle craving.  Now, here I am, at the end of March, pizzelle iron in hand, whipping up a batch of stroop waffles.

If you’ve ever been to the Netherlands, you’ve surely come across these addicting little cookies.  Or you may have seen them next to the register at Starbucks, or above the frozen foods at Trader Joe’s, or oddly enough at your favorite health food store.  Which, after you read the list of ingredients, you’ll agree is ironic, since there is nothing healthy about them.  Incase you have somehow missed these little drops of heaven*, let me try to describe them for you.*Bonus points if you caught the Friends reference…*  Stroop waffles are basically flat waffle cones that are sliced in half and filled with a spicy caramel-y filling that oozes out to the edges.  I’m told by my friend Leo, (a genuine dutchman) that they are traditionally served over a steaming cup of coffee or tea, so that the steam from your cup gently melts the caramel inside the cookie.  The result is dangerous.  Seriously, it is best to make these and share them with friends immediately, lest you give yourself a sugar headache.  Not that I would ever find MYself in that situation, I just thought I would give a fair warning to the rest of you.  An additional warning–these cookies are a bit labor intensive, so if it all seems too much, and you aren’t planning a trip to Amsterdam any time soon, I hope I have at least convinced you to cough up the $5, or whatever ridiculous ‘I-can’t-believe-someone-would-pay-this-much-for-a-cookie’ amount of money it costs the next time you are at Starbucks to try one of these little dutch beauties!

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I’ve been meaning to make this salad for a while now.  In fact, when we sat down to lunch, Aleks said, ‘I hope this salad lives up to your expectations…there’s been a lot of anticipation building up this week!’  I first tried this salad at brunch at Le Pain Quotidien.    They call it ‘Tuscan Bean Salad.’  I’m not sure what is tuscan about it, but it was so delicious, that I made it at home two days later.  So, when I had a bit of prosciutto left over after wrapping a few scallops last week, I knew exactly what I wanted to make.  So, I bought some arugula and whipped up a small batch of pesto.  Then I realized I hadn’t soaked any beans and my emergency stash of canned beans was already depleted.  So, Aleks cooked a pot of white beans before work, and I grabbed a tomato on my way home.  Finally, I thought I had everything–arugula, prosciutto, white beans, pesto, parmesan…except bread.   So, on our way home today, we stopped by Panera and grabbed a loaf of crusty sourdough and at last, we enjoyed one of my favorite salads for lunch.

One of the best things about this salad is that it’s hearty.  Even Aleks was satisfied after having ‘just a salad’ for lunch!  Every bite combines firm toothieness of beans, the slightly bitter taste of arugula, the crunchiness of the bread, saltiness of the prosciutto and parmesan and the buttery goodness of pesto.  It’s perfect for lunch or brunch!

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Yowza!  Say that 10 times fast!  You know one of the problems I have whenever I go abroad is trying to explain to people the character of Seattle.  For some reason ‘granola’ just doesn’t translate into Macedonian. (Or Russian, or Kazakh…)  The other problem I have is finding the ingredients to satisfy my own literal granola cravings–not the same thing as museli people–as well as finding the ingredients to satisfy my not so literal but equally strong granola cravings, like these delicious gluten-free vegan chocolate chip cookies.  When I was in college at the University of Washington in Seattle, our sorority was a few blocks away from a hole in the wall wheat free and vegan bakery.  I mean this in the most literal sense, on your way in to another (vegan) cafe, there was literally a hole in the wall where someone was selling all sorts of wheat free and vegan goodies.  Neither my roommate nor I  had celiac disease, nor were we actually vegan, but like any good Seattle-ite, we had a great appreciation for anything a little granola.  So, whenever we got a hankering for some delicious vegan goodness, we would swing by the Flying Apron for a tasty treat…my favorite was the berry corn disk, a coarse cornbread round topped with delicious fresh berries.

Now, what once was a little hole in the wall in the U District has become a full fledged cafe and bakery in Fremont.  I also read on their website recently that they have a new location in Redmond, and of course you can find their goodies at a number of shops through out the Seattle area, especially at PCC and Whole Foods.   The Flying Apron‘s new location is great for all of us, because now you can go in and actually sit down and enjoy their baked goods along side a cup of coffee, or pop in for a vegan pizza or cup of soup for lunch!

The last time I was home for Christmas, in 2010, my mom took my to Fremont for my obligatory stop at the Flying Apron.  As I carefully studied the contents of their bakery case, something even better than a chai cupcake or a vegan gingerbread man caught my eye– the Flying Apron’s new cookbook!  This is hands down the most used/loved/spilled up on cookbook in my kitchen.  You can easily tell my favorite recipes (berry corn muffins, chocolate chip cookies, sweet tahinis, basic bread dough, lentil soup) from the stains on the pages and the way a few pages are a bit wrinkly from moisture.

As good as the recipes in this book are, I usually end up altering them a little to fit what I have on hand, and the personal tastes of our house.  I definitely recommend reading Jennifer’s recommendations and tips for gluten free cooking, because many of the recipes work differently that the traditional recipes that most of us are used to.  To these cookies, I added pecans and swapped a little almond butter for some of the oil.  I also subbed almond for rice milk.

These cookies are a little difficult to describe.  I want to say that they turn out a bit more like a regular (non-chewy) chips ahoy cookie, rather than a traditional (to my house) gooey homemade chocolate chip cookie, but that description doesn’t really do them justice.  The texture of these cookies is soft yet the tiniest bit crumbly, while the chocolate chips still melt to be deliciously warm and gooey.  The pecans lend a nice toothiness, and the almond butter adds a certain hearty complexity to the overall flavor.  If you are looking for a gluten free and vegan identical replica of your favorite traditionally made chocolate chip cookie, I can’t tell you whether or not this is it.  I can tell you that these cookies are absolutely delicious and the last batch that I made lasted less that 48 hours!

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Has everyone discovered pinterest?  I must confess, I easily waste more than a few minutes each morning checking out all the new recipe/craft/design ideas my friends have pinned.  In fact, it was pinterest that inspired this little gem–the last time I was at home, my mom kept telling me about a recipe she found for asparagus with lemon and feta.   She couldn’t find the recipe right then, so we improvised a little by drizzling our asparagus with a little olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkling it with feta and roasting it in the oven.  After dinner, not a spear was left over!

This morning, I looked back through my mom’s old pins, and I actually found the link to the original recipe my mom wanted to try over at Once Upon a Chef.  Turns out, we came pretty close with our improvised version, but Jennifer’s Grilled Asparagus and Feta Salad also sounds divine.  She even threw her asparagus on the grill.  Mmmmm, sounds perfect for summer! By the way, if you’ve never visited her blog before, I recommend you check it out right away–yummy photos and delicious looking recipes–I am especially looking forward to trying out her recipe for soft pretzels! Yum!

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I’ve been thinking about how to make this transition for a while. When I started this blog, we had been living in Macedonia for about a year.  I spent the first few months sitting in my mother-in-law’s apartment pouring over food blogs, thinking about all of the things I would make once I had my own kitchen.  After a couple of months, I had my own kitchen, so I kept  checking my favorite blogs.  Then I discovered tastespotting…  So many beautiful potos in one place.  So after a year of living and working (finally!) in Macedonia, I decided to start writing about food and life in Skopje.  The first year I blogged enthusiastically, there was so much to share about my life in Skopje, and I had so many recipes I wanted to upload.

After about a year of blogging, I encountered a few health problems that altered the kinds of recipes I was trying, so I took a small break from blogging.  A month or so later, I received a job offer that took us to Washington D.C. for training, and has us heading to Astana, Kazakhstan this spring!  So, a break which was supposed to last a couple of months turned into a year.  I debated whether or not I should continue the blog.  I mean, I’m not really in Macedonia anymore, so can I really be blogging about my ‘Macedonian Kitchen’?  However, there is still a Macedonian IN my kitchen…  So, after much debate, we decided to continue with the blog.  We will still occasionally post about Macedonia and Macedonian food, but you can also expect to hear a bit more about our life here in D.C. and soon about our move to Central Asia.

For now, I thought I’d post a few photos of the things I miss from Macedonia.

 

St. John of Kaneo church in Ohrid.

The view from my favorite place to stay in Ohrid, Grebnos guest house.

The smell of ajvar in the fall.

Driving past little villages like this.

To barbecue with cuties like this.

And eat delicious salads like this!

Our sunny apartment.

Hiking on Vodno mountain behind our apartment building.

And looking back on our neighborhood.

Buying figs at the market.

Weekend Waffles

February 16 2012 - In: Recipes Jessica

3 comments

Ironically, I titled my last post ‘A Long Hiatus’.  Ha!  Little did I know, the real hiatus was yet to come.  Is it possible to give an entire year’s worth of updates in just one post?  Probably not.  In that case, I’ll just start with these waffles.  I don’t know where you are, but I’m just an hour away from Thursday.  That means three whole days of sleeping in, snuggling up with a hot cup of tea, reading my book, and most importantly these waffles.

To tell you the truth, I’ve never been all that big on waffles.  I’ve always been more of a pancake kind of gal.  Or better yet, a French Toast kind of gal.  (We can talk later about how Macedonians eat their French Toast with ketchup and cheese…)  Despite my lack of enthusiasm for waffles, I bought a waffle iron recently.  When I got home, I wanted to try it out, which was easier said than done.

To start with, the recipe that came with the waffle maker called for an absurd amount of butter, so I started searching for a ‘friendlier’ recipe.  I came across many recipes for yeasted waffles and since I absolutely LOVE my grandma’s sour dough pancakes, I thought that might be just the thing.  But then, I remembered those recipes have to sit overnight…naturally I wanted my waffles NOW.  Recently, I subscribed to the Cooks Illustrated website because it is full of tips, tricks, recipes, and product reviews, so I checked out their waffle recipe, but I was missing a few ingredients.

Finally, I settled on a recipe from Alton Brown (Aleks’ favorite chef/cook/cook book author/cooking show guru) but I used the method from Cooks Illustrated.  Since then, I have made this recipe a few times, comparing Alton Brown’s original method to the one from Cooks Illustrated.  I have to say that while Alton’s method was simpler and produced a very delicious waffle, the waffles made with the Cooks Illustrated method were lighter and had a better ‘crisp’ on the outside.   Read more →

Yikes!  How did I let January (and half of February) slip away from me like this!  We had a great holiday in the states and have been busily tending to things back here in Skopje.  We got together with Violeta and whipped up some traditional Macedonian sarma…recipe to come over the weekend.  We had celebrated the birthday of a good friend with these unbelievable chocolate mint cupcakes.

Before we left for the states, we got together with these fine folks for a gingerbread house making extravaganza.

And what an extravaganza it was!  Check out our swell ingredients and our final creations!

When we got to the states, we were busy squeezing a year’s worth of visits into only a few weeks.  We did manage to take a break and relax on this quaint sleigh ride at Red Tail Canyon Farm.

So, we had a great holiday.  Ironically, we did a lot of eating…but almost no blogging.  Finally, we’re back.  I know people were hoping for more traditional recipes this year, and I am trying not to disappoint you.  Like I said, sarma is coming up and we’ve been harassing Aleks’ mom for more traditional recipes…unfortunately, lately she has been making tacos and stir fry…  In the mean time, try out this recipe for mint chocolate cupcakes that I found over at Simply Recipes.  Think thin mints, in a cupcake. Let me just say, we took them to a birthday and by the end we were all licking the pan.

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Is it really already January 4th?  Are you having a good year so far?  Made any new year’s resolutions?  I made a few (which we’ll probably talk about later…)  For now, we are just gearing up to head back to Macedonia after a wonderful holiday in the Pacific Northwest.  I’ve had lots of requests for more traditional Macedonian recipes, so I am on a mission to get some of my favorite Macedonian ladies to share some of their favorite Macedonian dishes with you!  Meanwhile, here’s one last cookie recipe to help  2011 get off to a great start.

We ended 2010 with a sleigh ride at Red Tail Canyon Farm in Leavenworth, where we met up with these two cuties.  Seriously, does it get cuter than this?

In case you couldn’t tell, this cutie is my brother.  See the resemblance?  Remember when I re-posted a classic chocolate chip cookie recipe during the Christmas cookie countdown because I couldn’t find the time amidst the pre-Christmas bustle to introduce me to my brother and his favorite cookie recipe?  Well, now that Christmas is a good week behind us and we’ve done a pretty good job polishing off all the Christmas treats around here there is finally room in our cookie jar for another treat or two.   Last night, after a long day at the mountain, Brandon decided to whip up a little post-ski snack.

So, we got out a little peanut butter, a little cocoa, some oats, milk, and butter and before you know it….

We had these on our hands…

Of course, Brandon had to test em out, you know…to make sure they weren’t poisonous or anything.

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