Friday, November 6, 2015

Savory Strudel with Kale and Feta Cheese

I am a huge fan of strudel, it doesn't matter if it is sweet or savory. Everything about strudel is very special to me, and when we talk about savory one, I prefer it stuffed with Feta cheese and spinach. That is the best combination, proven so many times.

However, if you have garden full of kale for almost half of year like I do (it is very productive and long-lasting vegetable), you have to find a way to use it, so I decided to try it in strudel. Although I think there is too much hype about it, I do recognize kale if healthy and nutritious. Favorite soup in my family is Tuscan Soup with Kale and we have it at least 2-3 times monthly.

This year I planted two different kinds of kale: regular and purple one. Although they look different, the taste is pretty much the same. This vegetable is best when it's young (like on the pictures here) because baby kale is tender and not bitter.

The recipe below is for four rolls of strudel and that's a lot, but you can always freeze it, as my mom used to do it, or cut the amount of ingredients in half. This strudel is a good choice for breakfast or snack.

Savory Strudel with Kale and Feta Cheese

You need for the dough:

4 1/2 cups bread flour

1 cup warm milk

1 cup warm water

1/2 oz active yeast

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
9 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs

For filling:

1lb Feta cheese, crumbled
2 bunches of kale, stems removed and chopped
5 eggs
1 cup of Greek yogurt or Kefir
Salt and black pepper
1/2 stick of butter, melted

Baking pan, dimensions 13x9x2 inches, oiled


Stir together flour, salt, sugar, yeast, melted butter and beaten eggs in a mixing bowl. Pour warm milk and water into the flour mixture. Mix everything with the spoon or in a food processor.

Transfer the dough to the counter and knead for about 10 min. Add more flour if needed.

Form dough in the round shape and put it in the lightly oiled large bowl to rise for 1 hour, to double its original size. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

In a bowl combine beaten eggs, crumbled Feta cheese, Greek yogurt, chopped kale and salt and black pepper to taste. You will use this as stuffing. 

Preheat the oven to 400F (205C).

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into four even pieces. Roll out each piece of dough with a rolling pin into rectangular shape that fits your baking pan. First brush the dough with melted butter, add 1/4 of stuffing over it, and fold the dough carefully into long roll. Place it in baking pan. Do the same with the rest of materials.

When you have all rolls placed in baking pan, brush their tops with melted butter. Let them rest for 15 minutes.

Bake strudel about 30 minutes, or until it gets nice golden-brown crust.

Serve with Kefir.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cheese - Roasted Red Pepper Spread (Urnebes Salad), and Summer in Serbia

This summer we had a very busy trip to Serbia. It was all about meting our friends and relatives and eating a lot of food. Although it sounds like a rather pleasant thing to do, it took a lot of planning, I have to say, we had a full schedule.

But, there were also days when we really wanted to skip the routine, we wanted to be alone, my husband and I, and do something for ourselves. One day we decided to borrow bikes from our friends and escape for a long ride to a forest on the other bank of the great river, Sava.

The Sava river offshoot

Sava is my favorite river. Although I grew up nearby, I discovered its beauty only in my teenage years. It is quite big, although this summer, after great heat and drought, it shrunk significantly.

As we rode by the river bank, we could see dry cracked soil, scattered river shells, and a lot of leaping frogs. No giant mosquitoes this time.

Before moving to U.S, riding bikes by the Sava river was one of our favorite activities. Surrounded by beautiful landscape, we had used to feel relaxed and energized at the same time. Now we wanted to recreate that feeling.

Given that just few days before this trip we had a long bike ride in Tuscany, from Florence to Siena, it was kind of interesting to compare landscapes of Italy and Serbia. While the heat was brutal in both countries, I definitely preferred flat Serbian road over hilly Tuscan one!

On our way, we noticed such a common scene for this part of Serbia, a stork and its huge nest on the village church belfry. That was so lovely. Hard to believe but I have never seen a stork in the U.S.

After an hour or so, we were at our destination, the forest called Bojčinska šuma.

Yep, we planed to go to this restaurant located in the woods, in a deep shade. Its name is Bojčinka koleba.

The restaurant had a very traditional decoration, and the food was traditional too.

Serbia is a country of good bread, and it is eaten in great quantity, that is so true.

When you come to Serbia you eat food that you cannot try anywhere else, for example fish soup from a picture above. And let me ask you, where can you eat delicious fish soup that costs less than $1? Only in Serbia.

Few more typical Serbian dishes that every expatriate craves:

Šopska salad, eaten as a side with any kind of dish in the summer time.

Ćevapčići, grilled sausage links made of ground meat, one of the best and most popular dishes you can eat in Serbia.

Sarmice od zelja, some kind of greens, zelje, unknown in the U. S, stuffed with ground meat. It is always served with yogurt.  

Look at that roasted hot pepper with garlic dressing! Such a beauty! Find recipe here.

Beside eating good food, you can ride a horse here, or have a stroll in the woods...

And, you can visit a pig farm. 

This kind of pig called Mangulica is a special one, indigenous to this region. It is black and rather lean, and great sausages are made of it!

Soon, it was time to start our ride back. The trip ended soon, but the good memories are still alive.

Urnebes Salad

With so many things to do while in Serbia, we didn't have a chance to try everything we wanted to eat, so when I came back home to U.S., I was just making that food in my kitchen. One was a beautiful dessert, Krempita, puff pastry with vanilla custard, when I perfect the recipe I will share it with you.

The second dish was this Urnebes salad. It is very hard to translate its name, to be honest I don't even know the origin, or why it is named salad when obviously it is not. Urnebes is more like a spread or a dip. It is traditional Serbian dish that is served with Pljeskavica (Serbian burger), and Ćevapčići. Urnebes is spicy as the rest of food that comes from south of Serbia (like U.S., the food gets spicier as you go south).

You can use it with cooked smoked sausages and bacon, as I did, or as a dip for different raw vegetables.

You need:

1 large red bell pepper
200g Serbian white cheese, or Feta cheese
1 garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground dried sweet pepper, Paprika
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon chili or cayenne pepper, or crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons sour cream
Salt and back pepper to taste


Roast  the whole red pepper in the oven. When it is charred and soft remove it from the heat and cool it down. Peel the dark skin, remove seeds and top, and chop finely.

In a bowl crumble the cheese with fork. Add paprika, chili, garlic, chopped red pepper and sour cream and mix it together until you get consistent mixture, or just mix it with a hand blender as I like to do.

Top it with paprika dust when serve.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Blueberry Macarons

Let me tell you, if you want to treat yourself or someone else with something really special you should bake these macarons. Little acidic taste that comes from blueberries combined with white chocolate ganache filling and crunchy texture of macarons will make experience out of this world.

Although this fruit is generally great in baking, have in mind that fresh, frozen, or even dried blueberries won't do the job when making macarons. What I used instead were dehydrated or freeze-dried blueberries and they worked pretty well, both in shells and filling. They produce nice taste and natural purple color. Freeze-dried blueberries are available in Trader's Joe, Whole Foods or Target. I like to make bagels with them too - more about it soon on the blog. Recently I found freeze-dried strawberries in a store and got very excited - still trying to figure it out dessert that I would like to make with them.

Blueberry Macarons

You need:

140g egg whites, on room temperature for few hours
100g white granulated sugar
160g finely ground almond (almond flour)
240g powdered sugar
10g freeze-dried blueberries powder (pulverized in food processor)
2-3 drops purple food color

For filling:

200g white chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
10g finely chopped freeze-dried blueberries


Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl combine powdered sugar with ground almond.

In another bowl beat egg whites with electric mixer on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed and while mixing gradually add granulated sugar in 3 batches, one at a time. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Stir in nut-sugar mixture and food color using spatula. Do not over mix it. Batter shouldn't be too thick or too lose.

Spoon mixture into pastry bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe rounds, 1-inch apart, on the baking sheets. Let it stand 20-40 minutes, until dry film forms on surface. This is very important stage, if there isn't dry film on surface it will cause macarons to crack while baking.

Preheat the oven. In my oven I bake macarons on 285F. Usually, people do it on 300F. Do not open the oven for first 7 minutes. In my oven, it takes 13 minutes for macarons to be done. You can check if they are done by touching them and moving them, if they break they are not ready to go out. To much of baking is not good either, because they get brown and change their original color.

When shells are done, cool them on wire racks.

Make ganache. Heat heavy cream until it starts to boil. In a bowl, place white chocolate chips and butter cut in small pieces. Pour in hot cream, cover the bowl with lid and wait for few minutes. Then stir ganache until all chocolate is melted. Add chopped freeze-dried blueberries and stir until they start to dissolve. Remove it to fridge for 15 minutes to thicken. Spoon it into pastry bag and fill between two macaron biscuits, making a "sandwich" held together by ganashe.

Store macarons in airtight containers in the fridge.

I took a picture of macaron with a bite just to show you how nice it looks inside. See it bellow.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Naturally Dyed and Decorated Easter Eggs (Using Onion Peel and Turmeric)

At some point of my life I decided to make only all-natural Easter eggs. Although I like to see variety of egg colors in an Easter basket, I don't feel comfortable using artificial dye, even if it says it's food-grade. That's especially the case if the dye penetrates below egg shell, for example seeing blue strains on my egg white is not really appetizing for me.

Dying with onion peel is a traditional and still very popular way of decorating Easter eggs in my homeland, Serbia. You wouldn't believe how many eggs are decorated over there, I am talking about several dozens per single family. Egg hunt is not so popular; instead we exchange Easter eggs with neighbors, friends and relatives. We also have egg-cracking competition, tournament style: each family member chooses an egg and then gently (or less gently) bumps against someone else's egg, trying to crack it, while keeping their own whole. Ultimately, whomever is left with unbroken egg is a winner.

On the pictures you can see how Easter eggs look like when dyed with onion skin (brown eggs) or turmeric (yellow ones). Very natural, indeed. Below, I will show you how to do it, plus, I will teach you how to make beautiful decoration with leaf imprints.

White or brown eggs?

If you use onion skin for dying you can use both, brown eggs will get deep brown color, white ones will be more light brown and reddish. However, if you use turmeric try white eggs.

How to get dry onion skin?

Last few years I have been collecting dry onion skin weeks ahead of Easter. But, you can always buy a lot of onions and peel off their skin. Also, many times I was allowed to peel onions placed on display in grocery stores.

I typically use brown and yellow onion, but you can try red onion skin too.

Onion peel dying 

You need:

12 eggs, white or brown

5 cups packed dry onion skin

4 or more cups of water to cover eggs in a pot

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 teaspoons salt

Vegetable oil for shiny look


In a  medium pot, place half of onion peel on the bottom, than 12 eggs on them, and the rest of onion peel place over the eggs. Pour in water to be 1-2 inch above eggs and peel, then add vinegar and salt. Heat the water until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer the eggs for about 20 minutes on low temperature. Check if the eggs are turning brown. When done, remove the saucepan from the cooker, wait for the eggs to cool down.

Give the eggs final touch by gently rubbing vegetable oil on them. Use cotton towel. They will be smooth and shiny, just perfect.

Turmeric egg dying

You need:

12 white eggs

6 tablespoons turmeric powder

Water to cover eggs

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 teaspoons salt


Follow instructions for onion peel coloring above. Instead of using onion peel add turmeric powder.

When done, place eggs on paper towel to dry.

Leaf imprint decoration

Eggs decorated with arugula, parsley, sage, geranium leaves and geranium flower

You need:

Bunch of leaves of early spring plants that you can find nearby. Tender leaves are better choice. My favorites are Italian parsley and Chervil (French parsley).

A pair of old panty hose, cut into 4-5 inches wide stripes



Before you use leaves leave them in a dish filled with water, it will be easier for you to apply them on the eggs.

After you lay leaf on the egg, cover it with hose stripe, then pull the hose very tightly on the opposite side of the egg, make a twist and secure it with string. Cut the part that hangs. Place the eggs into the saucepan with onion peel and follow cooking instructions from above.

When the eggs are done and cooled down, remove hose and leaves using scissors and let them dry. Then apply vegetable oil.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Coconut Crescent Rolls (Kokos kiflice)

My mom used to make these when I was a kid and I loved them so much. They are somewhat similar to German vanilla crescent rolls, but with added taste and texture coming from coconut flakes. They will start melting in your mouth with first bite. Then you have a sip of black coffee and you can be sure your day started well. You have to admit - life is good.

Although our relationship in the kitchen has always been very complicated, I have to say that my mother's little coconut crescent rolls are the best. Bellow is her recipe.

You need:
1 3/4 stick (200g) unsalted butter, softened on room temperature
2 cups (250g) powdered sugar + 1/3 cup (50g) for coating
2 eggs
2 cups (200g) finely shredded coconut
3 1/4 cups (400g) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 335F (170C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment pepper.

Beat butter and sugar with a hand mixer until you get nice consistent creamy mixture. Add eggs, one by one, and vanilla extract, while you are mixing. Then add flour and shredded coconut. Mix everything using hands and put dough to fridge to chill for 20 minutes.

Make the balls (walnut size) with the dough using your hands, then roll them, lightly flatten, and fold ends to create crescent shape. Place them on the baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes - until they start getting golden color. Roll the warm rolls in powdered sugar until completely coated.

Rolls can stay fresh for days, actually getting even better over time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sarma, Stuffed Cabagge Rolls

Sarma is the king when we are talking about Serbian food. Probably the most authentic dish in Serbian cuisine. Sure, you will find stuffed cabbage rolls in other Eastern European countries, but Serbian recipe calls for pickled cabbage leaves, not fresh ones, and, believe me, that makes a huge difference.

Serbs are so crazy about Sarma that they make it for any important event: weddings, slava (holiday dedicated to family's patron saint), Christmas, New Year's Eve, name it.

Serbian Christmas Feast: SMashed Potato, Sarma and Prebranac (Baked beans).

Fall and Winter are the seasons for making Sarma. This dish is too heavy for the Summer, plus it is hard to find pickled cabbage that time of the year. In Serbia, people pickle cabbage at home, starting in the early Fall, by putting whole cabbage heads in big barrels, adding only water and salt. Although I've never made it myself, I know it is not easy to make good pickled cabbage. One of the tricks is to keep cabbage heads tightly pressed by putting heavy weight on top of the barrel. Although we preserve cabbage mostly for use in Sarma, we also shred it to make healthy low-calorie winter salad, adding sweet paprika on top of it. It is very similar to sauerkraut and the taste is the same. Also, people drink the juice from barrel to cure hangover.

Around Spring time, as the weather warms up, if supplies have not been completely depleted, you will start to notice rather unpleasant smell from barrels with preserved cabbage. Pray that your neighbors, who keep cabbage barrel on their balcony, remove it soon, otherwise you are in trouble.

For good Sarma you need well preserved cabbage leaves, not too firm or soft, not damaged either. If you do not live in Serbia, you can buy it in some specialized ethnic stores with imported food. They are sold in big jars or plastic bags.

Pickled Cabbage Leaves in the Jar.

The most complicated part of this recipe is folding cabbage leaves into Sarma rolls. Pay attention to the steps on the pictures below. Also, although Sarma takes long to be cooked, do not overcook it. Rice in the filling should stay firm enough.

Serve the dish with mashed potatoes, and pair it with Merlot. 

You need:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5-6 slices of smoked bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic, finely chopped
500g (1 1/10 lb) ground beef
500g (1 1/10 lb) ground pork
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 ground black pepper
1 cup rice
2 large jars / packages pickled cabbage leaves
Water to cover

Smoked pork ribs, optional

Finishing sauce:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 tablespoon paprika


In a saucepan, cook oil and onion on medium heat for few minutes. Add beef, pork, salt and black pepper, mix everything together and keep stirring until meat is cooked medium well. Remove from the heat and add garlic and uncooked rice. Mix rice with the meat uniformly.

Now you are ready to fold rolls.

Lay cabbage leaf flat on the cutting board.

Trim down the central rib, so the leaf remains uniformly thick and soft. Make sure you don't puncture it.

Put about 2 tablespoons of meat-rice mixture on the leaf, side closer to you.

Roll the leaf outward. When completely rolled, use your index finger to push leaf sides in the middle of the roll. 

Finished roll should have shape of a cylinder.

Gently put roll in a big saucepan which bottom had been previously covered with few leaves (this is to protect rolls from being burnt at the bottom).

Repeat the process until you run out of ingredients and saucepan is filled with rolls.

Tuck in slices of bacon among rolls, this will give Sarma nice, smoky flavor. Gourmet option would be to add smoked pork ribs.

Cover rolls completely with water and if there are any leaves left, use them to cover the dish on the top. Simmer Sarma covered for about 90 minutes on low-medium heat.

When Sarma is done, pour over it the sauce that you made by lightly browning flour on oil on medium heat for a minute or so, adding paprika at the very end. The sauce will give thickness, color and extra flavor to the water in which the dish was cooked, so the liquid can be used when serving Sarma, as a gravy on top of rolls or mashed potatoes.

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