Winter Holiday in Croatia

Happy Christmastime!

I am reporting in from Zadar, and I am so excited to tell you what we’re up to. We are on VACATION. Which is so nice, because the past few months have been rather hectic and a little R&R is just what I need. It is so nice to wake up without an alarm, go for a walk by the sea, sit in the sun and drink tea, eat burek, walk walk walk, and eat lots of fresh fish and blitvar.

We went to visit Jadranka in Plitvice and she taught me how to make Croatian Christmas cookies. Vanilli Kifele (I have no idea about the spelling here) and Cimet Kifele (with a healthy dose of cinnamon added- Jadranka’s invention) and Rum Kuglica. These turned out great- no comparison to the disaster of last year’s Christmas cookies and failed Vanilla Kipferls.

 Pomegranites galore.

Fish soup – the broth was so flavorful.

Blitvar, naturally.

It was snowy in the mountains, so beautiful!

Miljan and I went to Bihac, Bosnia for the day while Jadranka was teaching.

 Turkish coffee with some really sweet and flavorful rose-jelly candy.

In Djeverske we spent a good hour shelling almonds- Jordan on the hammer and Milo and I sorted shells from almonds. Talk about a lot of work! Good thing this is just a “fun hobby” for us, if you actually had to do this on a regular basis I imagine it would get really tedious.

Back in the city we toasted them up and gave ’em a spin in the mixer to make our very own nut butter!

It was delicious, but the whole process is not for the faint of heart or short of time. But we have some time right now…

Miljan also made some prsut. Two hind leg hams and a front leg, which is slightly smaller. The front leg should be ready in about 6 months, the larger two will be ready in one and half or two years.

The smaller front leg:

 A big back leg:

Later that evening…we got our snack on, by shelling a bunch more almonds, blanching and peeling them (because its fun for us, remember) and toasting them up with some rosemary and salt- yum!

Christmas eve day was beautiful.

Christmas eve’s culinary highlight was tuna fish carpaccio, aka Adriatic Sushi.

On Christmas Milo braised some lamb with carrots, potatoes, celery root, and beets in some rosemary and garlic. Really slow over low heat. Absolutely awesome. First time we have made beets by the way. Side salad foraged by Jordan.

 After dinner walk and a coffee.

 Merry Christmas!





Pancake Day!

This past Tuesday was Pancake Day! Traditionally on Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) people ate pancakes to use up eggs, sugar, and fat before the Lenten fast. Somehow, I never knew this until a few weeks ago. Considering pancakes are one of my favorite foods, I absolutely had to make some for dinner.

I decided to make some Croatian-style Palachenka, which are basically like crepes. Except now I know the secret to making nice and thin and lump-free pancakes. Let me show you:

Start out by beating two eggs and try to get some air whipped in there. Then sprinkle in some flour a little bit at a time, mixing completely after each addition (about 1/4 cup at a time). Keep adding and mixing and adding and mixing, making sure you smush out any lumps as you go.

Once it starts to thicken up, add milk a bit at a time, mixing in thoroughly as you go. You can sprinkle in a bit more flour, depending on how many pancakes you want to make. But for smooth pancakes, its important to mix the flour into minimal liquid and then thin it out to the right conistency. In the past, I always mixed the eggs into the milk, then dumped in the flour all at once, and then it is quite difficult to get the lumps out.

The secret ingredient is mineral water – that’s right the bubbly kind. Pour in half a cup or so, watch it fizzle, and then mix it in. Let the batter rest for at least a half hour or so.

Probably if you make crepes often, you know how awesome it is to have a cast iron crepe pan. Unfortunately my crepe pan is in Fairfield, but my non-stick (cheap, thin) pan works pretty darn well. I heat up my pan to medium-highish, and before each pancake add a tiny drip of oil. Then using a ladle, add a very small amount of batter and swirl the pan so that it thinly and evenly coats the pan. Too-thick batter or too much batter makes for a soggy crepe.

In the past, in addition to working with lumpy batter, I always managed to rip or rumple or generally deform my crepes on the flip. Not any more. There is a really easy way to flip them.

Once they start to set, run a butter knife along about a six-inch portion of the edge, just enough so that it comes off the pan. Then, using your fingers, gently grab the crepe on one side and flip it and voila! Flipped over in one perfect piece!

These are so versatile, you can add whatever you like and have a pancake party (you think I am kidding, but I am not). While we were in the kitchen we made a couple with aged white chedder melted in, sort of like a Croatian-Irish quesadilla. Then of course we had some with jam, cinnamon-sugar, and banana-nutella. Who doesn’t love pancakes?

 Happy pancaking and for the record, I did not give up sweets for Lent this year. I decided against it…you know like if I want to bake something sweet before Easter it would be problematic. So instead, I am giving up Croissants. That may not sound too difficult, but I have been known to bribe myself out of bed in the morning with the promise of an oven fresh croissant from the bakery on the way to work. At least I have still got my chai latte.


Bakalar is dried cod and is most definitely not to be confused with Lutefisk- the gelatinous stinky white fish that my Scandinavian family recall from the all-white Christmas smorgasbord of childhood. Bakalar is the Croatian name for the dried white fish that is imported from the Nordic region and is very popular in Croatia. It is also a traditional Christmas Eve dinner on the Dalmatian coast, where Miljan is from. Bakalar (or Klippfisk) is treated with lye and then becomes Lutefisk, but it’s not quite the same thing.

The first time I saw the dried fish hanging on a rack in the market, I certainly didn’t imagine I would (ever) eat such a thing, and I was at a loss of words when I sarcastically remarked “oh yum” and Milo replied “oh yeah, that is delicious.” I wasn’t sure whether or not he was serious. But then I figured out, oh yes, he was quite serious, and I have eaten (and enjoyed!) bakalar numerous times, but this was the first time Milo made it himself.

First, we soaked a piece (about one-third of the fish) in water overnight. Then we boiled it for 2 hours, and this is where it gets stinky. Despite the cold, we opted to leave a few windows open.

Then he flaked the meat off, and put it back in the pot with some garlic, onion, tomato paste, potato chunks, bay leaf, and oregano. This cooked for about one more hour. 

Delicious- light broth with nice pieces of fish and potato, and finished with olive oil and sea salt. Dobar tek!