When I think of Christmas when I was growing up, in San Pedro, California, two Croatian treats come to mind: hrustule and pršurate. Hrustule – pronounce that roughly “kristala” – are simple light, delicate fried cookies dusted with powdered sugar. Pršurate (“purshurata”) are scrumptuous little deep-fried doughnuts made with fruit and citrus, then glazed or dusted with sugar. Continue reading

Ćevapčići – Grilled Lamb and Beef Sausages

I first had ćevapčići (or ćevapi as they are sometimes called) at Ante’s Restaurant in San Pedro, California. Ante’s, founded by Ante Perkov in 1951, was an awesome, authentic Croatian restaurant “way down” in San Pedro, meaning below Pacific Avenue, the kind of place where all the Slavs would go when they didn’t feel like making their own family recipes. Robert discovered ćevapčići on a trip through then-Yugoslavia sometime in the 1970s. And we memorably enjoyed some together a few years ago on a visit to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite the sign translating the name as “minced meat fingers”, which sounded to me like someone ran their hand through the grinder. Continue reading

Torta Hrapoćuša – Croatian Walnut Cake

I recently ran across a recipe, in Croatian, for a Croatian walnut cake from the island of Brač. Cool, I thought, my dad’s parents were from Brač, I have to try this. And the cake is said to have originated in the village of Dol, which we have visited several times. I can’t really read Croatian but some things I can figure out, like the words for egg yolks, egg whites, sugar, walnuts. But the instructions? Hmm I’d better get a translation. Continue reading

Croatian Easter Bread

Liza and sister Luci

Spring means Easter, and Easter in my mom Alpha’s kitchen (and now mine) means Easter Bread.  For some reason we can only make this buttery, sweet bread laced with orange and lemon peel at Easter.  Maybe because the original recipe made four huge loaves and we would all eat too much of it right out of the oven.  Did I mention too this is virtually the one time of year we gleefully eat real butter? 

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Ajvar, the Condiment of the Balkans

Ajvar (pronounced “AY-var”) is a condiment that for us brings back thoughts of traveling in Croatia and in Bosnia.  (If you google Ajvar you’ll no doubt see it referred to as Serbian, but I’m part Croatian, so in the interests of world harmony let’s stick with Balkan.)

What is ajvar?  It is a lovely combination of roasted red bell pepper, roasted eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and vinegar, food-processed into a spread and simmered a bit over low heat to blend the flavors.  We best remember it served with grilled meats – ražnjići (grilled “shish kebabs”), ćevapčići (a skinless sausage, memorably translated into English in Mostar, Bosnia as “minced meat fingers”), and lamb.  But frankly, we liked it on almost everything savory.  Just think of it as salsa.  Even just with crackers, it is delicious.

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