Friday, September 4, 2009

Albania


Before we started any research on Albania, we realized that all we knew about it was that the population consisted of a lot of non-practicing Muslims, that "The Simpsons" had an episode where they housed an Albanian foreign exchange student, and that Monty Python used Albania as an ongoing joke, mainly centering around King Zog. Further research uncovered Albania as a country with a complex history of takeovers by Italy, Greece, and Ottoman Turks. Albania was also an on and off ally with the USSR.

So, with a Communist, Italian and Greek history, Albania is quite the country and their cuisine is a fusion of it's history. We tried to take some of the best elements of Albanian dishes and put our own spin on them.


Chilled yogurt cucumber soup: Taratore


3 cups yogurt
1 big cucumber peeled and finely chopped (or grated)
2-3 cloves garlic minced
3 tbsps fresh mint chopped
1.5 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine yogurt, cucumber, garlic, mint, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
2. Slowly pour in water and stir with whisk until you achieve the desired thickness for serving.
3. Chill and serve garnished with a bit of olive oil on the surface of each bowl. We find that fresh rye bread is great with this.

This seemed to be a big hit with all attending. Our only regret was not having more for our vegetarian friend. We favor the Albanian version of this soup compared to other cucumber-yogurt soups and sauces for the use of fresh mint instead of dill.


Beef, eggplant, and sun dried tomato stew:

For The Stew

2 lbs stewing beef cut into 1.5 inch cubes
1 lb eggplant cut into 1 inch cubes
2 oz sundried tomatoes rehydrated in a cup of boiling water for ten minutes and blended
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp dried Greek oregano
1 white onion thinly sliced
1 cup chopped celery
3 cups water (enough to cover meat by 1/2 inch)
2 tbsps flour disolved in 1/2 cup water
salt and pepper

For the Garnish

4 oz pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
2 tbsps chopped mint
Splash of lemon juice

1. In a cast iron pot, brown the eggplant in a 1/4 cup olive oil and remove.
2. Add the remaining olive oil and saute the onions and celery on medium heat for five minutes.
3. Add the beef and saute for another five minutes.
4. Pour in the tomato mixture and cook another five minutes.
5. Pour on the water and add the oregano, reserved eggplant, salt, and pepper. Raise to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cover pot and cook for at least 1.5 hours or until the meat is tender.
6. After meat is tender, pour flour mixture into the sauce to thicken and cook another five minutes.
7. Cut the heat, garnish and taste for seasoning. Serve with Balkan cornbread.

This is what the result looked like with the cornbread:



Balkan Cornbread

*1 cup feta cheese
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs, beaten lightly
2 cups milk
**1 cup of beer
.5 cup of corn oil
1.5 cups yellow cormeal
1 cup farina
1.5 tsps baking soda
Pinch of salt
Unsalted butter to grease 13x9 baking pan

*can substitute ricotta or cottage cheese. We happen to have a very good supply of feta in the neighborhood. So whatever cheese you like is good
**club soda can be substituted

1. Combine cheese and sour cream in a big bowl; then add eggs, milk, beer, and corn oil until it's smooth. In a different bowl, stir the remaining dry ingredients together. Add those to the cheese mixture and pour into the greased baking dish. Cover at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake the bread for about 45 minutes. When it's done it should look golden brown and feel firm to the touch. Turn off the oven and let the bread settle for 10 minutes before serving. Cut and portion while it's still warm.


We had some guests over for this dinner and we would like to thank them for trying Albanian food and listening to Albanian music with us. Especially to our guest that came all the way from England to partake in our feast (well, we like to think he came all this way just to dine with us). Thanks everyone!

Algeria is up next! Until then, G√ęzuar!

2 comments:

  1. Woooo! That sure was yummy! I loved the soup and Albanian clubbin music the best. Thanks guys!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm sure it was yummy but man, that does not look good!!!

    ReplyDelete