Sunday, May 20, 2018

"Grade A" Potato Salad: An Exercise in Translation and Cooking

This is a "by the book" recipe. But not the kind of book you'd expect.

I discovered it in Naprej pa v slovenščini, the new textbook we have been using in this year's language class at the Slovenian Hall in San Francisco.

According to the textbook authors, this recipe originally appeared on a Slovenian culinary portal (perhaps and includes commentary from the website users. One Slovenian reader noted that even though the recipe seemed similar to a “French salad” (because of the mayonnaise and mustard?) it was still very good and deserved a clear “petica”—a 5, which means a grade of A in the Slovenian marking system.

from Naprej pa v slovenščini
After preparing the recipe twice, I agree. As one of the website users commented, it is “njami njami" (yummy) :-) The salad strikes me as a hybrid. Perhaps not the traditional Slovenian-style potato salad with unadorned oil-and-vinegar dressing, but definitely not the heavy, sweet mayonnaise version that many Americans serve.

The original Slovene recipe is below. It is followed by my English translation and measurement conversions, along with a few other thoughts about this "Grade A" potato salad recipe.

Dober Tek!

Krompirjeva solata


1 kg krompirja
20 dag kislih kumaric
2 jajci
1 žlica gorčice
3 žlice majoneze
3 stroki česna


Skuhajte cel krompir ter še vročega olupite in narežite v
skledo za solato. Posolite, dodajte olje in premešajte. Ohlajenemu krompiru dodajte drobno nasekljane kisle kumarice, poper, gorčico, majonezo, narezana jajca in stisnjen ali nasekljan  česen ter kis po okusu. Vse skupaj premešajte in postrezite kot prilogo k ribam ali mesu.

“Grade A” Potato Salad (my translation)


1 kg of potatoes (2.2 pounds)
20 dag (200 g or 1-1/4 cups) of sour cucumbers (i.e., pickles)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of mustard
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
3 cloves of garlic


Cook whole potatoes and when still hot peel and slice into a salad bowl. Salt, add oil and mix. To cooled potatoes, add finely chopped pickles, pepper, mustard, mayonnaise, sliced eggs and pressed or chopped garlic and vinegar to taste. Mix all together and serve as a side dish to fish or meat.

Potato salad with sausage and sauerkraut

More thoughts:

Like so many traditional recipes, this one assumes that the reader already knows how to cook. Not everything is spelled out. (Obviously, those eggs need to be hard-cooked before slicing!) Quantities of oil, vinegar, salt and pepper are unspecified and must be adjusted to taste, especially after the salad has been resting in the refrigerator for some time and the dressing has been absorbed.

For a little more detail about what I did: I used medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, olive oil, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and French cornichon pickles. The first time around, I left the potatoes unpeeled and made no attempt to measure the oil and vinegar. The second time, when I made a double recipe for the "end-of-year" party of my Slovenian class, I made a few changes. I peeled the potatoes after boiling (as the recipe directs) and decided to measure the initial quantities of oil and vinegar I used. A good "ballpark" figure might be to start with 1/4 cup oil and 1/8 cup vinegar, but you really do need to adjust according to your own preference. (Personally, I like a tart salad.)

I considered using some pumpkin seed oil but was afraid the salad would be oddly green. My husband had the bright idea of drizzling a little pumpkin seed oil on top. We tried that at home and it was a nice touch.
Potato salad with a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Gathering with Intention: A Dinner to Remember My Mother

In February, two days after my mother died, I called the spiritual care counselor from the Hospice team, just to talk a little.

She is what used to be called a chaplain. My mother got to know her several years before entering hospice care. She is a warm and open-minded woman, a little younger than I. We shared a liberal Protestant background that had shifted for both of us--in her case, into something more broadly spiritual and harder to categorize. She appreciated my mother's feisty spirit. And she continued to visit even as the cloud of dementia settled over her.

It helped me to talk to the counselor. But I was caught off guard when she asked whether the family had "made any plans" for later in the week.

I had just told her how touched I was that our sons, who live in New York and Toronto, had decided to fly to California to spend the rest of the week with us. My mother hadn't wanted a traditional funeral. We hoped to have a family gathering and scattering of ashes at a botanic garden in Chicago, where my sister and her family still lived. But that wouldn't happen until the summer.

The counselor kept nudging. But what about this week?

I assured her that we would have at least one dinner with my brother, who also lives in the San Francisco Bay area. We always do that when our sons visit. My sister and her husband had recently spent almost a week with us, earlier in the month, around the time of our mother's ninety-fifth birthday. So we had all been together recently, even if the visits had been spread out.

February 1st, 95th Birthday Flowers
The counselor thought something more was needed. When someone dies, she believed, the family needs to "gather with intention." It might be for a ceremony, a religious ritual, or simply a special dinner. What actually happens is less important than making a commitment to be together, in order to mark the passing of the loved one.

I realized this wise woman was probably right. I picked a date for the family dinner: Friday, three days away. I told my husband, the boys and my brother. I told my sister, just in case she and her husband could fly back to join us.

And I requested that everyone contribute something, food or drink, that we associated with my mother.

The result was an eclectic dinner, built around family favorites from different seasons of our lives. Rooted in a simpler time and reflective of a certain mid-century middle American sensibility, with a few European flourishes.

This was not haute cuisine. Sour cream onion dip served with potato chips. A collapsed Bisquick meat roll that never made it to the table. Waldorf salad and spanakopita. Tapioca pudding and poppy seed kifli. A once-popular Portuguese wine.

But every bite, every sip, evoked memories of the past, along with a complicated mix of feelings. Love and loss. Relief and regret. Nostalgia and laughter. The honey on the thorn, as the once-famous Slovenian writer Louis Adamic would have called it.

As we sat down to dinner, one of our sons proposed a toast, his glass filled with the special Spanish sparkling wine my mother preferred for festive occasions.

"To Grandma," he said.

To my mother.

To Alice.

My mother (second from left) and her friends,
Kent State University, near Cleveland, 1941

A Nostalgic Dinner To Remember My Mother

Wines: Mateus Rosé and Freixenet

Potato Chips with Sour Cream Onion Dip
Failed Bisquick Meat Roll
Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Cheese Pie)
Waldorf Salad on Lettuce
Tapioca Pudding
Poppy Seed Kifli

For their contributions to the meal, my husband and sons immediately thought of wine.

For my husband, the choice was clear: Mateus Rosé. When he first met my family, this was one of the two "fancy wines" (the other was Lancer's) that my parents served for special dinners. They weren't alone. In the early 1970s, according to this recent article, this was the most popular wine in the world. Although a wine snob might be dismissive, these days some experts think the time might be ripe for a Mateus revival.

My mother loved that wine, probably because it tasted sweet and looked elegant in the distinctive round glass bottle. She always stumbled over the pronunciation of the Portuguese name, which came out sounding like Matt'-ee-us. When my husband and I got married in my parents' backyard, this was the wine the rabbi offered us during the ceremony, from that small green bottle in the photo below.

Our sons selected another family wine classic, from a slightly later era: Freixenet--or "bubbly," as my mother often called it, perhaps to circumvent the tricky pronunciation. My parents' discovery of this affordable alternative to champagne wasn't just a lucky accident. In the 1970s, the Spanish winemaker began to promote it with a series of ads featuring celebrities. By the 1980s, Freixenet had become the world's most popular sparkling wine, according to the company website.

To accompany the pre-dinner wine, I decided to offer another vintage favorite: Potato chips with that ever-popular dip created by mixing sour cream with a packet of onion soup mix, assuming such a thing still existed. I was amused to discover that our local natural foods grocery carried a product that looked just like the soup base I remembered but dropped any pretense about the intended use. It was clearly marked as an all-natural organic onion dip mix. I thought it was tasty, although no one else seemed especially eager to indulge in this guilty pleasure.  

I wasn't sure what my brother planned to contribute. I found out late that morning, when he e-mailed a photo of his attempt at a childhood favorite from our early Cleveland days: Bisquick Meat Roll. Unfortunately, the loaf collapsed when he removed it from the oven. (I don't know what he was doing with that folding rack, since our mother always baked and served this homey concoction from a flat baking pan.) I thought it could be salvaged as a casserole. From a distance, my sister thought it looked "yummy," like a meaty bread pudding. But my brother didn't think it would survive the journey on the train, so he left it at home.

Fortunately, I had already decided on another main course: Spinach cheese pie. But instead of zeljanica, the ex-Yugoslav version I'd been making lately, I wanted to return to Greek spanakopita. That festive party dish became a favorite in my family in the 1960s, after we moved from Cleveland to Chicago, where there was a thriving Greek community and a popular West Loop restaurant district known as Greektown.

I looked for an easy but authentic recipe and found this one, with an uncooked filling the blogger described as "quick and dirty." It was a simple mixture of thawed frozen spinach, eggs, feta cheese, fresh parsley, dill, and chopped onion, with olive oil instead of melted butter used to brush the phyllo leaves. It turned out well. Just as I recalled, Greek spanakopita is denser, less custardy, and more aromatic than zeljanica.

For the salad course, I picked my mother's favorite: Waldorf salad, so sweet and rich that it could double as dessert. My mother was a true connoisseur. She considered dates an essential ingredient and always threatened to talk to the chef when the restaurant at her retirement community "forgot" them. We grew up on her version: Cubed McIntosh apples and bits of dates, combined with crunchy walnuts and slices of celery, and then bound together with generous amounts of Kraft's Miracle Whip salad dressing.

The original recipe, created by a Swiss chef at New York's Waldorf-Astoria in 1896, was more minimalist than than any of us realized: Just apples, celery, and mayonnaise, served over lettuce. It quickly became an American classic. It even shows up in my vintage Slovenian American cookbooks. For this dinner, I made it my mother's way, but with a few twists: toasted walnuts, real mayonnaise with a touch of pomegranate syrup, served on a bed of romaine lettuce. I was surprised at how tasty it was.

For dessert, I resurrected another old-fashioned favorite my mother loved. Tapioca pudding. My mother always made the fluffy version, from the recipe on the red Kraft Minute Tapioca box. I used to watch her pour the warm eggy custard into the big yellow pyrex bowl of stiffly beaten egg whites and carefully fold everything together. As a special treat, we got to sample a spoon or two while it was still warm. It might be nursery food, but it was wonderful.

As a child, it never occurred to me to worry about those little white globules of uncooked meringue bobbing in the golden yellow pudding. By current standards, however, it struck me as a little risky. So I was relieved to discover that the current Kraft recipe for Fluffy Tapioca Cream does it the other way around, by stirring the beaten egg whites into the warm custard. Timid cooks might want to do this on the stove, so the mixture continues to cook. This newer method resulted in a pudding that was a little smoother and lighter, and every bit as delicious as I remembered.

I never considered making potica for our memorial dinner.

It just didn't feel right. I didn't have the time or energy. Or perhaps it was too soon to make something that was so intimately tied to my mother. And she only baked potica at Christmas.

But I did want to include something of her Slovenian heritage. So I decided to bake some yeast kifli, a recent discovery that I had dubbed "potica babies" because they reminded me of miniature versions of our treasured holiday bread. Since I was pressed for time, I decided to look for a food processor version. I found a recipe, much like the one I had made twice before, except for the addition of a little sugar in the dough.

Strangely, these short-cut kifli, prepared at a time when I felt so sad and preoccupied, were the most successful yet.

I think my mother would have liked these delicate little pastry-cookies, even with poppy seeds in the filling instead of walnuts. (In true potica, of course, that would have been an unacceptable lapse!)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Remembering My Mother, Alice Kilpatrick (1923-2018)

Remembering my mother, Alice Kilpatrick (2/1/23 to 2/11/18). She passed away peacefully on Sunday, February 11,  in Lafayette, California. I felt privileged to be there for her final moments. She had just turned ninety-five. 
My mother was an amazing woman. A retired teacher and school psychologist. A hospice volunteer. A staunch liberal who recently decided she was actually a progressive. A feminist. Married to her high school sweetheart, my wonderful father, for not nearly long enough, since he died before he was seventy. Survived and deeply missed by her three children, two sons-in-law, four grandsons and their partners, one beautiful great-granddaughter; and by her one surviving sibling, a brother. 

My mother never forgot where she came from. She grew up in Cleveland during the Depression, in a first-generation Slovenian immigrant family who struggled with poverty, alcoholism, family violence, and more. She and her three siblings were all resilient. They broke the cycle. They all flourished. But she was the one who emerged with a fierce compassion and a refusal to embrace a "bootstrap" narrative that never worked as well for anyone who didn't happen to be white. All her life, she gravitated to the lost, the outsiders, and the disenfranchised. 

My mother was lucky to find a soulmate in John Kilpatrick (1922-1991). She and my father raised their family in Ohio and then in Illinois, where they became active in community affairs and she blossomed in her midlife career as an educator. At the age of eighty, she left the midwest for California.

My mother set the bar high, especially for me, her first-born daughter: Excel in school and take it as far as you can. Choose a profession that has meaning and helps others. Aim for financial stability but not wealth. Find a good husband. Have children. (Natural childbirth and breast-feeding preferred.) Never tolerate prejudice or injustice. And try to lose twenty-five pounds. (Yes, you read that right. She had an odd and unfortunate preoccupation with something that was never in the cards, genetically speaking, for either of us :-)

If you would  like to remember my mother, you can play a tune for her. She had come to love Cajun music. Or bake a loaf of potica. (If you don't have your own family recipe, you are welcome to try hers.) Or consider a contribution to any of these organizations that she and my father supported: the NAACP, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Habitat for Humanity. Or make a donation to the Hospice organization of your choice. Our family is particularly grateful to Hospice of the East Bay here in the San Francisco Bay Area, who offered so much support during our mother's final eighteen months.
From the formal obituary, which can be found here

The family invites donations in her name to two special places: Hospice of the East Bay in California, who provided such compassionate care in her final eighteen months of life; and the Chicago Botanic Garden, where a private celebration of life is planned for later in the year. Current arrangements are being handled by the Trident Society in Walnut Creek, California, where Alice lived prior to her final illness.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sauerkraut Quiche with Buckwheat Crust

Sauerkraut quiche. Ever hear of it? I first came up with the idea a year or so ago, but it quickly became a favorite at our house.

Originally, it was a spur-of-the-moment experiment. I was putting together one of my quick quiches for dinner: A pat-in-the pan crust made with oil, then a layer of whatever cheese and veggies we had on hand, and filled with a simple egg-milk mixture. We had some leftover sauerkraut, and possibly some sausage, so I tossed it in.

I wasn't quite sure how the sauerkraut would work, but it made for a tasty if unusual quiche: Dense and tart, with the unmistakable flavor of Central Europe. My husband loved it and started to request this odd dish regularly.

We enjoyed sauerkraut quiche several times during the winter holidays. I made it for our first night of Hanukkah dinner, to accompany my husband's signature latkes:

He even suggested it for New Year's Eve, but I opted for something a little more elegant. But I made it again a few days later. This time, I made a buckwheat crust, to give it even more of that characteristic Slovenian flavor. And I used my very first jar of homemade sauerkraut, from the pickling and fermentation workshop I attended in early December:


This final version was the best yet. I have included the recipe below, although sauerkraut can be a welcome addition to any basic quiche recipe. 

Since I had never come across sauerkraut quiche, I figured this must be my own quirky invention. With the addition of the buckwheat crust, it may be. But it turns out that that sauerkraut pie is also a traditional German dish, although online sources do caution that it is unusual and probably an acquired taste!   

Sauerkraut Quiche with Buckwheat Crust

Sauerkraut Quiche with Buckwheat Crust


1 cup white flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
2-3 tablespoons cold water


1 cup sauerkraut (preferably homemade!)
1 generous cup grated cheddar or other sharp cheese
1-1/3 cup milk
3 eggs
1 rounded teaspoon Dijon mustard
caraway seed (if sauerkraut doesn't include it)
2-3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

For crust: Whisk flours and salt together. Add oil and mix in with fork or fingers. Add enough water to make a crumbly dough. Press crust into 10 inch quiche pan. Line crust with foil and pre-bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes or until firm. Let cool while you prepare filling.

For filling: Drain sauerkraut and arrange onto pre-baked crust. Top with cheese. Beat eggs, milk and seasonings together and pour into crust. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until firm. Let cool before cutting and serving.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Holiday Retrospective for December 2017

December was a busy month in my kitchen, with three holidays to observe: Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year. I got too caught up with family, house guests, entertaining, and holiday celebrations to do much blogging. So now it's time to catch up!

Here's a look back at December--and a preview of upcoming posts:

I've already written about my first-ever attempt at yeast-raised kifli or rogljički. That's how the month started. I dubbed them Potica Babies and took them to a couple of parties, including the annual Christmas gathering at the Slovenian Hall in San Francisco:

Soon it was Hanukkah week. It is usually a low-key time, with adult children who live far away. But on the first night my husband and I always light the menorah and he makes the traditional potato pancakes or latkes. This year, he suggested I contribute something new: sauerkraut quiche, an odd but tasty dish I'd created earlier in the year. It was a tangy if non-traditional addition to the holiday meal. One of these days, I vowed, I would get around to making my own sauerkraut, just as my grandma did.

The opportunity came a week later, when I attended a wonderful pickling and fermenting workshop sponsored by an organization called Slow Food-East Bay. I came home with a collection of beautiful jewel-like jars of pickled and fermenting vegetables. It was a wonderful assortment, but the two in the middle were of special interest: sauerkraut (of course!) but also those turnips to the left, which are similar to an unusual Slovenian specialty called kisla repa.

Next, I had a breakthrough on the potica front. Just before Christmas, I finally baked a loaf in the traditional round shape!

At around the same time, I made a slightly different version of those Potica Babies: dairy-free, and with the same walnut-honey filling we use in our family potica recipe. This batch was even better!  

After Christmas, I had a problem: We'd had a full house for almost two weeks (our sons, their partners, and another young family member) and supplies were low. No more cookies and two more annual holiday gatherings on the calendar: A friend's Boxing Day party, and then our own New Year's Day open house. It seemed like the perfect time to try out an unusual-sounding bar cookie recipe I'd known about for years but had never tasted: Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies. Thew were a surprising success!

Meanwhile, the sauerkraut had fermented in our cool kitchen and was now in the fridge. It tasted really good! I used it to make another sauerkraut quiche. This time, I added one more touch to make it Slovenian: a buckwheat crust!

We are still working on the last of the Christmas potica. Fortunately, it makes great toast!

Happy New Year! Recipes to follow!

Friday, December 15, 2017

New for 2017: Potica Babies! An Old Favorite with a New Name

Last week, I had a sweet dilemma. Two holiday potluck parties in the space of three days:A musical gathering at the home of a Cajun music friend, followed by a Christmas party at San Francisco's Slovenian Hall. I wanted to bring a dessert that would work for both events.

I ruled out potica for two reasons. For one thing, I was pressed for time. But I also knew that our treasured celebration dish is often overlooked in a holiday buffet line of non-Slovenians. Is it too rich? Too plain? Too hard to categorize? I don't know. But I hate to see a half-finished loaf of potica languishing on a platter at the end of the evening. 

So I decided to make a holiday sweet I had wanted to tackle for awhile: A yeast-raised version of the ever-popular pastry/cookie you can see in the photos at the top of this page. These delicate filled creations go by a variety of names. But they are everywhere during the winter holidays. I thought it would be a good compromise, since I could use a walnut filling that would capture the flavor of potica.   

What do you call these tasty morsels? The proper Slovenian name, rogljički ("little horns") is challenging to say and spell, so many of my vintage cookbooks use one of the more familiar labels: kifli, kolache, or nut horns. (The popular Jewish version is known as rugelach.) 

This pastry originated in Central and Eastern Europe, with an enriched yeast dough as the foundation. But the version known to most Americans--artfully shaped cookies, often buried in confectioners' sugar--has a definite New World lineage. The key ingredient is cream cheese, an American invention. The recipe was introduced in 1939, in an inspired piece of World's Fair marketing by the Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese company. 

(Tablet Magazine, a Jewish publication, tells the whole fascinating story here.

The ubiquitous cream cheese pastry is dense and rich: one part butter, one part cream cheese, two parts flour, often with eggs. Little or no sugar--and no leavening. I have used this style of pastry in several recipes on this blog: American Slovenian Nut Horns, made with cottage cheese instead of cream cheese. Baked Flancati, in which sour cream is added. And I have been making Jewish rugelach for years. 

But I had never tried the original European yeast-raised version. 

When I turned to my vintage Slovenian American cookbook collection, there was no shortage of recipes. Each cookbook had at least one. They were virtually identical: Butter, sour cream, egg yolks, yeast, and flour, in the proportions you will find in the recipe below. There were slight differences in the method of preparation. I stuck closely to the "Kifli (with yeast)" recipe in my newest old cookbook: Pots and Pans, from the Slovenian Women's Union of America. I liked the simplicity of the dough preparation, which was similar to making pie crust.  

I prepared two fillings, walnut and jam. Although I consulted my cookbooks, I ended up improvising. I wanted the walnut filling to taste like my family's potica, so I added honey and cinnamon. 

Somewhere along the way, it hit me: I was making little poticas! The walnut filling was the same, except for the addition of egg white. The refrigerated sour cream dough was almost identical to my family potica recipe--except for the absence of sugar. 

And when I cut into one of these little horns, it even looked like a potica: 

Well, all right. Maybe it looked more like the end of a potica, where there is more dough than filling. But this was clearly a miniature yeast bread. Rich, but not as rich as the butter-cream cheese version. It had the special scent and tang of a yeast-raised pastry. And, unlike potica, it could be served straight from the oven.

And best of all: There were no leftovers!

At the Cajun music party, these little horns disappeared in a half hour. Luckily, my accordion friend Mark, who makes kifli himself, managed to snag one. He even gave me a thumbs up!

Two days later, when my husband and I arrived at the Slovenian Hall, I was greeted by an anxious question: Had I brought potica? No, I admitted, not this time. I figured someone else would. But no luck. Not one of us had come through.

That's when I decided these little horns deserved two names: The proper Slovenian one, and one more. After checking on the spelling with Mia, my Slovenian teacher, I wrote out the label:

Rogljički--or Potica Babies.

Toward the end of the evening, I noticed that just three of these sweet babies remained on the tray. I quickly wrapped them up and slipped them to my teacher.

This recipe is a work in progress. But I think it's a keeper.

Vesel Božič! Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays to All!

Potica Babies: Rogljički ("little horns," yeast kifli)

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 packages dry yeast
1 cup butter
1 cup sour cream
4 egg yolks

confectioners' sugar for rolling
fillings (see below)

For the dough: Combine flour, salt and yeast in large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Mix sour cream and egg yolks. Make a well in center of the large bowl and add the sour cream-egg mixture. Combine into a soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead for several minutes, until dough is smooth. Divide into 6-8 balls. Flatten into discs, wrap in plastic or waxed paper, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or more.

Alternatives: Some recipes recommend dissolving yeast in a few tablespoons of warm water or milk before proceeding as above. Others treat the butter differently: softening it first, or even melting it in warmed sour cream, before adding the yeast. With any of these methods, the dough will take longer to chill.

To shape: Roll out each portion of dough onto a surface that is dusted with confectioners' sugar. To make the familiar crescent shape, roll each portion into an 8-9 inch circle and cut into 8-12 wedges. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling on the wide edge (see photo above) and roll up. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet with the narrow pointed end underneath. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Let cool, then dust with confectioners' sugar.

Other possible shapes: Roll into a rectangle, cut into diamonds, and pinch two points together to encase the filling. Or roll up the rectangle into one or two long rolls and cut into shorter lengths.

Walnut Filling (makes 1+ cup, enough for half the dough)

1 cup walnuts, ground
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2-3 tablespoons honey, if desired
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg white, unbeaten

Jam Filling (makes about 1+ cup, enough for half the dough)

1 cup jam or preserves (I used blueberry)
ground walnuts (enough to thicken)
cinnamon to taste
1 egg white, unbeaten

Other Filling Options: Any favorite potica filling should work. My homemade poppy seed filling would be a good choice. Be aware that too much egg or liquid can cause the filling to run or expand, especially if you use the open-ended "horn" shape.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Balkan-Inspired Cornbread with a Louisiana Twist

What does Balkan cooking have to do with Louisiana cornbread?

On the face of it, not much.

Except for this: It was my love for the Cajun accordion--and the Cajun and Creole music, food, and culture of Louisiana--that led me to a deeper appreciation of my own Slovenian heritage and to the even larger world of southeast Europe.

And cornbread happens to be popular in both places.

Then there was the practical reason: Yesterday, I needed to make a side dish for a big post-wedding celebration in our local Cajun-Creole music community. Cornbread seemed like the perfect addition. Naturally, I went back to my never-fail Balkan cornbread recipe as the foundation. My inspiration for that dish was a particularly moist "proja" recipe from Allison, an American blogger in Paris who got it from a Serbian friend. So I added my own little Cajun-Creole touches--and there you have it.

The changes were small ones. Some cut-up red pepper. A Cajun seasoning mix. And doubling the recipe, of course. Traditional cooking is a lot like playing folk music. A recipe, just like a tune, gets passed around, adapted, and expanded.

The recipe below did not disappoint, although it was a little on the mild side. Next time,  I might try to make it spicier. More of the seasoning mix, perhaps some diced hot peppers, or a few drops of hot sauce would give it even more Louisiana heat!


Balkan-Inspired Cornbread with a Louisiana Twist

1-1/2 cups polenta or cornmeal
2/3 cup white flour
1 T Cajun seasoning mix (I used Slap Ya Mama)
(additional salt if seasoning mix doesn't include it)
6 eggs
1 cup oil
1-1/2 cups plus 3 T sparkling water
1-1/2 cups plain yogurt
2 cups feta cheese, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 red or green bell pepper, diced
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

To make it even spicier: Add more of the seasoning mix, some diced hot peppers, or some Louisiana hot sauce!

Oil two 8-inch cast iron skillets, two small ceramic dishes, or one large rectangular ceramic dish (at least 9" x 13"). Sprinkle with a little cornmeal.

Combine cornmeal, flour, salt and seasonings in a large bowl. In a medium bowl mix eggs, oil and sparkling water. Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well. Add yogurt and stir. Mix in feta cheese cubes, parsley, red pepper, and corn. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.