Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies: Long Overdue!



This post is long overdue, although not as belated as my discovery of this new holiday favorite!

Last December, I finally took a chance on Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies, when I found myself with a bare pantry and a few more post-Christmas potluck gatherings to attend. After years of dismissing this recipe as just another sheet pan cookie, I made a surprising discovery. This "cookie" turns out to be a rich pastry, with a shortbread base, a layer of jelly or jam, and a crunchy meringue nut topping. It is elegant, unusual, and easy to prepare for a crowd. It keeps well. In other words, a perfect holiday sweet.

So why had it taken me so long to give it a try?

I'll admit it: I was put off by the name. "Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies"? It sounded so dated--and generic. One more example of that all-too-common vagueness about the people and traditions of southeast Europe. I figured this was just another version of an all-American bar cookie, probably from a Betty Crocker cookbook, with the addition of an exotic name that was supposed to provide a whiff of the mysterious Balkans.

A little research paints a more complicated picture.

Virtually identical recipes, called Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies--or Jam Bars--or Dream Bars--can be found all over the Internet. The most recent flurry of interest may date from a 2008 recipe for Yugoslavian Squares that appeared in the New York Times Magazine, in an article by noted food writer Amanda Hesser. She was profiling a San Francisco home baker, whose recipe was an adaptation from a 1958 issue of Sunset Magazine. I found an even earlier reference to the same recipe: a 1952 Sunset Magazine publication called "Cooking with a Foreign Accent."

So it is clear that this recipe has been in circulation for more than sixty years. But is it actually rooted in the former Yugoslavia?

I did find near-identical recipes for Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies in two of my vintage Slovenian American cookbooks: a 1981 edition of the classic Pots and Pans, as well as the more obscure Kuharice iz Willarda/ Cooking from Willard (WI), where it is included in the Slovenian recipes section that opens the book. When I turned to a contemporary Slovenian source (Kulinarika), I found just a single recipe for suhi kolači ("dry cakes") that was similar, though without the jelly layer.

A number of online sources provide anecdotal evidence of Yugoslav roots. Sometimes the recipe is attributed to an elderly aunt or a neighbor who came from Croatia, the most common location mentioned. Or Serbia or Bosnia. Or even (once or twice) Slovenia. And then there is this recipe for Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies, which cites a 1987 book by Sharon Herbst, called The Joy of Cookies, where the origins are said to be Croatian or Bosnian and the original name is given as docci bohai or bojai--which turns out to be untranslatable!

So the origins remain a mystery, although the evidence seems strong that it was based on some remembered tradition from the former Yugoslavia. For me, it's enough to know that this recipe shows up in my vintage ethnic cookbooks. Another point in its favor: My Slovenian-born language teacher really liked it!




Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies

1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
dash of salt
2-1/2 cups flour
1 cup red currant jelly (or other tart red jelly or jam)
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup finely ground walnuts
1 teaspoon lemon extract (or vanilla or almond)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Cream butter and sugar, add egg yolk and salt. Lightly mix in flour to form a crumbly shortbread dough. Pat dough into the bottom of a jelly roll pan (11x16") or a 9 x13" pan. Mix jelly or jam with fork to soften, then spread evenly on dough. Beat egg whites, add sugar and flavoring and beat until stiff, then fold in nuts. Spread meringue layer over dough. Sprinkle with optional nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, depending on size of pan. Cut while warm with a serrated knife. (Don't worry when the meringue shatters--just press it into the jelly layer below!)

Notes: Most recipes call for lemon extract, but I have also used almond extract, which I think has a more subtle flavor. Feel free to vary the quantity of nuts in the meringue (some recipes call for just 1/4 cup) and on top. I prefer the larger jelly roll pan, but have used both sizes.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

A Spicy New Honey Cake for a Sweeter New Year



Last fall, I didn't make honey cake for the Jewish holidays. It was a sad season that marked the beginning of a very hard year. First, the death of my mother Alice in February. Five months later, the death of my father-in-law Murray, who is remembered on this blog for his kreplach and gedempte chicken recipes. And in the last month, we have faced a few more family health challenges.

And so I return to this blog, after an absence of many months. And once again it is time to make honey cake for Rosh Hashanah--and to hope for a sweeter new year for all of us.

The last time I made honey cake, two years ago, an unusual recipe for honey cake had started making the rounds of Jewish publications. The year before, I had finally arrived at a recipe for what I called the Best-ever Jewish Honey Cake. It was an adaptation of a recipe from the great food writer Claudia Roden. Except for a slight cosmetic problem (sinkholes in the middle) I couldn't have asked for anything better. But now this new recipe, and the story behind it, had caught my eye.

The recipe was the creation of Lior Lev Sercarz, owner of a high-end spice store in New York City and author of two cookbooks. This Israeli-born chef and spice expert wanted to capture the flavors of his childhood, so he made a few changes to the traditional holiday sweet that is strongly rooted in the Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish tradition.

California honey, Israeli date syrup (silan), Slovenian honey (med) 
The most striking change? Instead of honey, Sercarz used a Middle Eastern ingredient that was new to me: silan, otherwise known as date honey or date syrup. He used olive oil to evoke memories of his father's olive groves near the Sea of Galilee. For the liquid, he added pomegranate juice instead of coffee or tea. Finally, he departed from the familiar mild "sweet spice" blend that is used in European baking, consisting mostly of cinnamon, along with touches of other spices. Instead, he used his own unique spice blends, with exotic names (like Rheims #39 and Yemen #10) and precise formulas that were only hinted at on his website. For those who had to rely on their own more modest spice collections, he suggested a simple alternative: a tablespoon of whole anise seed with smaller amounts of ginger and nutmeg.

I tried his recipe twice. Once with good Slovenian honey and once with a jar of date syrup I found in a local Middle Eastern grocery. The honey loaf was quite good, with a sharp anise flavor and a nice light texture, although my husband preferred the slightly richer and moister version from the previous year. The version with date syrup was less successful, perhaps because I used coffee instead of pomegranate juice and had to use a little rye flour when I ran out of white. The sprinkle of sesame seeds on top was a nice touch. And these loaves didn't sink at all, as you can see from the photo below.


After all that experimenting, I concluded that we still preferred Claudia Roden's honey cake recipe as a foundation, sinkholes and all. But I really liked the sharper and more complex flavor Lior Lev Sercarz created with pomegranate juice and anise. The best solution seemed to be a compromise. I put the two together and finally came up with the recipe below, which seems to be the best of both worlds, Eastern European with a touch of the Middle East.

L'Shana Tova!



Spicy Jewish Honey Cake  ( Claudia Roden meets Lior Lev Sercarz)

2 large eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup oil (part or all olive oil)
1 cup honey (or silan/date syrup)
2 T. rum
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
2 cups white flour
1-1/2 t. nutmeg 
1-1/2 t. ginger
1 T. whole anise seed
1-2 t. baking powder (use less to avoid sinkholes!) 
1/2 t. baking soda
pinch of salt
optional: mix in 1/2 cup broken walnuts 1/3 cup cranberries/apricots or other fruit
optional: sprinkle with sesame seeds after baking


First, prepare pans. Line a 9-inch spring form pan with foil, then oil and dust with flour. Or use three small loaf pans, 3 x 7 inches, oiled and lined with parchment paper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, spices, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a small bowl, toss walnuts and dried fruit in a little flour to coat. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, beat eggs with sugar until thick and lemon-colored. Add oil, honey, rum, and pomegrante juice. Beat until smooth. Add dry ingredients slowly to liquid ingredients, beating until smooth. Finally, fold in the optional nuts and dried fruits.

Pour batter into prepared pan(s). Bake at 350 degrees until top is firm and springs back when touched, about 45 minutes for small loaf pans for 1 hour and 15 minutes for a large spring form pan. Let cool on a rack. When cool, wrap in foil. If you can, wait at least a day or two before slicing and eating.



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 Kulinarika.net) 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

Sestavine:

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

Priprava:

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)

Ingredients:

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
salt
vinegar
oil
pepper
3 cloves of garlic

Preparation:

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

Crust:

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


Filling:

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
salt
pepper
paprika
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. They 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!