Monday, October 15, 2012

Slovenian Dinner Week 38: Turkey Cevapcici and Tuna Tomato Salad, A Healthy Summer Meal for a Hot Fall Day

Turkey Cevapcici
Tuna and Tomato Salad
Whole Wheat Pita
Ajvar and Greek Yogurt

Fall in the San Francisco Bay Area can feel like August.  This was one of those days.  It was early October, but we were having a heat wave.  By mid-afternoon, the temperature would be over 90 degrees.

“Maybe we should grill outside,” my husband suggested, as he headed off to work in the still-cool morning.

Maybe.  It was definitely a day for cooking light and avoiding the oven at all costs.

I was torn between two entrees.  Cevapcici had become my tried-and-true favorite for grilling.  I had made it three times so far. But I had never made a healthy light version with turkey, so maybe this was a good time to give it a try.

But I had just found the perfect summer entree salad in my latest cookbook:  Slovenian Cookery by  Slavko Adamlje, published in Ljubljana in 2001. I had spotted this book in the library at San Francisco's Slovenian Hall, where we had just attended the yearly grape harvest festival, or Trgatev.

The salad was a refreshing mixture of  tuna, tomatoes, peppers, peas, and basil.  This had to be an example of the “modern” style of Slovenian cooking I had read about.  I liked the idea of shopping for all those nice fresh vegetables at the organic produce market just around the corner.

Since I couldn't choose between these two tempting summer dishes, I decided to make them both.

One thing I did know:  We would be opening a bottle of imported Slovenian wine my husband had bought at the grape festival.  It was a nice Pinot Noir called Mea Culpa.

Tuna and Tomato Salad (adapted from Slovenian Cookery, by Slavko Adamlje)

2 c. sliced assorted peppers
2 c. sliced tomatoes
½ c. freshly shelled English peas, cooked and cooled
¼ c. fresh basil, sliced
1 large can Italian tuna in oil, drained
salt and pepper to taste

Dressing: Olive or safflower oil, rice vinegar, 1 t. pumpkin seed oil, 1 clove garlic, salt and pepper

To cook peas: Cook in ½ inch of boiling salted water for about 3 minutes, or until crisp but tender.  Drain and cool.

Mix peas with remaining salad ingredients.

Make dressing, using quantities of oil and vinegar you prefer.  Toss dressing with salad. Refrigerate before serving.

Turkey Cevapcici

1 lb. ground turkey
1 egg white, lightly mixed with fork
4 small cloves garlic (or 2 large), minced
1 t. salt
2 t. black pepper, freshly ground
1 t. cayenne pepper
½ t. smoked paprika
½ c. minced onion
2 T. bread crumbs, combined with 1 t. baking soda

I adapted this recipe from a version I found on the Internet.  The bread crumbs were my own addition, since the ground turkey seemed too liquid-y to be easily shaped into those little skinny sausage shapes.

For detailed directions about how to prepare, shape, and grill cevapcici, see my earlier posts, here or here or here.  Remember that it is best to mix the meat in advance and let sit in the refrigerator for flavors to meld, before shaping. And be sure to use the traditional toppings: ajvar (red pepper relish) and Greek yogurt, a healthy substitute for kajmak.

The verdict?

The tuna salad was good, but a little mild, at least for my taste.  Next time, I might use a stronger vinegar.  The tomatoes I used seemed watery.  My husband suggested that I should have seeded them first. But he thought the salad was just fine.  It was certainly a light, healthy dish.

The turkey cevapcici recipe was a pleasant surprise.  I was afraid it would be too mild, or that the poultry flavor might be obvious.  But it wasn't.  I noticed that this recipe was more peppery, and heavier on the garlic, than my previous versions.  If the goal was to disguise the turkey, it worked.

And the Slovenian wine was the perfect final touch!


  1. instead of adding bread crumbs, just chill your cevapi in the fridge for up to 30 mins. firms up perfectly and remains incredibly juicy in the middle after grilling/broiling/baking.

  2. oh, just noticed you did mention to refrigerate. not sure why your mix seemed soft. although, i don't add onions to my meat mixture, and my garlic is powdered.

  3. Thanks, Nadine. Our turkey is from a local butcher shop and is usually freshly ground that day, so perhaps that it why it is sometimes so liquid-y. Happy grilling!