Friday, May 20, 2011

My Sizzling Baccala ~ Cod with Potatoes ~ Bakalar s krumpirom

Two things to remember about bakalar (Serbian)~ or baccala (Italian) is that your house will smell a little unpleasant and someone is sure to stop in that day to visit…. AND….. your pot will always boil over. It never fails for me. But it is so worth the trouble.

I first remember eating bakalar, salted codfish, as a child on St. Nickolas Day which occurs on the 19th of December during Advent. I didn’t love it….that would come later. This was my grandmother’s Patron Saint Day, so the house would be full of visitors. She served an array of lenten foods (posno) in keeping with the strict dietary rules of the Orthodox Church, of which bakalar was a staple. Roasted red peppers with garlic were always an accompaniment as well as kidney bean salad with onions.

My Mom’s and Baba’s recipe were a little different than mine below. They boiled the potatoes and codfish and finished it off in the oven with onions and garlic. It was quite good but the color of the fish would turn darker and the onions would carmelize and sweeten the dish. I now prefer my mother-in-law’s way of cooking it, which she learned from her mother-in-law. Seems Baba liked her fish, garlic and potatoes to stay white and pure. So look for the whitest fish at the market and start soaking 2 to 3 days before you serve it.
My first video! Rookie...I forgot to say 'Scuse me' as I coughed!

3 pounds dried codfish (boneless)
7 to 8 potatoes (about 2 pounds)
1 to 1 ½ cup oil heated in heavy duty skillet
8 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt….wait to taste
Black pepper

Rinse, soak, repeat the fish for at least 2 days in a very large pot, rinsing several times a day. I leave mine on the counter so I remember to rinse. Use cold water. If it is too large, you can cut the fish in pieces.

Start to cook on low to bring water up to boil

Place the whole potatoes to cook. When they are almost done I bring the bakalar to a full boil as I peel and cut the potatoes in cubes. Mince the garlic fine as it will only cook once the hot oil hits it. Cook fish about 15 minutes…it will flake when done. Drain. Add fish & cubed potatoes in large sturdy bowl and mix. Lay finely minced garlic on top and leave it there…DO NOT MIX…cover and keep warm until oil is ready.
Heat oil until it starts to smell like hot oil…don’t walk away from the stove area. I use a cast iron skillet. Insert a toothpick or a potato skin to see if it sizzles. Carefully, with gloves, pour the oil over the garlic and watch it SIZZLE!!!!!! Serve immediately.
Soaking the fish!

Prijatno! More info on baccala below

Baccalà— is Italian for salted codfish—comes mostly from the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland, where it’s fished, salted and exported all over the world. Here are some tips for how to choose and prepare your baccalà from a Delallo website that I copied
1. When you pick out a piece of baccalà remember that the color of the meat should be close to white and the skin light colored. If the meat color tends towards yellow, do not buy it.
2. If sold whole, try to buy a long, thick fish; if possible it should be a bit more than one-inch thick in the middle of the filet.
3. If it’s not already packed and wrapped in plastic, and you’re allowed to smell it, remember that its odor, even if a bit intense, must be of fish and nothing else (no chemical smells should be evident).
4. Prior to soaking, cut your baccala into large pieces. Cutting the fish before soaking helps speed up the re-hydration process.
5. At least two days prior to cooking (but we recommend 3 days if you have the time), you should begin soaking your salted baccalà in fresh water (at least 36-48 hours). First wash the pieces thoroughly, eliminating all the salt on the surface, and then completely submerge in any container that will hold a lot of water; change the water at least three times a day (every eight hours or even more frequently). While soaking, keep the baccala in a cool place. Refrigeration is not necessary.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Koljivo (Wheatberry) for Breakfast? You bet!

You can read my recipe for Koljivo

Full of fruits and nuts and honey.....yum!

Breakfast Koljivo:
1 /2 pound wheat
½ cup sugar, may use brown sugar
1 chopped Granny Smith or other apple
1 cup golden raisins
I cup dried cranberries or cherries, soaked in ¼ c apple juice
½ pound coarsely chopped nuts (instead of finely grinding them)
1/4 cup honey or agave syrup
2 tsp vanilla, and/or almond extract
Cinnamon, clove or a pinch of nutmeg to taste
Dollop of rich creamy Greek Fage Yogurt

Dessert Koljivo:
Žito sa šlagom, (pronounced ZHEE-to) with cream:

Wheatberries (koljivo) prepared the same as above recipe
Dried cherries soaked in ¼ cup rum or brandy instead
Cinnamon and sugar to taste
Raisins if desired, may leave apples out
3 TB Nutella microwaved with 2 TB cream, mixed and poured on top of wheat(this is optional)
Whipped cream for topping
The term wheatberry or wheat berry refers to the entire wheat kernel (except for the hull), comprising the bran, germ, and endosperm. Wheatberries have a tan to reddish brown color and are available as either a hard or soft processed grain. They are often added to salads or baked into bread to add a crunchy texture; as a whole grain, they also provide nutritional benefits since they are an excellent source of dietary fiber.
Whole wheat usually takes at least 3 hours to cook.


ŽITO ~ Koljivo for Parastos ~ Slavsko Žito ~ Memorial Wheat

One of my favorite recollections as a child at church was to stay for memorial services for the departed, after regular liturgy, and then eat the koljivo out of little white cups in the back of the church. I know, weird, huh? My brother and I loved the stuff! If there were 2 families, we’d wait in line to try them both. Whenever I make ground wheat for Slava, Patron Saint Day (Slavsko Žito), I make extra because my family loves it for breakfast with yoghurt or for dessert…more recipes to come on that later.

During memorial services (for Greeks and Serbians: Parastos), the family or friends of the departed will prepare the koljivo which is placed in front of the memorial table before which the service is chanted. The wheat for Slava and the wheat for parastos (Koljivo) are two different things. In both cases, the wheat symbolizes resurrection and eternal life (St. John 12:24); however, Slavsko zhito is prepared for the glory and honor of the Saint and for the repose of the souls of those departed members of the family who commemorated that Saint. We do not pray for the soul of the Patron Saint, but we pray that he or she intercede to the Lord our God for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore, you should never place a candle in the Slavsko zhito.

Christ reminded us that except a grain of wheat die it cannot rise again, even as it was necessary that He die, be buried, and on the third day rise again so that we all can triumph over death.

For more info:
For more info on Slava please visit Mim B's wonderful site:

Memorial services are usually held on the fortieth day after the repose of an Orthodox Christian, as well as on the one-year anniversary. No written church rule exists, but the wheat is customarily left whole for parastos …”Nemoj mleti (meljeti) dušu ……“don’t grind the soul” is/was an old wives tale!!! You can grind it if you wish or use mixed grains as I do. When you cook the whole wheat, especially the hulled wheat, it pops open anyway. Today you can find wheat with the shell removed in health food store or in any import stores….so much easier to cook, less than an hour as opposed to 3 to 4 hours. My husband’s aunt only used fine cracked (bulgur) wheat which really didn’t need cooked. Sometimes only boiling water was enough.
More here:

Whole grain on left, cracked, and hulled grain on the right(Note it is lighter in color)

Most recipes in old cookbooks are so confusing and tedious that it leaves young women not wanting to prepare koljivo. Remember, women had to leave the wheat to dry over night on a cloth so that it could be ground thru a meat grinder without making a mess. Then they had to add water or liquids to make it moist again once ground. The food processor has made this item a one day deal. Easy peasy. Don’t skimp on the nuts…..same amount of nuts to wheat. I’ve tasted some watered down koljivo before. It NEEDS nuts!

• 1 pound hulled wheat berries, or cracked wheat
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 pound ground walnuts or almonds, finely ground, or pecans
• 1 ½ C white sugar or confectioners sugar or a combo (try Splenda)
• 2 T vanilla, rum or almond flavoring
• ¼ cup honey
• Splash of Amaretto liquor or rum (optional)
• 1/2 teaspoon clove or cinnamon to start with, may add more later


1. Place washed wheat in a large pot or Dutch oven and cover with several inches of water and let stand for 1 hour or overnight. Drain and refill with enough water in large pot. It is starchy and you want to add lots of water, just as you would with pasta.
2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender. Add water if necessary. When wheat is done (anywhere from 60 minutes for shelled or hulled wheat to 3 to 4 hours for whole wheat), rinse in cool water and strain. Let the wheat stay in the strainer overnight if you are not in a hurry. You don’t need to dry it completely because you are going to grind it if you wish in a food processor.
3. Mix wheat with walnuts & sugar that you have ground fine in a food processor. Add flavoring and spices. Here’s is your chance to customize it. Practice different flavorings. I love the combo of ground almonds with some cinnamon, almond extract, honey & Amaretto. You may have to add more spices or sugar. Easier to add than be too sweet or cinnaminny... is that a word?. Let it sit for awhile and come back to it later once the flavors have absorbed.
Transfer to a large glass bowl (I use my best crystal bowl)and decorate with raisins, almonds, or nuts in the sign of the cross. Some people mound the koljivo to resemble a grave and cover completely with powdered sugar.


Serbian Lamb & Cabbage Soup (Ličani)

The use of the ketchup enhances the sweetness of the great lamb and cabbage combination. This soup is one of my family’s favorite soups! I make it when I have leftover BBQ lamb from Easter.

I’ve made it for our chuch as well when there is leftover lambs from picnics…yes, it does happen sometimes!

My Teta Seka from Canada used to make this. I want to give credit to her, although I’ve never written her recipe down and usually mix up the ingredients at times. She was my mentor for ‘No Knead Pogacha’ as well
You can use barley or brown rice instead.

1 to 2 pounds leftover BBQ lamb or fresh
4 qts water
5 carrots, julienned or sliced
1 small cabbage head, chopped
¾ cup rice
¼ to ½ cup ketchup
1 hot banana pepper or jalapeno, slit but left whole
¼ bag of fine or extra fine noodles noodles
2 T vegetable or chicken base
Lawry’s Garlic Salt
S & P to taste

If using frozen BBQ lamb bring to a boil in at least 4 qts of water. Simmer and carefully remove the meat from the bones and return to the pot. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until carrots are cooked. Add noodles last. I prefer to use the extra fine noodles made by the Kolo Sestra Sestara Sveta. Petka of Aliquippa’s St. Elijah Serbian Orthodox Church. I am fortunate enough to be able to buy them as they are the BEST ever!!!

If you are using fresh lamb then I would prefer to brown the meat in a little olive oil then add the remaining ingredients. Don’t replace the ketchup with tomatoes or you wont get the same wonderful flavor. I leave the peppers whole to give the soup a little heat, they can easily be removed later. If you think you added too much ketchup you can add a tablespoon or 2 of vinegar. The ketchup gets it a great color. Start with 1/4 cup then add more squirts if needed.