Struga: “City of 100 Bridges”

Lake Ohrid, Struga

 

Struga tends to live in the shadow of Ohrid, but has a rich history and attractions all its own.  Unlike Ohrid, which іs situated оn rolling hills, Struga іs flat and features the Drim river- а great place tо sit and relax with а cup оf coffee.  The name Struga was used for the first time in a document in the 11th century, but it is believed to go as far back as the 7th century.  Struga was once an old fishing settlement during ancient times and its original name was Enhalon which means eel.  It is said that Slavs renamed the city from the word Straga meaning “crossing”.  In the 11th century, Byzantine travel writer Ana Komnina visited Struga and christened it “City of 100 bridges”.

Today, there is an annual poetry festival held there, Struga Poetry Evenings, which has established awards such as the Golden Wreath as well as an international award called The Bridges of Struga, for the best debut poetry book by a young author. While Ohrid was always cultural and religious centre, Struga played the role of trading centre of the region. It still does, and a visit on market day or during the yearly festivals, can be a fun and exciting excursion. (via Wikitravel)

 

 

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Warm your belly with some Sarma, baby!

It’s October and as the cool weather approaches its time for a nice, belly warming meal.  Ever heard of Sarma?  How about cabbage rolls?  Ok, you will want to make these, tout de suite! Here’s a wonderful video showing a step by step prep of this wonderful Balkan dish that is super easy to make, and oh so delicious to devour! Don’t worry about translating, it’s very hands on. Besides, food speaks all languages!

Shopska Salad

 

Shopska Salata

 

One of the greatest pleasures of visiting the beautiful city of Skopje is leisurely spending time in the main square downtown. You can work up quite an appetite after all that sightseeing and shopping, so what a better way to relax than settling in to a local restaurant and digging into a beautiful, fresh Shopska Salad.  This salad is a very distinctive Balkan dish named after a group of people called shopi who live in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia.  This recipe is wonderful as a starter salad or as an entree depending on the size of your serving dish.  Use only the best, freshest ingredients for this recipe and prepare to be floored by this simple yet insanely delicious salad.

 

Shopska Salad

  •  1 large cucumber (English Hothouse cucumbers are best for this recipe)
  • 2 quality medium tomatoes
  • 1 fresh red pepper
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 200 g Bulgarian Feta Cheese
  • 4-8 kalamata olives
  • 5 tbs olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Directions

Prep your veggies: peel the cucumber, remove seeds and pith from red pepper, and remove skin from onion.

Dice the cucumber, red pepper, onion, and tomatoes into uniform small uniform cubes.

Place the chopped veggies into a serving bowl, mix with the olive oil, and add salt & pepper to taste.

*Grate the feta generously on top of the salad.

Place the olives in a decorative pattern.

Serve with fresh, crusty bread and enjoy!

 

 

*Tip: Keep your feta from falling apart by letting it sit in the freezer for about 10 minutes before grating.

 

 

Spice up your life…

PSSST….(one of the places we love to get our spices from is Penzeys Spices out of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.  We’ve used their smoked paprika in MANY of our dishes.  Why Penzeys?  Well, they’re a local, family owned company, they offer free shipping on orders of $30 or more, and have an incredible variety of herbs & spices for stocking your kitchen or giving as gifts. What are you waiting for?… Check them out!)

One Roasted Pepper Spread to Rule Them All

Red peppers with beautifully blistered skins! Ready to play their part in an Ajvar symphony of flavor.

A traditional Macedonian spread, Ajvar recipes tend to vary from family to family.  Made from red peppers and eggplant, the tangy, sweet, smokey flavors dance on your tongue.  The dish is usually reserved for late summer/early autumn preparation as by that time the peppers have come in fully.  It’s also Football season in America by that time!  This spread (or dip, if you will) is a cinch to make, and is a fantastic addition to any game-day snack spread or party tray.  Our favorite version of the recipe follows….

 

Ajvar (Roasted Red Pepper Spread)

  • 5-8 red peppers (approx 3 pounds)
  • 1 medium eggplant (approx 1 pound)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • cayenne pepper (optional to taste)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions

Roast the peppers and eggplant over grill, or broil until the skin is blistered and darkened. Place the roasted vegetables in a paper bag and let them steam. Let rest at least 15 minutes.

Peel off and discard the burnt skin along with stems and seeds. Mash the peppers and eggplant together to form a chunky pulp.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and saute the garlic. Remove from the heat and stir in the pepper-eggplant pulp, mixing well.

Drizzle the remaining oil into the mixture, stirring constantly to incorporate. Add lemon juice or vinegar, and salt and pepper, to taste.

Transfer to a bowel to serve warm,  or chill in refrigerator for later.

Serve with crusty bread, crackers, or alongside some kifli.