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Cooking Around the World: Pljeskavica {Montenegro}


We are plowing ahead in our Cooking Around the World Adventure, taking full advantage of longer summer evenings and lack of homework and a schedule. I have to catch up on the blogging part of the process, so forgive me as I skip ahead a few countries. It's just that this meal rated so highly with my boys, I figured I'd go here first.

But, I need to write a disclaimer. Throughout this adventure, my goal has been to teach the boys about different countries and their culinary traditions; it has not been about creating wholly traditional dishes. We improvise. A lot. And that was another goal - to give my kitchen elves some creative license, to experiment with herbs and spices, to get inventive. And, boy, did Kitchen Elf 2...he went to town with this dish.

Let's start with the country: Montenegro. For much of the 20th century Montenegro was a part of Yugoslavia; from 2003 to 2006 it was a component of the federated union of Serbia and Montenegro. That explains why we couldn't find it in either of our atlases; both were published in 1997. I told the boys, "maybe it's such a new country, it's not in here as its own nation." We did find it...as part of Yugoslavia.

The country’s names—both Montenegro (from Italian) and Crna Gora—denote “Black Mountain,” in reference to Mount Lovćen. Looking at it, along the horizon, we read, it's a dark mountain that appears to reach the top of the sky.

National identity is in continued controversy - between Montenegrins and Serbs. Both groups retain their Orthodox religious traditions and share many common cultural attributes, including the Cyrillic alphabet. Because of such obvious commonalities, most Serbs see Montenegrins as “Mountain Serbs,” and many—but not all—Montenegrins view themselves as Serb in origin.

When researching foods, we just had to make pljeskavica. Think big, flavorful burgers; click here to read "The Balkan Burger Unites All Factions" that appeared in the New York Times a couple of years ago. Perfect! Right up our meat-loving alley.


Okay, remember...non-traditional! Curry is his favorite spice.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground turkey (traditionally they use lamb, but the boys aren't huge lamb eaters)
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 3 T fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 T paprika (we used a Hungarian version)
  • 1 t dried basil
  • 1 T curry powder
  • pink Himalaya salt



Pljeskavica are formed from ground meat and the word pljeskavica comes from pljesak, a regional word for clapping the hands, the motion used to press the burger into a thin round. See Dylan [right] pljesak-ing to make our patties.

He mixed the meat and spices together for a looooong time. Then he formed 6 giant patties out of the 2 pounds of meat.

Then he and Jake grilled them. I didn't have anything to do with that portion of the cooking. I asked. I think he said something about 350 degrees on the gas grill...I don't know. Ours were done medium to medium-well.


To dress it up...

Montenegrins have a red pepper relish called ajvar - a mixture of red pepper and eggplant. I had some red pepper hummus, so we went with that. And some crumbled ricotta salata. Then we topped it all with fresh pomegranate arils and washed it all down with sparkling pomegranate juice because pomegranate trees are ubiquitous in Montenegro.




This is not your grandmother's pljeskavica. Sorry. But it was delicious and I have succeeded in supporting Dylan's culinary creativity. He was so thrilled with his dinner!

Morocco is next on our list. I've already cooked Morocco, several times in fact, so I'm undecided. We could make some of the foods we loved from there again. Or I can blog it and move on. I'll keep you posted. This Global Table Ambassador is signing off for now.

Comments

  1. I am really enjoying this series and learning along with your boys! Its so fun!

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