We have arrived to the land of (one set of) my ancestors, or close to it anyway. My great grandparents were from Yugoslavia, I have no idea where exactly, and came to the US a little before they had my grandmother. They were actually Croatian, but the whole geography of this land doesn’t always match up with the ethnicity, so for today I shall claim a small piece of Bosnia for myself (preferably one with a sea view). Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1992. It’s located in the southern Alps and is gorgeous (if the internet can be believed).
Except for a tiny coast on the Adriatic, it’s virtually landlocked surrounded by Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. For simplicity, most Westerners refer to the country as Bosnia, although I didn’t find any commentary on this, I imagine it pisses off those who live in Herzegovina. However, the hour is late and I am lazy, so I’m going to simplify and go with Bosnia – apologies to Herzegovinians everywhere.
When it comes to food, this one was a slam dunk – the most mentioned dish of Bosnia is Cevapi (or Cevapici or Chevap, lots of spellings out there). Cevapi is a dish where you mix a couple of kinds of ground meat with onions and garlic and roll it into small sausage shapes then grill it. Of course this blog isn’t “hot dogs here and there” so I immediately changed Cevapi into sliders, and it worked like a charm. Cevapi is usually served with greek yoghurt, yummy, and raw onions, yuck, but, when in Sarajevo… and with all of this is the traditional Ajvar. Ajvar is a relish like dish made with roasted red peppers and eggplant – it can be sweet or spicy depending on how you spice it up. For a change, I elected to keep it sweet and it was lovely with the sliders and the yoghurt and even the onions.
We tried to find a Herzegovinian wine (apparently they make the best wine in the country), but we didn’t try super hard and we weren’t successful. So, instead we served with a nice Greek wine, a light bodied Chianti would also be perfect. These burgers take a bit of time (12 hours is recommended) but aren’t difficult to make. Do not be tempted to substitute jarred roasted red peppers for the homemade peppers, the jarred version doesn’t taste remotely the same, they tend to have a more acidic flavor and almost tomato like overtones. When you roast them yourself, the natural sweetness of the peppers shines through and make the relish outstanding. Enjoy…
If you love these sliders, you might also enjoy the Greek Burger, it has the red pepper and yoghurt flavors then adds a yummy layer of feta cheese. Check it out!
Bosnian Cevepi Sliders with Roasted Red Pepper Ajvar
½ pound ground beef 80% lean
½ pound ground pork (lamb works well too)
½ cup onion minced
1 large clove of garlic minced
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Roasted Red Pepper Ajvar (recipe below)
1 cup Greek yoghurt
1 red onion
4 mini pitas cut in half
In a large bowl, gently mix all ingredients. Form 8 patties (2 oz each). Place the formed patties on wax paper and cover with wax paper. Refrigerate overnight or 8-12 hours. Bring sliders out of the refrigerator about an hour before cooking so that they are room temperature. Cook until done.
While the sliders are warming to room temperature, slice the red onion into strips then soak in an ice water bath for at least 15 minutes. This takes some of the sharpness out of the onion so that it doesn’t overpower the dish. Drain and dry before using.
In each half pita, place a cooked slider, 1-2 Tablespoons yoghurt, 2-3 Tablespoons Ajvar and red onion.
Roasted Red Pepper Ajvar
2 red bell peppers
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small eggplant chopped
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 clove garlic minced
½ teaspoon white wine vinegar
Preheat oven to 425º. Rub peppers with olive oil then place on a cookie sheet. Roast on middle rack for 15-20 minutes or until skin starts to blister. Place peppers in a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit until peppers are cool enough to handle.
While peppers are roasting, generously salt the chopped eggplant and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. drain the water and brush off excess salt. Place eggplant on the cookie sheet and roast in the over for 10 minutes stirring/turning once. Let eggplant cool.
Once pepper are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and remove the tops and the inside membranes and seeds. Roughly chop the peppers. Place the peppers, eggplant, garlic and vinegar in a food processor and pulse until ingredients are combined and form a chunky relish. The Ajvar can be stored in an airtight container for several days – I recommend serving it at room temperature, but it can also be used cold.
©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach