Slovenian Rhapsody

By treatyrockbeef - Last updated: Monday, June 7, 2010 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

We collect tastes in our travels and increase the sum of our being in the hopes of living a life worth looking back on down the road.  A transformative food experience of this sweeping magnitude was nowhere more powerful for me than in the lovely little country of Slovenia flyfishing with some pals 8 years ago this week.  We stayed in great little country inns called gostilna(e), shopped in local markets with our guides who remain our friends today and shared the memorable Slow Food created by real people who take pride in their products.  The famous prsut (prosciutto across the border in Italy) – the forest mushrooms and soft caimak cheese and baby goat and wild boar neck and cherry brandy and smoked trout.  But perhaps the finest moment was an evening on the Unica (pronounced Oo-neech) when our driver Eddy disappeared to his uncle’s house nearby and returned with a twilight picnic repast that we enjoyed on the grassy banks watching trout and grayling dimple the quiet water winding between the willows.
 
Eddy and I shared few words together – mostly hand gestures and exaggerated facial expressions but we communicated with great enthusiasm.  He pointed out the good places to eat and reminded us at regular intervals that he could locate some “dancing girls” if we tired of the fishing.  While it’s not clear that Eddy didn’t dabble in black market car parts on his days off, that possibility still cannot be categorically eliminated.  Anyway, he returned with a blanket and big basket of dishes and bowls. 
 
The spread included some tiny little sausages called chevapchichi served with hot mustard and ayvar (also spelled ajvar), a delicious grilled eggplant / red pepper concoction loved by the Slavs & Hungarians.  It resembles a relish without vinegar or sweetness.  I have occasionally been able to find it at ethnic stores but with some advice from Chef Jon Cambra of Castle Hill Inn, I made a respectable stand-in for Farmers Market on Saturday and will never buy it again.
 
Rub 4 red peppers and 5 cloves of garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper and place them whole in a roasting pan.  Slice a sweet onion in half and place it in.  Slice an eggplant in 1/2″ slices and place in, adding more olive oil, salt & pepper and turning the eggplant slices so everything gets coated.  Chop 10 sprigs of fresh thyme and sprinkle in, mixing well.  Roast at 450 for 15 minutes to soften up the eggplant and peppers.  Start a wood fire beforehand so your coals are hot now.  Put the pepper and eggplant on a grate over the coals for about 10 minutes turning every couple of minutes till you get at good char without burning.  Leave the onion and garlic in the oven separating out the leaves of the onion as it starts to fall apart.  It should be soft and clear and sweet smelling.  The garlic should be golden and yielding like your first girlfriend’s sun-warmed thigh.  Take the eggplant and peppers off the fire and return to the roasting pan and turn off the heat.  Remove from the oven and let the vegetables cool.  When they have cooled, slip the skins off the peppers, remove the seeds and put everything into a food processor with juice of half a lemon, double handful of parsley from the garden (chopped coarsely and 1-2 teaspoons of cayenne.  I did not have smoked paprika but a teaspoon of this would surely have been at home.  Puree till it reaches smooth texture with small chunks.  Serve with grilled grass-fed steak marinated in Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and cracked black pepper. 
 
Enjoy.  Let me know if you want a 40 pound share in a big beautiful steer we are having slaughtered July 6th.  Shares will cost $400 per.  We take pride in producing premium 100% grass-fed dry aged beef LOCALLY, NATURALLY & HUMANELY.
 
Respecting the Protein, PMB

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