Tuesday, August 28, 2007

La Festa al Fresco 2007

I started to write about Spaghetti with Mixed Shellfish, but I was too lazy to write recipe so I gave Photo recipe of the dish. But then I stumbled down on the announcement for La Festa al Fresco 2007 - the blog world’s biggest patio party! And I love patio parties!

To join the party is very simple; you just have to prepare a dish using a fresh, seasonal ingredient. The only rule is «that it must feature a fresh, seasonal ingredient, preferably something that grows in your neck of the woods

Well that brings be back to my Spaghetti with Mixed Shellfish which were cooked directly from the sea. What is fresher from that!

So, to prepare Spaghetti with Mixed Shellfish first you have to jump into sea.

For Vongole Veraci * look for sandy sea bottom. Use your flippers to move superficial layer of send and just pick the clams. Murex* and Mussels you will find attached to rocks. Be aware not to pick those that are in shallow water.

Now when you “harvested” enough clams, clean and scrub them well under the running water. Scrape away beards from Mussels with a knife and scrub them; Pull the beard from tip to center. The beard should pull off easily. Do not let clams to sit in a fresh water, as freshwater will kill them.

Fresh clams should be tightly closed in their shells. If a shell is slightly opened, tap it lightly. If it doesn’t snap shut, it is dead and you should not eat it.

Put them in a pot with a small amount of clean sea water. You can leave your clam to soak in clean sea water over the night to purge them of sand. But if you are very hungry you can immediately proceed to cooking them, especially if you plan to serve them without their shells.

Cook the clams in a small amount of sea water because they will discharge their own liquid and clams will be much tasteful when cooking in it. Cook for several minute. Discard any clams that do not open during the cooking process. They are not good to eat.

Carefully pull out the meat of clams from their shells. Extract the meat of the Murex with a toothpick or small knife. You can leave few clams in a shell just for aesthetic, if you like it.

Meanwhile prepare tomato sauce and cook spaghetti.

Mix clams with tomato sauce and cook it for several more minute. Pour over spaghetti and serve warm.

* Since my English is not in best condition, I'm not 100% sure that my translation of the names of the shells is correct, so I'l be more than glad to be corrected if wrong.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

SHF: Going local - Bobici

I know it is not that time of the year yet, but when I read about this month SHF hosted by The Passionate cook with the theme “Going local!”, Bobici just jumped in my mind and I desperately wanted to participate!

Well, traditional Dalmatian sweets in general are very tasteful. The main ingredient are local fruit: figs, raisins, almonds, walnuts… honey is often used instead of the sugar…

If you ever visit Dalmatic coast, island or inland you just have to try some of these: Mandulat, Rafioli, Smokvenjak (Hib), Rožata (in Split it is called Rožada), Fritule, Kroštule… and many, many others delicious sweets, cookies, cakes…

But today, I’ll write about Bobici, since their background is so fascinating!

Bobici, meaning “little broad beans” (“broad beans” = “bob” in Croatian), are small cakes that got its name form the old believe that the beans represent some sort of media for the direct communication between the world of dead and the world of living. Because of their ability to bring alive the souls of the dead the beans were present in the funeral ceremony in old Greece, Egypt and Rome, but also in other parts of the world. So baking and sharing the cookies in shape of beans - Bobici represents the symbolic reunion of departed and alive.

In Catholic world the Bobici were traditionally served on Day of Dead (or All Souls day) that is always on November 2. It is a Roman Catholic day of remembrance for friends and loved ones who have passed away. In Italy there are similar cookies called "Fave dei morti" meaning "Beans of the Dead".

Today in Split Bobici are very popular in everyday life and they are considered Split’s gastronomical souvenir. They are even industrially produced and are the most popular product of Bobis, the oldest pastry industry in Croatia, based in Split.

So if you ever come to Split find Bobis shop and ask for Bobići (Bobichi). You can find them in many others souvenir or delicates shops were you can fined home made Bobici that are for sure more tasteful than those form Bobis which are industrially produced. Or even better, buy local ingredients and bake them yourself!


250 g Unbleached and unpeeled almonds
250 g Sugar
1 egg
1 spoon of Maraschino
grated nutmeg
½ lemon zest
1 spoon of biscuit or Savoiardi crumbs
1 spoon of grated dark chocolate

Lightly toast the almonds and let them cool. Half of the almonds grind until they get flour like consistency (if you are doing this in a food processor be careful not to overgrind since almond are quite oily and they can easily get creamy. We do not want that!). Other half chop finely using knife (so that crumbs are size of couscous). Mix both halves back together.

Mix sugar with egg yolk. Grate some lemons zest. Add almonds, maraschino or some other domestic brandy, nutmeg, and beaten egg white (the “snow” from whites should form firm foam. Test it by turning the bowl upside down. Whites should stay in bowl.).

Mix it till you get firm dough and divide it in two halves. For white Bobici add same biscuit crumbs or grated Savoiardi. To the other half add grated dark chocolate.

Damp your hands and roll the dough between them to get long rolls about 1,5 cm thick. Cut them in 2 cm long pieces and then shape them into small balls. Lightly press each ball with finger to make a shallow pit.

Grease the baking dish or paper preferably with natural bee wax but butter or oil will do just fine. Place carefully the balls on it. Dry them in the oven on 50°C for about 3 hours.

This is basic recipe based on recipe form “Dalmatinska kuharica” by Dika Marjanović-Radica. There are lots of variants depending of the place you visit.

Friday, August 24, 2007

more holydays photos

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The most underrated Dalmatian Island

Our final destination was Island of Šolta, one of the most underrated Dalmatian Islands due to, I believe, its closeness to the mainland so no one take it "seriously". There is even one old traditional song that has verse "You can see Šolta from your window" (very dilettante translation, but I can't help it!)

This year Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards 2007 included Dalmatian island on top 10 Islands list (No.7 in world and No.2 in Europe - not bad?!) but they didn't even mentioned Šolta. That's shame since Šolta is really beautiful island with so many different faces. There is very picturesque and "cultivated" north side of the island with few small villages, than there is island inland with old villages like Gornje selo, Donje selo, Grohote ("capital" of the island) Maslinica... but there is also "wild" souther side with high cliffs and hidden coves... As far as I'm concerned, I'm happy that Šolta is sill not trendy place because there is no crowd so one can really enjoy it's beauty.

Well, we started our visit to Solta form south side. The first few days we had really nice calm weather so it was ideal for "savage" coves without any trace of civilization like electricity, grocery shops, bars ...

After few day of Robinson experience we needed firm ground under our feet and some fresh espresso under our nose so we decided to go to Stomorska, the biggest village on north side of the island whit lot's of coffee bars and some very good restaurants (one of which inspired the name for my blog!).

Of shells and airplanes

After the break we continued our voyage visiting Krknjasi (43o26,3' N - 16o10,6' E), wonderful laguna near the Island of Drvenik with crystal blue sea. It is really stunningly beautiful, but I'm not big fan of it since it is very popular destination for day excursions from Trogir and Split and is always very crowded. Still, we had fun counting the airplanes circling over busy Split Airport.

Thanks to the extraordinary clear and clean sea, and its sandy bottom, Krknjasi are very rich in shells. Well, they used to be, but it seams that the "secret" has been busted and people have overexploited it. We (my father) "hunted" only few "volaka" (murex shell), “Pedoča” (mussels) and “Brbavica” (Venus verrucosa) but it was more than enough for delicious dinner -Spaghetti with Mixed Shellfish (read recipe here, watch recipe here).

Spaghetti with Mixed Shellfish in Tomato Sauce - Photo recipe

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fish, grill and woodfire

We made a short break from sailing to meet our relatives form Zagreb. Off course, family reunions are always ideal opportunities for great dinning! And in Dalmatia this demands to start the woodfire and grill the fish. We call it “Riba na gradele” or shorter “Gradelada”.

To grill the fish requires audience because it is the ritual, it is the ceremony. To be responsible for starting up the fire and manage the grilling, to be “The Master or The Mistress (there is no gender problem here ) of Ceremony” is a big privilege and it is considered to be a great honor.

It takes years of learning and practice to get that right feeling that is necessary to start the fire. To know when the heat is right to put the grills on fire, when is the best moment to turn the fish so it doesn’t break or that skin doesn’t stick to the grills... Some believe that it is the talent you have to be born with.

Riba na gradele - (Grilled fish)
Starting the fire is first and crucial step.

Start the smaller flame with old newspaper and smaller, dry branches. Be aware to leave plenty of air space in between branches because fire needs oxygen to burn.

Set larger wood in the form of pyramid on top of the firestarter. Using the right wood for the fire is very important. Use dry wood. "Seasoned" wood is the best for making a fire. The wood should burn slow and hot. Add grapevine twigs when grilling the fish because it will give special aroma to the fish. Keep your fire "alive" until wood compliantly burs out and transforms in red embers.

Meanwhile, clean the grills with steel brush. Put the grills on the fire (when the flame is still high) so the all residues from earlier gradelade burns out. Afterwards smear with olive oil using the napkin.

When the grills are hot and the wood has burned out and you have hot embers, it is time to start to grill the fish.

While you are waiting wood to burn out, clean and gut the fish. Smaller fishes you can leave whole but larger you will have to slice. Dry the fish and then season it with olive oil and salt.

Put the fishes on the grills. Wait until the skin or meat gets the crust. Turn the fish. Use the rosemary to pat fish with olive oil. When other side gets the crust remove fish on plate and pour olive oil, parsley and garlic.

People in Dalmatia believe that fish has to swim three times: in the sea, in the oil and in the wine, so the glass (one glass, not whole bottle) of good Dalmatian wine is important part of the fish meal.

more fish, more grill, more woodfire

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fried fish

Buy fresh fish. This is the essential! If you are not lucky enough to buy fish directly from fisherman boat like we did, you will have to know haw to recognize fresh fish! Clear eyes, bright red, moist gills and pleasant, fresh smell are best signs of the fresh fish.
Don’t choose big fish. Smaller fish have firmer flesh that is and more tasteful.

Clean and gut fish (I'm planning to write step by step tutorial on how to clean and gut a fish soon) We leave the head on, but you can remove it if you prefer it that way. You can cut the fish in fillets, but if you leave it whole you will get softer, more tasteful meat.

Place flour on plate. Coat the fish with flour and shake of the excess. The more practical way is to mix flour with salt and paper in a plastic bag and than place the fish in plastic bag, close the bag and shake it well. Place it on the plate. If you have time leave it to dry for about one hour. This will give you nicer crust and more taste.

Heat good quality extra virgin olive oil in large fraying pan (heath well the pan prior pouring the oil) and place fish in the pan. Fish should be fried in hot oil. Shake pan for the first few seconds to avoid fish stick to pan. Fry until skin gets golden crust. Carefully turn fish on the other side. Again, fry until skin turns golden brown.

Put the fish on the plate. Season it with salt. You can sprinkle it with drop of olive oil, parsley and garlic. Serve it with slice of lemon with a side of sliced tomatoes salad.

Buying fresh fish

We are sailing, we are fishing, we are eating....

The first exacting thing we did was two weeks long vacation on our old wooden sailing boat called "Lutalica" meaning "Vagabond". We wondered around nearby islands of Drvenik Veli, Drvenik Mali and Šolta.

The crew were: my parents, my nephew Roko, my "precious one" and me! My sister joined us letter. Our boat is old and small but offers great comfort. But cooking on boat requires lots of good organization. Although the kitchen is really small and very essential we managed to cook and eat fabulous breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The secret is in my mother's experience in organizing the stocks and cooking on boat that she gathered over the years. More about cooking coming soon!

First we visited beautiful cove on mainland called Stari Togir (43° 29.5'N; 16° 02'E), meaning 'Old Trogir' that was the site of an ancient town called Trogir, allegedly visited by Cleopatra. There are remains of the old roman palace and old walls that are partially submerged under the sea. At the end of the cove there is beautiful small sandy beach. We spent our first day just relaxing and putting ourselves in "boat" mood.

Next day we sailed to the island Mali Drvenik, little port Borak (43o26,6' N - 16o05,1' E) and spent two days in that small port that seemed frozen in same strange time. The only connection with a mainland is a small ferry that during the summer drives two or three times a day. But, we did get a special bonus - our neighbors were fisherman boats which gave as the great source of fresh Adriatic fish for our hungry tummies!

Drvenik Mali is beautiful small Island situated 8 nautical miles from Trogir. Locals cultivate olives and grape so you can buy great home made olive oil and wine. Since the sea around the island is shallow and rich in fish, there are lots of fishermen and it is great opportunity to buy fresh fish directly from fisherman boat. We didn't miss that opportunity! On the island there are few nice sandy beaches. One afternoon we walked to cove of Vela Rina, known as the most beautify beach on the island. Vela Rina (43o26.6' N - 16o05.1' E) is also a pier for smaller yachts.