A Croatian Inspired Meal
Croatia’s unique ability to suit the interests of every kind of traveler extends into its culinary landscape. Hungarian, Turkish, Slavic, and Italian influences vary from region to region, which makes dining in Croatia distinctive and keeps even the most jaded of us entertained. Our menu is a sampling of Croatia’s different food identities and a collection of our favorite dishes.
Smoked pork lies at the heart of this Istrian take on minestrone soup. It’s a light but flavorful dish, perfect for a cool summer evening spent outdoors. It’s important to cut all of the veggies the same size, so they cook evenly, and feel free to substitute bacon for pancetta, if you prefer.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
In a large stockpot over medium heat, add pancetta. Cook until fat has been rendered and pancetta is crispy, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon oil, onion, carrot, celery, and a healthy pinch of salt. Sauté until slightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add corn, beans, ham hock, bay leaves, tomatoes, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Allow to cook for at least 2 hours, until flavors develop. Remove ham hock and bay leaves, adjust seasoning, garnish with parsley, and serve.
We love this mix between meatball and sausage for its skewered grilled taste and ability to serve as an appetizer or main course. The focus here is on the flavor of the meat – no need to pour in a dozen ingredients to mask the essence of the meat – but it’s key to use ground beef with some fat, like 80 or 95 percent lean.
Yield: 4 to 5 servings
Soak 8 to 10 skewers in water. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well, but do not over knead the meat or else it will become tough. Season aggressively with salt and pepper. Roll into 1 1/2–2 inch cylinders, shaped like a wine cork.
Preheat grill to 400˚F and wipe with oil-soaked paper towel. Place 2 to 3 cevapcici on each skewer. Grilled until cooked through, about 6 minutes. Serve with ajvar.
This is an ideal accompaniment to cevapcici, but also delicious when slathered on toasted bread and served with Paski Sir, a firm, sheep’s milk cheese from the island of Pag. It will store up to 5 days in the fridge, and you’ll be surprised how addictive it is and how often you dip into it.
Yield: 6 servings
Preheat oven to 375˚ F. Place 1 pepper directly on a gas burner turned to high. Repeat with 3 other peppers. When entire outside has been charred, place peppers in a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Using a paper towel, wipe away charred skin and discard core and seeds. Place pepper in food processor.
On a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, add eggplant and onion. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until vegetables are soft and cooked through, about 45 minutes. Allow vegetables to cool slightly and add to food processor. Add garlic and vinegar, and pulse until smooth. Garnish with parsley and serve with cevapcici.
Fish served along the coast and islands is as stunning as the views. Grilling is the most popular technique in the area, but this recipe is more unique and just as delicious. Using a selection of freshwater fish will give the broth a rounder, deeper flavor; if egg noodles aren’t your thing, serve it with blitva (recipe below) instead.
Yield: 4 servings
In a stockpot on medium, add oil, onions, and season with salt. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add peppers and sauté 5 minutes. Add paprika, tomato paste, white, wine, vinegar, and fish. Add 5 to 6 cups of water. Simmer for 45 to 50 minutes, adding water if necessary. (Do not stir or fish will break apart.) Adjust seasoning and serve.
Truffles are abundant in Istria and this is one of the region’s signature dishes. In our eyes, truffles plus cream and cheese equals heaven. Shaving fresh truffles over the pasta is always best, but acquiring them can take advanced planning and a hefty budget. Using truffle peelings (available from D’Artagnan, Urbani, or other gourmet providers) works well, or if you’re in a jam, using truffle butter will do the trick.
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large stockpot. Season with salt and cook fettuccine until al dente, 6 to 7 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water. Drain pasta and set aside.
Add butter to stockpot and sauté garlic for 1 minute on medium heat. Add cream and truffle peelings and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Add fettuccine, ½ cup reserve cooking water, and cheese. Mix well, adjust seasoning, and add additional pasta water if needed. Serve immediately.