Yogurt (Kos)

Yogurt (Kos)

IMG_4097

Yogurt is a major staple in our household. We eat it with everything! We can eat is savory, sweet or just plain the way it is. So, with the amount of yogurt we go through its important that we make it at home.

Google ‘how to make yogurt’ and you are bound to get seriously complicated recipes involving thermometers and who knows what else. Here I will show you an amazingly simple way to make yogurt at home.

For this method it is important that you have a little yogurt to start with. All you really need is a spoon full to get the culture going. You can either buy your favorite plain yogurt at the store or borrow a little from a neighbor.

What you will need:

  • Large pot
  • Milk
  • Large towel
  • Small amount of yogurt

In a large pot, bring the milk to a boil. I will leave the quantity up to you. We normally make about half a gallon at a time but I would recommend starting with a little less milk.

Once the milk is boiling heat off and let the milk cool. The milk needs to be slightly warmer than room temperature before moving to the next step.

*Note: Do not let the milk get too hot or too cold. This will prevent the yogurt culture from developing.*

Mix in the spoon full of yogurt and remove the pot from the stove. Now, wrap the pot in a large towel. This will allow the milk to stay warm and the yogurt to develop.

Leave this untouched overnight. The next day you can check on it and you will be surprised to find a large pot of delicious yogurt. It’s that simple!

ENJOY!

Keep checking back and I will show you some of the delicious things we do with this yogurt!

 

Byrek Misri

 Byrek Misri

IMG_4077

This is one of those stick to your bones and makes you feel good all over dishes. Think of it as American corn bread but packed with spinach, green onions and cheese. It’s very easy to make and can last a few days so, make a large batch if you can.

What you will need:

  • 4 cups spinach (either frozen or finely chopped fresh)
  • 1 gallon milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups of corn flour
  • Six green onions
  • 6 oz of cream cheese (or feta cheese if you prefer)
  • 1 cup butter room temperature
  • Salt to taste

First start by chopping green onions and preparing the spinach. IMG_4034

Then, in a large bowl slowly combine milk and corn flour. Mix vigorously while pouring to avoid clumping.

IMG_4040

Now mix in the following ingredients: the eggs, spinach, onions.

IMG_4035

Cut the butter into small cubes and throw them into the mix. Then crumble the cheese in as well. If you are making it with cream cheese use a small spoon and scoop in small pieces of cheese in. A little salt for taste and you are done and ready to bake!

IMG_4046

Pour the mixture into an oiled pan and bake for one hour at 400 degrees uncovered.

The dish is done when it is a solid mixture and golden around the edges. Let it cook for about 15 minutes and then serve.

IMG_4071

This can be served as a main dish or a side dish. Either way I know you will love it as much as I do! Enjoy!

Beans (Grësh or Fasule)

Beans (Grësh or Fasule)

IMG_4023

There is nothing better than a warm plate of beans and toasty bread on cold snowy day. It is, as my parents like to say, the one food you can never get tired of. So far I have to agree with them. After I show you how to make it, I will give you some other ways you can eat the beans.

What you will need:

  • A deep pan
  • 1-2 cups of white beans (we prefer Cannellini Beans)
  • One large white onion
  • One large bell pepper (any color you choose)
  • One large carrot
  • Salt
  • Butter (somewhere between 1/4 cup to a cup depending on how much beans you make)

The vegetables are optional but this is how my mom makes it and trust me it will be delicious.

First, rinse the beans then put them in the pot with 3-4 cups of water. Let these come to a boil. While they are coming to a boil prep the veggies by cutting them up. You can leave them chunky or finely minces. Either way the point is to get the essence of the vegetables in the bean broth.

Once the beans have started to boil drain the water. Another method that people use but is more time consuming is to let the beans soak in water overnight. This soaking process, whether by boiling or overnight resting in water, is very crucial. It will cut down the cooking process immensely.

Now put the beans back in the pot and about 3-4 cups of water again. Add all the vegetables as well but NOT salt! I repeat do not add the salt. Salting the beans before they are cooked greatly increases the cooking time. There are people who might not agree with this theory. But, I tend to stick to what I know plus I don’t want to waste a perfectly good batch of beans by salting them early on and finding out that everyone else is wrong.

Let the beans and vegetables come to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 45 min to an hour. Add a little water if the stew gets too thick and the beans aren’t fully cooked.

Once the beans are cooked through add the salt. In a small skillet melt the butter till its turns slightly brown then pour on top of the beans and mix. This will be the little secret to making the beans amazing. After all, butter makes everything better!

The final product should look something like this:

IMG_4017

ENJOY!

Part 2

If you haven’t finished your entire batch of beans you can store it in the fridge. Now for a different way to eat the beans.

Make scrambled eggs then pour the cold beans on top. Let the beans heat through for a couple of minutes while storing occasionally.

Let me know if you like it!

 

Tomato Soup (Supë Me Domate)

Tomato Soup (Supë Me Domate)

IMG_3295

This is one of my favorite soups to eat and to make. It’s super easy and only requires a few ingredients. Definitely a staple for a cold fall day or even an chilly spring day.

Here is what you will need:

  • Three to four medium tomatoes
  • Couple garlic cloves
  • Large onion
  • Chicken breasts or chicken tenders
  • Handful of rice
  • Deep soup pot
  • Boiling water

IMG_3259 IMG_3263 IMG_3265 IMG_3267

Start by setting a kettle to boil water. You will need this later so its important to have hot water ready to go. Now finally chop the garlic and onions and sauté with a little olive oil.

IMG_3277 IMG_3278

While the onions are sautéing, dice the tomatoes and leave them on the side. Now dice the chicken and add it to the onions. Let the chicken sauté for about 5 minutes with the onion. Add the tomatoes to the onions and chicken. Mix real well and pour in the water. Fill the pot with water to the top and then add in salt and pepper, or if you have some handy add Vegeta.

IMG_3290

Always, always make sure to taste and don’t add any more water after this. Once the soup has come to a boil lower the heat and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. This allows all the flavors to mesh together as well as the chicken to fully cook. At this point you can add in the handful of rice. Refrain from adding too much rice or it becomes a rice stew. I’ve made this mistake a few times so trust me a handful of rice goes a long way.

IMG_3291

After the soup is allowed to simmer give it a taste to make sure its properly seasoned and check that the chicken is fully cooked. Now you will be tempted to have some but be careful cause its really hot!

IMG_3295

Enjoy!

Stuffed Eggplants (Patëllxhan të Mbushur)

Stuffed Eggplants (Patëllxhan të Mbushur)

IMG_2999Continuing with the theme of stuffed foods, eggplants make for a perfect vegetable to stuff. Stuffed eggplants are a super easy, quick and delicious meal. Perfectly portioned but I can’t promise you won’t go for second helpings.

What you will need:

  • Eggplants- Small to medium size.
  • Peppers
  • Tomato and Tomato Sauce
  • Onions
  • Ground Beef/Turkey or what ever you prefer (or not if you want to make a veggie meal)
  • Olive Oil
  • Paprika, Onion Powder, Salt and Pepper

Start by chopping the onions and begin sautéing them in a hot skillet with a little olive oil. While the onions sauté, start chopping the peppers and the tomato.

IMG_2935 IMG_2955 IMG_2944 IMG_2968

Once every thing is chopped, add to the skillet along with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Now let the mixture simmer slowly for five minutes.

IMG_2970 IMG_2971

Now time to cut the eggplants. Cut the ends and then in half lengthwise but make sure not to cut all the way through. Gently scoop out the insides and leave them in a bowl on the side. This is a slightly difficult process but be patient and be careful. Use a spoon, for an easier process, to scoop out the inner flesh.

IMG_2958 IMG_2963 IMG_2967Take the bowl with the scooped out eggplants and begin chopping them up and adding them to the onion and pepper mix. Add the tomato sauce and let the mixture simmer for a couple minutes.

IMG_2972 IMG_2974

In a separate skillet, stir fry the ground beef (or other meat of choice) till fully cooked. You can skip this step if you want to make it a veggie only meal.

IMG_2976 IMG_2979

This mixture is so good you will want to eat it on its own. Give it a taste and you will see what I mean.

IMG_2980

Ok now time to stuff. Also known as the fun part!

IMG_2986 IMG_2983 IMG_2985 IMG_2989

Any extra mix can be added around the stuffed eggplants (or taste test some more ;))

Finally drizzle with olive oil and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until roasted. Make sure the eggplant is thoroughly cooked before serving.

IMG_2997

Can be eaten alone, with rice, pasta or some fresh bread. Enjoy!!

IMG_2999

Stuffed Peppers (Spece të mbushur)

Spece të mbushur (Stuffed Peppers)

IMG_2773

This is by far one of my favorite meals. This partially because is it a whole meal in one pepper and mostly I am obsessed with peppers.

I understand that this may not be an original Albanian dish. I also know that many people will comment about the fact they they (or most likely their mothers) make it different but, as I have said before, this is a dish I grew up eating in my Albanian household.

What you will need:

Bell Peppers- I used 4 for this meal but you can use as many or as little as you want as long as you adjust the rest of the ingredient amounts. Also feel free to use other color peppers.

Ground Beef or Turkey or what ever other protein you prefer

Onions, Carrots, Extra Peppers

Handful of Rice

IMG_2747

Start by cutting the peppers in half and cleaning them out. My mother sometimes cuts off the top and fills the entire pepper but I prefer this way for two reasons: one, allows for portion control and two, can peppers can lie better in the pan.

IMG_2740

Once the the peppers are all set, preheat the oven to 400, and prepare a skillet for your stuffing by pouring a little oil and letting it heat up. Now start chopping up all your veggies. Make sure to chop them up really small and evenly so they cook evenly and will fit in the peppers.

Once that is done, put everything in the skillet and start sautéing.

IMG_2748

Cook until the onions are translucent and the veggies are soft then you can add the seasoning. For this meal I used the mother of all Albanian seasoning Vegeta. Not to say that this is an Albanian seasoning but, it is used in almost ever meal that my mother has ever cooked for our family. You will probably see me use it many other time in other meals. If you don’t have access to Vegeta (usually found in the international food aisle or international food stores), you can use salt pepper and a little garlic powder.

IMG_2755

Not its time for the meat. Add the ground beef (or protein of your choice) to the veggies and begin breaking it apart and mixing it with the other ingredients. Cook thoroughly until the meat is no longer pink.

IMG_2759

After the meat has cooked through, grab a handful of rice and mix that in as well. If you don’t feel that it is enough rice you are more than welcome to put in more. The key is to make sure there is more meat and veggies than rice mostly because there won’t enough moisture in the pan to cook all that rice. The mixture should look something like this:

IMG_2762

Now its time for the fun part! Also the slightly difficult and dangerous part so be careful. Start stuffing the peppers to the top. If you are afraid that you might not have enough mix only stuff the peppers to the top and continue till you are done with all the peppers. You will most likely have more mixture than you expected so this is when you pile it on top of the peppers till you have little mounds of mixture in each pepper.

IMG_2765 IMG_2766

Pour a little water at the bottom of the pan. I would say about a water of a cup maybe less. This will create steam and cook the rice thoroughly.

Now cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 400 for 20-25 min. After this time check to make sure that your rice is cooked by sampling a little bit of the mix. If it is not cooked, cover the pan again and cook for another 10-15 min.

Uncover the pan and let it roast in the oven for about 5 min.

IMG_2769

Once its all done, grab yourself one and enjoy! I hope you like this dish as much as I do!

IMG_2774

Homemade Bread

Homemade Bread

IMG_9905

There is no smell in the world more comforting than the smell of homemade bread. Homemade bread can be found in almost every culture and in a variety of forms. Here is how my mother, her mother, and many other generations of Albanian women before them have been making homemade bread.

This is what you need:

2 cups of water
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoon oil

Min 4 1/4 cups flour

I have to admit, to me, making bread has always seemed like an overly complicated task. But, after watching my mother make it over and over again, I realized it’s really not that difficult. (For those of you who might be curious. Those are my mothers hands making the bread.)

Start with a large bowl where you will mix all of your ingredients plus have room to allow the bread to rise.

Add the water, sugar, salt, yeast and oil.  Now mix mix mix….

IMG_9842

IMG_9843

Gradually begin adding the flour till the dough starts to stick together. Now put your upper body to work and start kneading the dough. Knead it into a nice little neat ball.

IMG_9853

You can see my mother got down, on the floor, on her hands and knees to add a little more strength to her kneading.

IMG_9860

IMG_9861

This is what your ball of dough should look like.

IMG_9869

Cover the dough with a wet cheese cloth or a wet paper towel and place the bowl in a warm environment where it can rise slowly. We usually place it in the oven. But under no circumstance should you turn the oven on at this point!

IMG_9872This part of the process requires a lot of patience. You have to wait till the dough has risen to over twice it’s original size.

Once the dough has risen, you can start forming it into smaller balls. (This is of course up to you. You can leave it whole and bake it that way or form it into individual size portions.)

IMG_9895IMG_9894

IMG_9896

You need to let the dough rise again. This helps the bread become lighter and crustier.

Finally, bake in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes or till the top is golden brown. Make sure to watch that the bottom of the bread doesn’t burn. To prevent this it’s best to lightly coat the baking dish with a little oil.

Enjoy the wonderful smell of homemade bread that will permeate your home!

IMG_9904