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Wonders of the World

Wonders of the World: the podcast that visits the great places on Earth to tell the story of our people, our civilization, and our planet.
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Now displaying: July, 2018

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Jul 27, 2018

Pašticada

 

Pašticada is a long-simmered piece of beef, the kind of beef that would normally be tough and chewy, but when you cook it low and slow melts in your mouth.  Flavored with vinegar, fruit, veggies, and spices, it’s a traditional holiday or Sunday night meal,

 

Basically, you take a big ol’ slab of top round, or silverside in the UK, stick cloves of garlic and pieces of prosciutto inside it, douse it in vinegar, and leave it overnight to marinate.  The next day, you quickly sear it Then you roast it with veggies like onion, celery root, carrots, plus prunes, and wine and olive oil.  Low and slow in the oven. 

 

When it’s done, as the meat rests, you puree the fruit, veggies, spices, wine, and drippings into a succulent sauce.  And serve it all over njoki (gnocchi if you’d rather), which is far easier to make at home than you think.

 

Every Croatian grandmother has her own recipe; this is one that seems like a winner to me.  Since, as I may have mentioned, my wife doesn’t eat red meat, I’m reliant on you to try this out.

 

Serves 6

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5-2 kg (3.5-4.5 lb) of stewing beef (top round or silverside in the UK)
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) pršut (Croatian prosciutto) (Consider Italian prosciutto or regular bacon, cut in smallish squares or strips as an alternative.)
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 juniper berries
  • salt
  • 750 ml (3 cups) balsamic vinegar (This can be expensive. Red wine vinegar will work as well.)
  • 400 ml (1 2/3 cup) dry red wine, divided (The Croatian Plavac Mali is closely related to Zinfandel, so try that.)
  • 100ml (half a cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 30 ml (2 tablespoons) flour
  • 250 ml (1 cup) beef broth
  • 5 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large celery root, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 parsley root, peeled and coarsely chopped (if you cannot find parsley root, use more celery and add a large potato, peeled and coarsely chopped.)
  • 150 ml (2/3 cup) prošek (a white Croatian desert wine, which is NOT prosecco - very different. Consider Sauternes as an alternative.)
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) sugar
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 8 prunes, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • package of gnocchi (unless you're making your own - which is delicious and easier than you'd think, but outside the scope of this recipe)

 

STEPS

  1. Begin on the day before you intend to serve the pašticada. Dry the beef and use a sharp knife to cut small openings all over. Carefully insert the pršut or bacon, garlic and cloves.
  2. In a ceramic or aluminium bowl, combine the vinegar with the juniper berries, a bay leaf, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper into the vinegar to make a marinade.
  3. Place the meat inside, top up with about 250 ml red wine until fully covered. Leave in the fridge or a cold place for a minimum of 12 hours, but preferably for 24.
  4. The next day, take the meat out of the marinade and dab it dry with paper towels.  Be sure to reserve the marinade! Remove the pršut/bacon, garlic and cloves from the meat and reserve them as well.
  5. Roll the beef in the flour until it’s lightly dusted on all sides.
  6. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven on medium-high. Place the meat in the hot oil, turning regularly until it is browned on all sides. This should take about 10 minutes. Once browned, remove the meat from the pan, retaining the oil.
  7. Using the same oil over medium high heat, sauté the onions and carrots, plus the garlic and bacon that were used with the marinade, until the bacon starts to brown (the meaty parts). Stir constantly.
  8. Deglaze the pan with the beef broth and bring to a boil. Replace the beef to the Dutch oven, cover partially, and boil for about 10 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, mix the tomato paste, dessert wine, an additional 150 ml red wine and sugar in a bowl.
  10. When the broth and beef have boiled 10 minutes, add the wine blend to the Dutch oven, then add the celery root, parsley root and 2 bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper, reduce to low heat and cover.
  11. Simmer for 80 minutes, stirring lightly occasionally. If the braising liquid starts to dry up, add some of the leftover marinade.
  12. Halfway through the simmer, about 40 minutes in, add the chopped prunes. Stir well.
  13. Continue simmering for another 80 minutes, or until the meat is very tender. Again, add marinade if the braising liquid is dry.
  14. Once the meat is tender enough, remove it from the Dutch oven, let it cool a little and cut it into thick slices (about 2 cm, a little less than an inch, in thickness).
  15. For the sauce, turn up the heat of the remaining liquids and vegetables to high and boil for at least 5 minutes to reduce the sauce. Remove the bay leaves and juniper berries (if possible) and either use an immersion blender or, in batches, puree the sauce in a blender.
  16. Prepare your gnocchi (njoki) according to the package instructions (assuming you’re not making your own).
  17. Return the blended sauce to the saucepan, season to taste, add the meat and reheat.
  18. Your pašticada is now ready to serve. Sprinkle it with fresh parsley, then place a slice or two of meat per plate next to some gnocchi (or other accompaniment) and pour the sauce generously over both. Serve with a fresh green salad.

 

Recipe adapted from https://www.petersommer.com/blog/another-bite/pasticada

Photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/saundersmecklem/25598495030

 

Jul 24, 2018

Rome was entrenched in chaos, until one man took charge, and through sheer force of will - and the army - remade the Empire into a completely new government, one that would last for over a thousand years.  Then he retired to farm cabbages, moving into an incredible palace on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, a palace which today forms the core of Split, Croatia's old town.

Rob and Jamie from the Totalus Rankium podcast drop by once again to discuss Diocletian, one of the most significant emperors, whose legacy paved the way to medieval Europe. We dig into the good, like his bureaucratic reforms, the bad, like his persecution of Christians, and the ugly, like his edict on prices.

Listener Hrvoje Tolić calls in to discuss Split, the sights, and the cuisine.  Pašticada, a long-marinated beef roast served over njoki, is the recipe of the day.

Jul 15, 2018

Ma’amoul (Date Cookies)

 

Ma’amoul are shortbread cookies, filled with a sweetened date puree, baked until just golden, and dusted with powdered sugar.  They are traditionally served for Eid, as a welcome sweet reward following the fasting of Ramadan, and for Easter, as a welcome sweet rewards following the fasting of Lent, for Rosh Hashanah for a sweet new year… Basically, no matter what your religion, in the Levant, if you want a sweet treat, these cookies are your go-to.

 

Making them traditionally requires two things you likely don’t have, but I’ve got ways to work around those.  First, you probably don’t have the traditional wooden mold that you use to shape the cookies - but that’s OK.  You can use your palm or anything else you have on hand to mold small cookies.  Or you can order one online.

 

Second, traditionally, these cookies include mahlab, a spice made from cherry pits, which gives an amaretto-like flavor.  Easy to find at a Middle East specialty market, but not accessible anywhere else. You can substitute almond extract or just leave it out.

 

Building the cookies are easy.  Mix up the dough, knead it and let it sit. 

 

Pit and chop the dates - I like medjool dates for this, but if you have deglet noor, those work too, they just aren’t as sweet.  Letting the dates cook a bit helps to break down the fibers, enrich the spices, and build up the sweetness.

 

Roll out the dough into little balls, then take one, press it out in your hand, add some dates, and fold the dough around it.  If you have a mold, put the cookie into it, press gently to get the shape, and then whap onto the counter to release it.  If you don’t have the mold, it’s fine - consider using a fork to make indentations to form a pattern.

 

Then bake until just golden - do NOT overbake - and dust with powdered sugar.

 

So good.  IF you like dates.

 

Makes 20

 

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE DOUGH

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup butter melted and hot
  • ½ teaspoon Mahlab or almond extract (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup milk

FOR THE FILLING

  • 1 ½ cup pitted and chopped dates
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

STEPS

The dough:

  • Mix the vanilla with milk and oil, keep aside.
  • In a bowl add all the dry ingredients and mix well. Pour the hot butter into the flour and mix using a whisk until well combined.
  • Add the milk and knead for at least 5 minutes. Cover and leave in a warm place for one hour.

 

The filling:

  1. In a saucepan, add all the ingredients and stir on medium heat. The date will soften and will form into a dough like texture. This process and depending on the type of dates you are using might take 3 minutes to four minutes.
  2. Let the mixture cool completely then form 10 equal balls.

 

The cookies:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Grease a baking pan with butter and keep aside.
  2. Form 20 equal balls from the dough previously prepared. Take one ball and flatten it slightly in the palm of your hand. Place a ball of date in the center and close the dough forming a sealed ball.
  3. Place the ball in a mold, press it gently until the surface is even.
  4. Slam the edge of the mold on folded towel, a clean kitchen counter, or cutting board few times to release the dough from the mold.
  5. Place the cookies on a nonstick or greased baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes. When it cools dust with confectioners’ sugar if you wish.

 

Recipe adapted from https://www.munatycooking.com/maamoul/  Image from the Guardian

Jul 10, 2018

In 2015, ISIS terrorists destroyed the Temples of Bel and Baalshemin in the Syrian desert city of Palmyra, temples which had remained in pristine condition since their city's glory days in the 3rd century.

 

Back then, under the capable leadership of its rulers Odenaethus and the "Warrior Queen" Zenobia, Palmyra rose from wealthy caravan town to leader of the Eastern Mediterranean, taking advantage of the chaos of the Roman Crisis of the Third Century.  So. Many. Emperors. So. Much. Chaos.

 

 

Scott Chesworth from the Ancient World podcast returns to finish his tale of Roman Syria, discussing how Palmyra challenged two empires, and how they very nearly pulled it off.

 

Also, listener David Adam recounts his trip to Palmyra before the temples were destroyed; you'll appreciate how he brings the humanity of modern Syrians into the story.  And you can see his photos here: https://www.wonderspodcast.com/single-post/2018/07/10/The-Temple-of-Bel-at-Palmyra 

 

The destruction of Palmyra and of Syria has been a great human catastrophe, and by acknowledging and remembering lost Palmyra, we might hope to prevent the next one.

 

Also, there are cookies! Date-filled cookies, in honor of the date palms that gave Palmyra its name.

Jul 7, 2018

Kibbeh are delicious Lebanese dishes made of ground meat (usually beef or lamb), bulgur wheat, onion and spices.  Very simple, very delicious.  Sometimes kibbeh comes as a baked casserole, like a meatloaf, and sometimes it’s a deep-fried croquette, shaped in balls.  Sometimes, it’s eaten raw, like steak tartare.

I genuinely like fried kibbeh best, but it’s pretty similar to falafel in looks, and you might be tired of fried food, so y’know what, we’ll try the baked variety.  I think you’ll like it, and maybe your arteries will too!

A couple of things: If you can’t get the meat for the kibbeh layer ground finely from the butcher, you’ll need to grind it super-fine yourself, but if you’re like me, you don’t have a meat grinder lying around.  So what to do? You may have to use a food processor to grind it down.  Not great, but it’ll do.

Second, the meat will stick to your hands.  Having ice cold water on hand to moisten your hands and keep them free from stickiness will help a lot.  Just make sure not to get too much water into the meat.

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

For bulgur mixture (kibbeh)

  • 1 cups fine bulgur (#1)
  • 1 pounds ground beef or lamb, VERY lean
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion, pureed
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For filling

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more to coat the pan
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef from chuck
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter

STEPS

  • Rinse the bulgur in cold water, drain, and cover to 1⁄2 inch with cold water. Soak for 1⁄2 hour, or until the bulgur is softened.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • First step is the outer layer, the kibbeh.  In a large bowl, knead the ground meat with the pureed onion and about half of the bulgur. If there is any visible water left in the bulgur from soaking, squeeze it out of the wheat before adding it to the kibbeh.
  • Dip hands in ice cold water as you knead, adding about 1⁄4 cup of the water in total; be careful not to add too much water to the kibbeh or it will become mushy rather than just soft. Add the bulgur 1⁄4 cup at a time until it’s fully incorporated. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne and cinnamon, tasting and adjusting the seasoning.
  • Now for the middle layer, the filling: in a large frying pan, heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onions and about a half teaspoon of salt and sauté until soft. Add the ground beef and season with cinnamon, another half teaspoon of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook until browned, breaking up the meat with a metal spoon into small bits as it cooks. Squeeze the lemon juice over the meat, taste, and adjust seasoning if needed. Stir in the pine nuts and set aside to cool.
  • Coat a 9x13x2 inch baking dish with oil. Set up another small bowl of ice water where you are working and use the water to coat your hands as you flatten and shape the kibbeh. Use half of the kibbeh to form thin, a flat layer covering the bottom of the baking dish. Smooth the layer with cold water.
  • Spread the filling evenly over the flat kibbeh layer. Using the remaining kibbeh meat, form another thin, flat layer over the stuffing and smooth with cold water.
  • With a knife, score the top in squares (or the traditional diamond pattern) into the kibbeh, cutting through to the center layer but not all the way to the bottom of the dish.
  • Place a dab of butter on each square—this adds a wonderful savory flavor and moisture to the kibbeh.
  • Bake in the center of the oven for about 50 minutes, or until the kibbeh is deep golden brown on top; finish the kibbeh under the broiler, if needed, to get that deep color.
  • Serve with Labneh (Lebanese yogurt); plain Greek yogurt will do in a pinch.  Warmed pita bread works too.  And don’t forget the mezze in advance like hummus or tabouleh) 

Recipe adapted from Maureen Abood’s Rose Water and Orange Blossoms (https://www.maureenabood.com/baked-kibbeh-you-say-meatloaf-i-say-meatlove)

Photo from sbs.com.au

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