Sunday, January 17, 2010

Serbian Christmas

Last week, our Sunday lunch was held at our friends Timothy and Nadja's apartment. It was a traditional Serbian Christmas dinner. From Wikipedia: The Serbs celebrate Christmas for three consecutive days, beginning with Christmas Day. The Serbian Orthodox Church uses the traditional Julian Calendar, as per which Christmas Day (December 25) falls currently on January 7 of the Gregorian Calendar. This day is called by Serbs the first day of Christmas, and the following two are accordingly called the second, and the third day of Christmas. Tim and Nadja invited friends and family from near and far. The food was varied and abundant. There were a variety of pre-dinner foods, including a beet salad made by Joanne. My contribution was the cesnica (chess-neet-cha), which is the traditional bread with the hidden silver coin. It's very eggy bread and the dough is sticky and almost pourable when placed for the first rise. According to Nadja, it turned out correctly, so I was relieved about that. When the bread is served, it's passed around and each person tears a piece from the loaf (not cut into slices). The finder of the coin is guaranteed good luck for the coming year. The finder of one coin was the teenage daughter of Tim's friend. The other coin was not found when we left. I made two loaves, anticipating a large turnout. With the abundance of food, however, one loaf would have been sufficient. The dinner itself consisted of a chicken soup with dumplings, followed by the delicious and aromatic sarma (sauerkraut rolls - so good!), and moussaka with potatoes and spinach. The piece de resistance was Nadja's spread of desserts, which were hidden in a back bedroom until the finale. Especially delicious was a roulade made with raspberry and lemon filling (from Joanne's and my lemon curd, made with lemon juice from the salvaged lemons at the farm). It was a fun and festive occasion with lots of family and friends. Thanks to Tim and Nadja for all the many hours of work that went into this celebration. We'll look forward to next year!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beets and Bread

Missed a few weeks of posting with the holidays and all... though we had some memorable Sunday lunches in the meantime. A highlight was joining with Kate's family and a couple close friends to see a local production of "A Christmas Story," by Porthole Players from Newport. It was staged at the Lincoln City Cultural Center for this weekend, and featured in the lead role of Ralphie the son of Kate's friend Meredith. We had a larger group of 8 that week at my house, with stuffed acorn squash (one each) as the main entree, filled with veggies and seasoned ground beef. A nice holiday memory.

This week we gathered at Kate's house, and she had requested I bring beets for the salad and I tried my hand at a new bread recipe. The beets were from my garden this summer, which I had roasted and diced, then frozen for later use. She combined them into a wonderful salad (Kate... where is that recipe?) that included baby greens, the beets, walnuts, mandarin wedges tossed in a light flavored vinaigrette. It all turned a shocking pink from the beets but tasted supreme.

My bread turned out nicely, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. It was the "Perfect Loaf" recipe from Sullivan Street Bakery owner Jim Lahey. I had heard him discussing on The Splendid Table his unusual methods for making bread, with minimal kneading and handling. It requires a long time to rise, but a tiny amount of yeast. My sister Betty had recently shared her copy of Lahey's new book My Bread with us, and her resulting loaf. I have to say this was one of my better bread-making efforts, so I am looking forward to getting a copy of his book soon!

The main course for this week was a rump roast Kate prepared (low and slow roasting) along with hearty potatoes and carrots. Combined with the salad and bread, and Duane's beef gravy, it was a well-rounded winter meal. A glass of Bailey's stood in for my dessert, yum.