Burek Attempt #1

I’ve been thinking about trying to make bureks for a few weeks now (well, be fair, a few few months!). I’ve looked around for recipes on the internet (many of them are found under “borek”, which is the Turkish word for burek), and haven’t found any that are like the bureks we had from our bakery in Dubrovnik.

Common problems:

1) Often the recipe is really a big layered casserole, like spanikopita. I’ve got a good recipe for that already.
2) The recipe calls for me to make my own phyllo dough. Not happening

Finally I decided to just wing it. I made the filling from an improvised version of the spanikopita recipe from the original Moosewood Cookbook. Then I just tried rolling it up in phyllo dough to see what happened.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

1 package of large sheets of phyllo dough (11 x 18), thawed
about 1/4 cup olive oil
1 egg

Filling
12 oz fresh baby spinach
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
3/4 tsp basil
3/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
1/3 cup feta cheese

To make the filling: cook the chopped onion in a skillet in a little olive oil until the onions turn transluscent. Add garlic and seasonings, and cook a little longer. Add the spinach, and stir until the spinach wilts. Drain any excess water (or add a little flour to absorb it if you’d rather). Stir in feta cheese.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and about 1/4 cup olive oil (I didn’t really measure it)

Preheat the oven to 400F.

On a clean, dry surface, lay out one of the sheets of phyllo dough with the long side towards you. Brush the surface with the egg/oil mixture, and layer on another sheet of phyllo dough. Repeat with a 3rd sheet, but do not brush the top of the 3rd layer. Instead, about 1 inch from the edge, all along the wide length of the sheet, put a small amount of the filling. Don’t go all the way to the edges on either end – instead, fold the short sides in by about an inch over the filling. Then gently roll the phyllo dough, brushing with oil/egg occasionally as you go.

Once it’s in a long roll, you can try arranging it into a spiral. I had a hard time when I used 3 sheets of phyllo dough. It was easier when I made the burek out of two sheets, but then I found that it was much more susceptible to tearing…. Not sure what the solution was.

Place on an oiled cookie sheet – I ended up making 4 of them with the amount of filling I had. Bake for 25 minutes. I had quite a few explosions and leakage – so not sure how to fix that either.

First attempt at bureks

In the end they were very tasty, but not particularly authentic. I think the dough that they use in Croatia/Bosnia/Turkey is thicker and less flaky.

Things to try next time:

Less filling in each burek
Try thyme instead of basil
use more of the egg/oil wash between the layers

Friday musings

Things we have eaten in the last 10 days:

Indian food
Tacos
Sweet potato quesidillas
Southwestern style black beans
Roast beef wraps with barbecue sauce

Thing we have not eaten in the last 10 days: Ham

I just spent an hour and a half shoveling out our driveway and sidewalks from 4+ inches of snow, which was a bit of a rude shock. I was trying to decide if snow was better or worse than the bura wind. One of our colleagues at ACMT, Michael, recently had such a bad experience with the bura wind that his plane from Zagreb had to land in Zadar!! Never heard of that happening. Sounds like it was a 5+ hour trip by bus from Zadar to Dubrovnik. Might have been faster to drive from Zagreb! Sounds like the wind got really bad right after we left – we got out just in time!

Settling in at home

We’ve been settling in at home in the last week. Still not unpacked, but getting there. We did get our Christmas presents wrapped and sent off, finally! Unfortunately, I seem to have picked up a respiratory infection during our travels.

Aside from the grocery store bliss, I think the other thing that I appreciate most is the lack of smoking. Croatians don’t just smoke, they SMOKE. I was warned at Fulbright Orientation that everyone smoked and told that “you’ll get used to it.” Didn’t happen – it drove me nuts the entire time we were there. Allegedly, there’s a law against smoking in restaurants, but we saw people smoking in restaurants all the time. Plus in cafes, on sidewalks, at the bus stop…. I bet I inhaled more second-hand smoke in the last 4 months than in the rest of my life combined.

I asked my students how many of them smoked, and 19 out of 20 did – the one that didn’t had a two-year-old daughter and had quit. Apparently a pack of cigarettes is around $2.50 in Dubrovnik, so they’re very affordable.

It’s still better than Bosnia, where, as our guide book put it, 90% of people smoke 100% of the time in 100% of the places. At one restaurant we went to, the wait staff were all smoking…. It was really awful.

So being back in New York has been great on this front – I really appreciate the lack of smoke in restaurants and public places!

Have been enjoying walking in our warmer-than-usual weather, and one of our neighbor’s cats has been out enjoying the sunshine. She’s looking a little scruffy these days, but at least we don’t have to worry about her getting fed….

Neighborhood friend

Home!

We did make it safely back home to Canandaigua, and are now readjusting to cold weather! It was 5 (F) degrees when we landed last night, which was quite a shock after the mid-50′s in Dubrovnik.

The plane trips were relatively uneventful, with a few exceptions. When we got to the check-in counter at Croatia Airlines in Dubrovnik, it was as if no one had ever checked more than one bag before! The woman at the counter insisted that we were only allowed one bag. I pointed out that their website said that the rules for the trans-Atlantic carrier applied when you had a flight with other legs, and so she had to call her supervisor. In the end, it worked out, and we had to pay €50 for each second bag, but that’s not unexpected. We were given a little coupon book to give receipts for our bags at each flight change, but only needed it once. Very weird.

In Frankfurt, there was all kinds of madness with the security screening before we got on the plane. They put us into this enormous line that stretched down the terminal in order to board the plane, and then we couldn’t hear any of the gate announcements. THEN they announced that we needed to go through security screening near the gate and get a sticker on our passport, only we hadn’t heard that part because they’d put us in the line…. So we got to the gate to get onto the plane, and then had to go back to be questioned and get our stickers. Lots of questions about who had handled your bags, whether you’d had electronics repaired recently, etc. They’ve stopped doing that in the US, so I have no idea why the Germans are into it. Very annoying and I was disappointed that the Germans weren’t more organized.

Then, more madness at at Dulles airport in DC when the gate agent got overwhelmed – we were in the area with all the teeny-tiny planes, so there are 5 or 6 planes at each “gate” – ours had 4 planes leaving in a short time and only one person working, so she had to handle everyone’s problems (including two overbooked flights) and screen 4 planes worth of passengers in about 20 minutes. At the end she was yelling at people and hollering at other people to run to their plane or it would leave without them (despite the fact that she had moved them off to the side earlier and wouldn’t let them board….) Incredibly crazy and inefficient, and really unprofessional.

Fortunately, we did get to Rochester just before midnight, and were at home in bed by 2AM, and then slept very well after being up for 28 hours straight (after only 3 hours of sleep the night before).

It’s wonderful to be home, and we’re working on the readjustment into our lives here. It’s been made easier by our fabulous housesitter, now housemate, Erin, who kept the house running smoothly in our absence (no small feat for a 120-year-old house!).

I’ll probably write a few more entries in the coming days about our readjustment into life in New York, and we’ll definitely revive the blog for our trip to New Zealand in March.

Last day in Dubrovnik….

Our last day here was gorgeous – 56 degrees and sunny today, just perfect! We spent a lot of the day cleaning and packing, but did manage to get outside for a bit to feed some kitties and see the sunset. Stina went running around Babin Kuk, and I walked up to the overlook to meet her at sunset.

Last sunset over the Adriatic... for now!

We head out tomorrow morning bright and early – the forecast is for wind here and snow in Rochester, so we’ll see how far we get. Fortunately so far the forecast is for the jugo wind rather than the bura so hopefully it will stay that way! Cross your fingers for good flying weather tomorrow.

Packing has sure been interesting – we keep finding more and more things to pack. We feel like we’ve done our part to contribute to the Croatian economy!

A few photos from the last couple days:

Bell Tower from the Dominican Church and the Old Town walls

Old Town from where we throw our trash away....

Roses blooming on January 1st

Our apartment building is the one behind the Pizza building

Kittens playing near the dumpsters on the way to Lapad

The cat we affectionally call "Matt" because he's often sleeping on the mat at the entrance to the DM store

Oliver and Mom, enjoying a meal

Pile Gate from the moat

Our time here has been overall a great experience, and I think we’re still digesting all we’ve seen over the last four months. Right now, though, we have to get back to packing. More to come, I’m sure.

Roman ruins at Salona

After Trogir we made our way back towards Split to visit the Roman ruins at Salona, the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. The city actually predates the Roman conquest of Illyria in the 2nd century BC. It was destroyed by the invading Avars and Slavs in the 7th century.

As usual, our guidebook and the online information about how to get there or when the site was open was pretty sketchy – it turned out the winter hours were 9am to 3pm, and there was an entrance fee, except although the gate was open, no one was there, so we just wandered around.

The site is quite large and spread-out, with a number of things to see – amphitheater, theater, forum, several basilicas, baths, aqueducts, and city walls. It is surrounded by the modern town and farm fields – at times you’re wandering between plantations of olive trees or practically into someone’s backyard.

carving on sarcophagus

The main site

There are a number of ruins of pagan temples and early Christian churches on the site – the area was known for being one of the sites where early Christian messengers came, including some of the pupils of the Apostle Paul. The former Emperor Diocletian had his retirement palace nearby (see the entry on Split) and one of his pastimes was persecuting Christians. One of the first bishops of Salona, St. Domnius, was beheaded by Emperor Diocletian’s men. Diocletian’s mausoleum was later turned into a church dedicated to St. Domnius.

Part of the Manastirine, an early burial ground for Christian martyrs

Graveyard near Kapjinč Basilica

curly detail on a rock

The most impressive ruin is the 2nd-century amphitheater, which amazingly was still intact until the 17th Century, when it was destroyed by the Venetians. It’s so sad that it made it all the way to the 1600s and then was lost. At one time it could accommodate 18,000 spectators.

Amphitheater

Entrance to the arena

Part of the arena

Cat leaving the arena

Other areas of interest:

Remains of the covered aqueduct

Part of the Roman Baths

Don Frane Bulić excavated the site and built a Romanesque villa on the property, including this garden and arbor. Coincidentally, the street in Dubrovnik that ACMT is on was named for the same man.

grape arbor

The teachers told us, the Romans built this place
They built a wall and a temple, an edge of the empire garrison town,
They lived and they died, they prayed to their gods
But the stone gods did not make a sound
And their empire crumbled, ’til all that was left
Were the stones the workmen found

I found myself humming the tune to Sting’s “All this Time” and realized that the part of the song about the Romans was my mind’s subconscious link. There might be a Sting song for nearly every situation.

Trogir

On Thursday, we planned to visit a couple of sights near Split, and then drive back to Dubrovnik. It was hard to leave the view of the ferries from the hotel room, but we knew we had an ambitious agenda, so got a fairly early start. The skies were gray for most of the day, though we had only a very slight mist at one point, but otherwise it was dry.

Ferries in the port at Split

Only 20 minutes from Split, the coastal town of Trogir was founded in the 3rd century BC. It is probably best known for its old town, located on a tiny island (our guide says “pocket sized”) between the mainland and another (larger) island and dating to the 13th century. (It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.) Doctor Who fans might be interested to know that two episodes of season 5 of the current version of the show have featured the town (once standing in for Venice, and once for Provence). We’ll have to go back and watch them again!

One of the main gates into the town

One of the main sights is the Cathedral of St. Lawrence (Katedrala Sv. Lovre). It dates mostly to the 13th century, though parts weren’t finished until 400 years later. There are some nice portal lions and the interior was interestingly decorated for Christmas.

Portal lion and Adam (looking a bit embarrassed)

Cathedral interior

Nativity scene - I suspect made by someone who was fond of plastic sheep

However, the highlight was accidentally visiting the belltower. We had decided to see the treasury, but when I got out the money to pay the entry fee, the woman there said no, the fee was for the belltower, and did we want to see it because she could open it up for us. So we went…

Cathedral tower

The first bit up to the roof is a very narrow winding stone staircase.

Narrow winding staircase

Scale object to show the size of the first set of stairs

The first staircase ends on the roof, where you can walk around and see some of the surrounding buildings. Then to climb the tower itself, there’s an increasingly narrow and steep open metal staircase you have to climb.

Looking down from partway up the staircase in the tower

Looking up at the increasingly steep and narrow staircase

I decided not to venture all the way to the top, since the last bit of stairs were so steep. Stina looked at them briefly and decided not to go either, but then an Italian tourist came up and climbed all the way to the top, so she decided to give it a go and made it to the top. Surprisingly, coming down was actually easier than going up.

View from the top

Trogir's main square

Once safely down, we walked through the streets of the town. Like most of the medieval old towns in Croatia, the town center was pedestrian-only with lots of small charming shops, mostly catering to tourists, although a lot of things were closed.

Shop with locally handmade jewelry

Side street

We didn't see many cats at all on our whole trip to Split

We also walked around the perimeter of the island – it’s not very big, so it doesn’t take long. But there’s some nicely preserved walls and a couple of fortresses.

Fortress at the end of the island

We picked up some sandwiches for lunch, and walked over the bridge to the mainland, then through the farmer’s market to get to our car. Lots of locally grown produce – oranges, cabbages, leeks, potatoes, broccoli and brussels sprouts seemed to be most common.

Local market

After pondering the map a bit and checking on the time (both of our watches and our travel alarm have died in the last couple of weeks), we decided to head to the Roman ruins of Salona, which I’ll put in another post.

Happy New Year!!

New Year’s Eve is a pretty big celebration here in Dubrovnik – the festivities started around 10AM with a concert on Stradun – you guessed it! Klapa music and Linđo performances. The whole thing seemed a bit disorganized, as just as someone important (he was wearing a tie on a Saturday morning!) began to speak at noon – all the church bells went off, and then the brass band marched through the crowd as he was speaking and you couldn’t hear a thing. Hilarious.

Candy, cotton candy and popcorn for sale at Onofrio's Fountain

Klapa performers on the big new stage in front of St. Blaise church

the crowd in front of the Klapa concert

We now know the big stick is to beat back the crowd

The brass band went through the crowd twice - the first time while the mayor (?) was speaking

Then this evening, starting at 9pm, there was a series of concerts on Stradun, leading up to the fireworks at midnight. There were several klapa groups (I know! Big surprise!) and everyone sang along, and the crowd got louder and louder as the evening went on. It was kind of bizarre to see thousands of people swaying and singing folk music. Then the big excitement was that Croatian popstar JELENA ROZGA (who always seems to be capitalized – and you can tell by the way people say her name) was there performing. Apparently a very big deal. She was on from 11:30 on, and again after midnight.

Stradun, decked out for New Year's

Midnight!

The fireworks were gorgeous and a lot of fun – we really enjoyed them. There was a very large crowd, and it was extremely tight in terms of space – Croatians aren’t shy about shoving and pushing their way around, and never say “excuse me” so it always is a trial of patience for me to deal with them in large groups. There was also the usual high degree of smoking – so we headed out shortly after midnight when the fireworks were done.

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