Last night, my sister and I cooked dinner for the boys and decided to go with a Bulgarian themed menu because a) Eleanor’s husband Chris is Bulgarian and b) how often do you encounter Bulgarian food in North America? Exactly. So we set out to make an ambitious four course meal of traditional Bulgarian fare. I was more of sous-chef throughout the process, but we had fun preparing everything together. On the menu for the evening: banitsa, stuffed peppers, fried eggplant in a yogurt sauce and shopska salad.
Our main dish was banitsa (pronounced “BAH-nit-sa” not “bah-NEET-sa” although no matter how many times I was reminded of this, I kept saying it wrong), a popular Bulgarian pastry. We used this recipe for Ralitsa’s Famous Banitsa with a few variations.
- 1 packet of phyllo pastry (the recipe calls for 2, but 1 was more than enough)
- 200 grams of shredded cheddar cheese
- 500 grams of crumbled feta cheese
- 7 eggs
- 100 grams of shredded butter
- 1/2 cup of soda water
- 1 cup yogurt
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Mix six eggs, grated butter, feta, cheddar and yogurt.
2. Place a sheet of phyllo pastry on the bottom of a large, deep baking pan or dish and spread a layer of the mixture on top. Continue alternating layers until the mixture is finished and top with a sheet of phyllo pastry.
3. Mix an egg with the soda water and stir. Pour mixture over the banitsa, making sure to cover the entire surface.
4. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden.
A little trick that Chris’ grandmother shared with my sister – if you want the banitsa to stay fluffy while it cools, don’t oil the bottom of the baking dish and place it upside down until you’re ready to eat.
Bulgarian Stuffed Peppers
Eleanor had made this recipe the other night and still had some stuffing left over, so we decided to make them as a side dish.
- 8 red or green peppers
- 1/2 – 3/4 cups rice
- 1 lb. ground meat
- 4 tomatoes
- 2 onions
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- plain yogurt
1. Preheat oven to 375° and cook rice according to package directions.
2. Remove tops of peppers and seeds.
3. Heat oil in a pan. Finely chop onions and fry for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add the meat and cook for five minutes.
5. Add the rice and chopped tomatoes.
6. Add salt, pepper and paprika to taste. Cook for an additional two minutes.
7. Stuff each pepper with the mixture.
8. Place in a deep baking dish, fill halfway with water or tomato sauce, cover and cook for 40 minutes.
9. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with plain yogurt on the side.
Eggplants in Yogurt Sauce
Another side dish. You can also use zucchini instead of eggplant, or do a mix of both.
- 1 large eggplant cut into thin slices
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup of flour
- olive oil
- 2 cups of plain or Greek yogurt
- 2 crushed garlic cloves
- chopped fresh dill
1. Cut eggplant into thin strips. Season with salt and set aside for 10 minutes.
2. Heat oil in a frying pan. Dip each eggplant slice into flour and fry until golden.
3. Remove from pan and set aside. Cover with paper towel to absorb some of the oil.
4. Meanwhile, mix yogurt, crushed garlic and chopped dill in a bowl.
5. When the other courses are just about ready, spread a layer of the yogurt dip in a small dish and top with a layer of eggplant strips. Continue layering and top with yogurt.
And last but not least the salad. Mix diced tomato, sweet or red onion and cucumber in a large salad bowl. Top with feta cheese (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup) and serve.
And here’s what an authentic Bulgarian feast looks like, complete with a homemade Bulgarian tablecloth:
Let’s hear it for the chefs: