This week I am sharing yet another guest post from around the world with you all, this time from Kosovo. This recipe comes from the lovely Dafina and Venera, who, like Sergey and Ot, were also part of the PROLAW class.
Any PROLAW student will tell you that the road to becoming part of the program is lengthy. There is first the application process itself, which demands a transcript evaluation, official copies of transcripts, and a TOEFL exam, among other things. Once the students have finished the application process and are offered admission, there is also the visa application process to be dealt with, not to mention enrolling in classes, booking a flight to Rome, and finding housing pre arrival. In short, there is much to be done, and naturally many questions arise in the months leading up to the September start date. In light of this, I correspond with the incoming class via email quite frequently, answering any questions or concerns they have and helping as much as I can. As a result, I often feel like I already know the class before I’ve even met them!
Dafina and Venera were two students who I knew I would get along with right away. Their emails alone were overflowing with enthusiasm and excitement about becoming part of PROLAW and what they would be learning in the program, and eventually our email correspondences switched from visa questions and housing information to Italian food, their past trips to the U.S, and their excitement about living in Rome. When we finally met at orientation in September, it was like meeting up with old friends rather than two people I had just met.
Throughout the year Dafina and Venera became my usual breakfast companions at the campus bar (3 cappuccini, a saccotino, and two cornetti with nutella pre 9:30 am class was the usual order,) faithful students of my Basic Italian class, and my go to people for fashion advice.
I could go on and on about the great qualities of these two, but to keep this post brief I’ll say that one of the things that struck me the most about Dafina and Venera was their enthusiastic willingness to go above and beyond to do something nice for others. I knew without asking who had organized the chocolate mousse cake that was paraded into my office on my 25th birthday; who was behind the surprise birthday party for our Program Director, in which Venera and Sergey brought two layer cakes to the campus on Sergey’s motorino (no easy feat) and Dafina organized the purchase of Prosecco and party hats; or who had chosen the beautiful necklace and earrings that were given to me and my boss at the end of the school year ceremony. Needless to say I was extremely sad to say good bye to them in the Spring, but at least I know we will meet up again soon – a trip to Pristina is in the works!
Dafina and Venera have been fans and supporters of the blog right from the very beginning, and were eager to share a recipe with me when they found out about our “guest post” series. I highly appreciate them taking the time to answer my interview questions, make the recipe, and photograph it in the midst of writing the final drafts of their theses. A huge thank you to both! Vi voglio tanto bene!!!
What is the typical cuisine of Kosovo like? What is your favorite dish?
Kosovar cuisine offers a truly unique blend of Mediterranean flavors and influences. Many dishes from Kosovo use ingredients like peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, cucumbers, and an assortment of legumes. Milk and dairy products play a large role in our cuisine, especially yogurt.
One of our favorite traditional Kosovo dish is the so called “Flija” which is a dish consisting of savory layered crepes. Flija is served with sour milk or yoghurt, pickled vegetables, cheese, honey, jam or ajvar a spicy homemade spread.
Where does this recipe come from? How did you learn to make it?
A long time ago, in rural areas mainly, people used to make plain corn bread, using water and corn flour only as other richer ingredients were scarce. But over the time, people began to elaborate this plain recipe by adding either cheese or yogurt. Nowadays, almost every Kosovar home makes krelana, which is a richer bread with cheese, yogurt, and zucchini or spinach. It a very popular dish and is usually served as a main course. We learned how to make this dish from our moms. In general, if you are a Kosovar, you have to know how to make this dish – it is a requirement!
How did you learn to cook?
When we were little, both of our parents worked full time so we learned how to make simple things like scrambled eggs and toast. By the time we were teens, we wanted to challenge ourselves with easy-to-make recipes. During our graduate studies in Rome we also definitely developed our cooking skills as well.
Do you like Italian food? What is the best thing you tried while living in Rome?
Oh we adored Italian food, and is one of the things we miss most about Italy! We loved most fried baccala and an eggplant lasagna we tried here. Yum.
Lastly, what is your ideal meal? Drink, appetizer, main course, dessert?
Ideal meal for us: having spent quite some time in Italy, it would be impossible not to be influenced by the Italian cuisine. The perfect meal for us would be e a glass of prosecco, bruschetta, spaghetti alla carbonara and a crostata di frutta.
KRELANA (Cornbread with cheese and zucchini)
2 cups feta cheese
6 tablespoons olive oil
a pinch of salt
3 cups plain full fat yogurt
2 cups cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
¼ cup sour cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, grate the zucchini and squeeze dry with paper towels to get the extra water out. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cheese, eggs, olive oil, and yogurt. In another bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking soda, and add to the cheese mixture. Mix the ingredients together until smooth and pour the batter in to a greased baking pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake the bread for 20 minutes, then take it out of the oven and dot it with sour cream. This will add even more flavor to the top layer of the bread. Let the bread bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in to the center of the bread comes out with moist crumbs attached.
This bread is usually served with yogurt and a green salad. Serves 4-6 people.