Salmon and Mushroom Skewer19:50
and Ivana's plain Persian rice
If you've ever tried the tomatoes that tasted so good that you didn't want to spoil the taste with seasoning, you can understand why I could survive all summer just enjoying them with a slice or two of (home made white, if possible) cheese and a few olives.
I purposely said survive because if you think about it, on 40 plus Celsius for weeks, back to basics was more or less a necessity; having an abundance of a first class basics at hand however, was a real blessing.
(above and below)
As much as I love London I often long for more sun and hazy days where you can practically live outside. June, when we left London for our two month journey wasn't particularly promising in that sense as the rain was following us for days; but we wouldn't let ourselves be discouraged. The determination to sit in the sun and eat all'aperto (it's apparently a much more appropriate term for dining outside than al fresco, and here is why: Al fresco, outside or locked up? ) whenever it's even remotely possible was just too strong .
Our road trip started in France, then continued through Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Serbia and Greece - the last two being the places where we spent most of our summer and lived the dream. And more than that; I dare say, we got much more than we bargained for, when our beautiful sunny days started turning into sticky, impossible to breathe, asphalt melting hot days when closing the shutters and drinking enormous amount of ice tea seemed the only sensible thing to do while waiting for the night to come to open the windows and then almost crawl outside holding our chilled, food and drinks in hands. When the search for the nearest place to refresh and cool down was completed, we would just sat for as long as possible, without any desire to move, attempting to gather enough energy for another day that would last until the shutters could open again...
Oddly enough, we enjoyed it at first. I suppose that the beaches of Greece and our Serbian house on the hills, away from the city centre helped a bit, but after awhile, the heat started seeping through the walls making every day a little bit less pleasant than the one before.
So, eventually we joined the crowd and our days in the sun became the nights under the Moon.
Just when the situation became almost hopeless we (with two more friends) went to visit my old school friend Ivana in their holiday house in Manastiriste, a picturesque village surrounded by the mounties near by the river Vlasina.
Now, when I look back, without any hesitation I can tell you that that visit and few consecutive ones after that were the highlight of the summer.
What I remembered from our school days to be a cosy weekend house, a place for a bunch of high school girls to get ready and be fed before they headed to the river, has grown into a beautiful property with a pool and this (picture above) gorgeous, hacienda looking outdoor resting and dining space.
And our unbearable days in the city at 40 plus C turned once again into the experience we hoped for. From thereon we lived Saturdays in the refreshing water of the pool, surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery and lovely people, who all, to make it even better, shared the same passion for food. Our table was full of simply prepared, delicious, locally produced food, just picked up from the fields and everything without any exception home made, including the goat cheese and wine. All'aperto at it's best combined with the very best of what good rapport between a group of people can offer.
Ivana, our host, cooked one of best home made plain rice I've ever tasted, which was served with charcoal grilled vegetables, a bit of seasoning and a drop of soy sauce. The idea of frying the rice before cooking it, was not novice to me as I often do it when cooking djuvec, pilau, or stuffed peppers.. But I use short grain rice and it simply didn't occur to me that might be a good idea to try it with the long grain as well. Ivana has got the idea from her Persian friend whom she met while living in Greece.
Ivana's Persian Rice
generous knob of butter
1 cup of long grain rice
2 cups of water ( or even better, vegetable stock)
Wash the rice, drain well and fry on medium heat until it become slightly translucent and coated with butter (no more then 5 minutes). Add the water, warm, if possible, pinch of salt and bring to boil. Lower the heat, cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. You don't want it to be fully cooked. Turn the heat off and leave covered for another 10 minutes or so, until the water is fully absorbed. Uncover and separate the grains with the fork. Add more seasoning if you wish.
Serve with grilled vegetables. We used peppers, broccoli, courgettes, onions and carrots, lightly brushed with oil before grilling and seasoned after.
The Vlasina River
We have been back to London for sometime now and during August I wondered whether the monsoon climate reached this side of the world. But, when the September kicked in, it hesitantly started shining again and along with that came my desire to go back to the kitchen and do something summery before it's completely gone. The best thing is that this recipe could be made all year round and not only for nostalgic reasons.
Salmon and Mushroom Skewer
3 tbs olive oil
12 button mushrooms, trimmed
300 - 400g skinless salmon fillets, sliced
8 asparagus tipssalt and pepper
Juice 2 lime halves and pour into a bowl, then add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Whisk until well combined, add mushrooms and stir to coat. Cover and set aside 30 minutes to marinade.
Cut the remaining lime in thin wedges. Cut salmon into cubes. Thread mushrooms, salmon and asparagus tips alternately onto 4 skewers.
Press 1 lime wedge onto each end. Brush with remaining oil and season well.
Preheat dry frying pan or barbecue plate on medium-high. Cook skewers, 5 minutes, turning to cook all sides. Remove to a plate and allow to rest for few minutes.
Make sure that the pan is hot and that you do not over do it and dry the fish.
I,Bilja and Ivana