Sunday, May 13, 2012
The first time I tried ćevapčići was many years ago in the former Yugoslavia. Back then I was travelling throughout Europe for nine months on a tiny budget. One afternoon I was drawn to the wonderful aroma of grilled meat and came upon a street vendor cooking these on a small portable grill. I had already picked up a couple of great looking tomatoes and a feta-like cheese for lunch, but decided to splurge and try these small cylinders of meat as well.
This turned out to be one of my most memorable meals ever. The ćevapčići was amazing. The juicy grilled meat was served with a flat pita-like bread and sliced raw yellow onions. I pushed those aside as I'm not very fond of raw onions, enjoying the ćevapčići instead with sliced tomatoes and feta cheese. It was heaven on earth! To this day when I prepare this simple dish, I serve it with tomatoes and feta cheese. The more traditional accompaniments are often sliced onions, sliced pickles, yogurt or sour cream.
Ćevapčići is made a variety of ways depending on which region of the Balkans you happen to be in. Ground beef, lamb, pork or any combination of those meats might be used. Sometimes it's just seasoned with salt, and other times it might also contain pepper, hot or sweet paprika, cumin, parsley, garlic and onion. The meat is often ground several times to create a fine texture. I achieve this using my food processor.
A few years ago I came across a recipe for this in a barbeque cookbook which also added baking soda. The author suggested this "lightened" the meat. I added some to my recipe and did notice a difference.
1/2 lb ground beef (15% fat)
1/2 lb ground lamb (15% fat)
1/2 lb ground pork (15% fat)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2-1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tbsp yellow onion, chopped
bamboo skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes before grilling (optional)
olive oil for basting
Serve with any combination of pita, thinly sliced onions, sliced green onions, sliced tomatoes, sliced pickles, yogurt, sour cream or feta cheese.
Combine the beef, lamb, pork, pepper, salt, baking soda, garlic and onion in a large bowl until well mixed. Divide the mixture into 4 portions and place each portion into the bowl of a food processor (one at a time) and pulse several times until you have a finer texture.
Cover the meat mixture and set aside for a few hours in the refrigerator.
Heat your grill. and soak the skewers.
Shape the meat mixture into small "sausages" or press the meat onto the skewers, if using.
Coat the meat lightly with the olive oil and grill, turning the meat until the links are evenly browned and no longer pink on the inside; about 7-12 minutes.
I also picked up some brussels sprouts at WF which were already lightly coated in olive oil, salt and pepper. For some reason those were less expensive. Skewered and grilled for a few minutes on each side, the brussels sprouts were delicious with the ćevapčići. They turned out rather crispy which I liked. You could probably wrap them after they are skewered and microwave them for a couple of minutes before grilling them if you prefer a less crispy texture.