On the Menu This Monday, Peppers That Taste More Serbian?
Elusive Balkan Flavors
For years, I’ve a thing for Serbian food or at least what I perceive of as Serbian food, that would mostly be Serbian food by way of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and as I’m sure I’ve written about before, the motivating taste, my Serbian madeline, so to speak, were some roasted and marinated peppers about ten years ago at Old Town Serbian in Milwaukee. I’ve had peppers about as good at various other Serbian restaurants, but never have I made any at home that have come close. And I make very good roasted peppers.
They just never taste Serbian enough. I did another batch recently. Was so busy cooking and doing other stuff on Saturday that I never got around to taking pictures of what I made. Trust me, the peppers tasted very good, but when I asked my older daughter for a taste test, she said, “Not Serbian.” Why. ”Not spicy enough…” she thought some more, “not enough, you know…” What. I was doing the best I could.
Let’s draw back a few days. I had a delicious Bulgarian lunch with a Romanian and Serb. The conversation, well it’s me, I moved the conversation invariably to roasted peppers, which got the Romanian a bit perturbed. See in their country, they take as much pride in roasting peppers as the Serbs. With both claiming bona fides, I asked then, what was I doing wrong. First, the Serb said I was not using the right peppers. She clicked on her iPhone to show me what she meant. They were longer, thinner red peppers, sold at Caputo’s at least, as “ancient”. They were not, she said, either wax or banana. So, right off the bat, I was behind. Then the Romanian added, you have to use the juice. Yes, I never use the juice. After our long lunch of Bulgarian specialities–that would be with much yogurt and much feta or another way to describe Bulgarian food: Turkish food with more pickles–we needed to go our separate ways. Use the juice was the last words I remember as I headed back to the Bungalow.
I took all these wrong peppers to flame on Saturday. I burnt. I sealed in plastic. I scraped. How do you save the juice? Does anyone know how to save the juice when you roast peppers, and by juice I mean the liquid inside the peppers after roasting. I’m flummoxed how to discard the hard seeds yet save the succulent (and necessary) juice. The best I managed was what accumulated in the bowl of the cooling peppers, that is after I charred the peppers, I put them in a wide bowl to sweat, making peeling easier. With only so much juice, I thought I could make it up in garlic.
Look at the “real” Serbian pepper, from a meal at Dunav, a Serbian restaurant in Brookfield. You see lots of garlic. When Hannah said my peppers did not taste Serbian enough, she pointed to the lack of vampire reducing tendencies of what I did. I added a lot of garlic. I guess for the taste of Serbia, you need another pepper, more juice, and twenty percent more garlic after you think you’ve used too much garlic–it’s like the axiom of packing, after you think you’ve got the bare minimum, take half; here it’s after you added the maximum, add more. Maybe on another Monday, they will taste more Serbian.
Perhaps for next Monday, a Turk says I can roast eggplants on my stove’s flame the same way I do peppers. True?