Chevapcici, Ajvar & Pita Bread

Ok, a while ago, almost 8 years ago we went to Croatia for a summer vacation with kids. There were a number of memorable moments, but the very first one was a fast food from this place in Split:


Which I didn’t take the picture of but it’s a pita bread with case-less sausage (sort of like kebob) and Ajvar sauce with fresh onions on top. We of course had to try to make this at home and now 8 years later we have our own version of this dish that I feel is very close to the original. So this recipe makes everything from scratch, including pita and it’s a great for Saturday grill time. I would start the night before though, but it’s ok to do the same day. Here is what you will need:

For Chevapcici:

  • 5-6 pounds of Lamb Leg. We usually get ours at Costco
  • 5-6 pounds of Pork Belly. Same thing, get yours at Costco. If belly that you get is more fatty than use about 2/3 of 5 pounds.
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of Salt
  • 2 teaspoons of Ground Cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of Smoked Red Hungarian Paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon of Smoked Chili Powder
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of San Pellegrino (or other sparkling water you like)

For Ajvar:

  • 18 Red Peppers. Pick the ones that are dark red, they tend to have more flavor.
  • 4 Red Fresno Peppers. They look like Green Chilies but have more smoky flavor.
  • 3 Medium Eggplants
  • 1/2 cup of Sunflower Oil
  • 18 medium garlic cloves. If your cloves are from Giant garlic, reduce the number in half at least
  • 1 medium lemon

For Pita Bread:

  • 1 lbs of Fage Whole Greek Yogurt
  • 1 lbs of White All Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 tablespoon of Sunflower Oil

For Garnish

  • 1/2 of Sweet Onion
  • 1/2 of Cilantro Bunch

Start the night before with the your favorite meat grinder and grind all of your pork belly and lamb, add salt and mix well so it looks evenly distributed:

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Next you will grate your onions and add it to the meat:

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Followed by garlic:

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Next I mix all remaining dry ingredients (cumin, paprika, chili, soda) together and pour that over as well:

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And finally crack open two eggs and pour that over as well:

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Now mix everything very thoroughly by hand adding sparkling water as you go. The resulted mixture should be smooth and sticky. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge overnight.

Next morning turn on the grill on medium low and put all of your peppers on it and grill them until they look like this:

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Take them off to couple of ziploc gallon freezer bags (two should be enough) and let cool for about 30 minutes while you put the Eggplants on the grill. Make sure to cut a hole with a sharp knife in each eggplant otherwise it will/might explode. You will need to grill them on both sides until they are uniformly soft. About 40 minutes or so. Also take them off and put into a ziploc bag and wait until it cools down another 30 minutes. While that is happening, start peeling off skin from already cooled off peppers and removing stalk and seeds. You don’t have to preserve the form, we are going to be putting these into food processor or meat grinder after it’s all done. Couple seeds left over is ok. Make sure you don’t touch your eyes when you remove skin from the Fresno peoppers! After you finished, the eggplants should be cooled down enough, so you can do the same thing, remove the outer skin and only preserve whatever is inside. Some people use spoon to do that, use whatever works for you. Once you done you should have a bowl of ready peppers and eggplants for the trip through the meat grinder or food processor. I prefer the output from the meat grinder vs. food processor because of the texture. You will grind all peppers with eggplants and add 4 cloves of garlic somewhere in between. Put a big stainless steel pan on medium heat add the 1/4 cup of sunflower oil and pour resulting pepper/eggplant and garlic mixture over to the pan, and also add salt to taste:


Cook for about 30-40 minutes constantly mixing to reduce the water content and make the mixture thicker. Somewhere in the middle of cooking process squeeze the juice of one lemon, mix to incorporate and continue cooking until mixture is thick. We usually go through this spread in a week, but if you like to preserve some for later you can seal it in a glass jar and once it’s cooled put it in to the fridge, it will last up-to 3 months:


Now by the time you are done with Ajvar and it’s cooling down on your table you can work on a dough for the pita bread. It’s very easy and straight forward. You mix equal parts by weight of greek yogurt and all purpose flour adding salt and tablespoon of sunflower oil to the mixture. You will need to work with the dough until it’s shaped into a smooth ball. Cover it with plastic and let it rest in the fridge for about 1-2 hours. At this point you are ready with all preliminary preparations!

About one hour before the lunch time pull out the meat mixture from the fridge and set it aside on the counter top. Get the dough for pita as well and cut it into 8 pieces. Using dough roller and a little bit of olive oil (no extra flour, otherwise your pita will be too dry) roll each piece to about 8″-10″ diameter, cover each with plastic wrap and set aside. It’s ok if it’s not perfectly round!

Next you will need to work on your garnish, cut cilantro and sweet onion and mix together in a bowl. This will be used as a garnish later.

Now back to the meat mixture. Turn on your grill to medium and let it warm up to temperature. What you do next with the meat depends on what equipment you like using more. I tried both the pushing out of the plastic bag to make the long sausages or using the ice cream scoop to measure each portion. I prefer the ice cream scoop  way and my Cevapcici come out more like meatballs, but they will fit perfect inside of the pita bread that you are about to make!

Find a 12″ pan with a lid, preferably non stick, spray it with a little of olive oil and set on medium low heat. Once it comes up to temperature (about 2 minutes) put the pita that you rolled and have sitting on the counter top and cover with lid. Wait about 4 minutes and open the lid, you should see that it formed a bubble in the middle (or multiple bubbles if you didn’t roll it thin enough). Check if it’s golden brown underneath and flip it on another side and let it sit covered for another 2 minutes. Repeat with 7 other pitas. By the time you are on 4th pita, take your time to go to the grill and put all of your cevapcici on the grill and cover the lid. Because of the fat content in meat mixture (remember we used pork belly) they don’t require extra oil for the creates. They will take about 10 minutes to brown on one side (at least on my grill). By that time you will be on your pita number 6 with 2 more to go. Flip each one on the grill and set the heat to medium low and cover the lid again. In 10 more minutes you will be finishing your last pita and you should see that your grilling is done and you are ready to take them off on a plate and let them rest for about 5 minutes. You are now ready to serve! Unfortunately the picture of ready product didn’t get made, but what you do you slice each pita in half, open it like pocket and put a couple of sliced “meatballs” in, pour over the Ajvar and top it off with onion and cilantro. Croatian street food at your Saturday Grilling Party! And as usual Enjoy!

Blueberry Muffins

Google Express started delivering from Sur La Table and while doing regular shopping I got a muffin pan. This recipe is adopted from one posted by Alton Brown and really I hope is very close to what it supposed to be originally.


  • 20 ounces by weight Organic All Purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of Himalayan Salt
  • 4 teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • 2 teaspoons of Baking Soda
  • 1/2 cup of Cane Sugar
  • 1 cup of Organic Sunflower Oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 16 ounces by weight of Sour Cream
  • Zest of one large orange
  • 1 1/2 cups of Blueberries (I used frozen ones, and it worked just fine)


Heat your oven to 375F before you start mixing things. You will need two bowls, one for dry ingredients and one for wet ones. In dry ingredients bowl combine flour, salt, soda and baking powder:

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Mix to combine and distribute the ingredients. In the wet bowl combine eggs, sour cream, orange zest and oil:

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And mix it well to a consistent state:

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Now pour the wet into the dry bowl, add blueberries and mix just enough to combine, lumps are ok, we need to avoid gluten development as much as possible:

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Get a muffin pan, spray with olive oil mister and using ice-cream scoop (or whatever you like) put the dough into the muffin tin wells:

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Bake for about 25-30 minutes at 375F until you will get them looking like this:

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Pull them out from the pan onto dry cooling rack, wait for 10 minutes and call the kids for breakfast! Enjoy!


Sourdough Bread

One day I was reading online about how to make a rye bread that I used to love back when I was a kid in the USSR days. I’m taking about making an authentic Borodinsky Bread which isn’t sold in it’s pure form in USA and the versions that are sold have a long list of unknown or hard to spell ingredients. Now making a dough with bakers yeast has always been viewed negatively by me and I always avoided even trying bread baking at home. But here it’s sourdough, which sounded very nautral. And by making it at home it would mean that it’s now possible to make Kvass! So finally I gave in. Let’s try to make the sourdough rye from scratch!

Lazy Dumplings (Farmers Cheese Gnocchi)

This is a classic breakfast recipe from my grandmother. It is very popular with my kids and very easy to make. The name “lazy” says it all, it’s really easy to make, and anyone can do it. You will need following:

  • 6 Egg Yolks
  • 2 Pounds Farmers Cheese
  • 1 3/4 cup of All Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 table spoons of cane sugar
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1/4 cup of honey

Here is my list of ingredients:

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Separate egg yolks from egg whites. The best method I found is to use your hands like a strainer, the egg white will go through very easy keeping the egg yolk in tact. Put the Farmers Cheese into the mixing bowl, add salt, sugar and egg yolks:

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Mix with a handheld mixer (or you can do it by hand to, but it’s a “lazy” recipe after all, so mixer is probably easier):

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Once smooth (about a minute of mixing), add flour and continue mixing:

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And then by hand to get to this point:

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Let the dough stand for 15 minutes for gluten to develop and meantime put a pot with water on the stove adding about teaspoon of salt to it (here in the picture it’s already boiling but it will take good 10-15 minutes to start boiling while dough rests):

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Next pull the dough out on your countertop surface, add a little bit of flour and cut the dough into 8 pieces:

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And then roll each piece as follows:

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And using your favorite knife slice the rolled dough into pieces about one inch thick:

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And put them on the floured plate and continue with the next piece of dough and so on. Once you are done with all of them time to prepare the honey sour cream sauce. Combine one cup of sour cream with about 1/4 cup of honey (you can add more honey if you like):

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Mix it with the fork until the texture is smooth like pancake batter:

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By this time the water in the pot should already be boiling and you can add the dumplings to it (you can cook half and freeze half if you want). After you add them to the water gently steer once or twice and wait until they start rising to the top. Once that happens it’s an indication that they are ready and you can take them out with a strainer spoon and serve:

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Here is today’s morning kids breakfast:

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Pour the honey sour cream sauce on top of each plate and serve. Enjoy!


Cumin Yogurt Lamb Chops

The lamb chops, one of the favorite Sunday dinners. This recipe in particular in first iteration was made not with chops but with cubes of lamb leg marinated in yogurt with cumin. This recipe is an evolution from that and brings acidity from lemon juice and spiciness from garlic.


  • 1 Rack of Lamb
  • 2 cups of Fage Full Fat Greek Yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons of Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of Himalayan Salt
  • 2 tablespoons of Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of Turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of Ground Coriander
  • Fresh Mint


Slice your rack of lamb into single lamb chops and let sit on the cutting board while you work on yogurt:

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Next put all of the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic together into one bowl:

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Add all of the spices and mix well:

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Save a little bit of yogurt mixture, as you will add a sliced fresh mint to it and use it as a dipping sauce. Next coat each lamb chop with the yogurt mixture (don’t coat the bone) and leave to rest for at least one hour:

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Warm up your grill or if it’s raining a cast iron skillet. Oil your cooking surface (we use sunflower oil) and cook your lamb chops until done (about 5 minutes each side):

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Let rest after you pull them off the grill or skillet for 10 minutes for juices to redistribute:

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And Enjoy!


Fifty-Fifty Burgers

This recipe made it’s way into our recipe book after a visit to a local burger joint where on the menu they had the 50/50 burgers with equal parts bacon and sirloin. Our recipe is definitely less salty because we use fresh pork belly instead of cured or smoked bacon. But don’t fret, It comes out just as juicy and with the nice sear pattern that can only be had by having a proper pork fat in your burgers. Now, I understand that it might not be as “healthy” but I view it as long as it doesn’t have sugar it is good for you. The recipe is super simple, equal parts top sirloin and fresh pork belly plus onions (or shallots) and salt and pepper. We usually get meat from our local Costco, it’s fresh and of good quality.


  • 5 lbs Fresh Pork Belly
  • 5 lbs USDA Choice Fresh Top Sirloin
  • 2 Onions or 6 Shallots
  • 2 tablespoons of Sherpa Pink Gourmet Himalayan Salt
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh ground Black Pepper


Setup your meat grinder. We grind all our meat at home, it’s super easy really and can be done with multitude of ingredients. Slice your meat into chunks:

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Grind the meat mixing between pork belly, onions (or shallots) and sirloin meat:

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Once you are done with all of the meat season it with salt and pepper and mix with your hands. Pull out your favorite burger press (if you don’t have one, I highly recommend Bellemain Adjustable Burger Press with Auto Expeller) and make burger patties:

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This is it, grill it on medium heat and you will have very moist and very tasty burgers. Enjoy!