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Palacinke with stewed plums

It seems like nearly every country has its version of American pancakes – France has its crepes, Mexico has its tortillas, Norway has its lefse and several countries in Central and Eastern Europe have palacinke.
I first learned about palacinke while watching a cooking show by Lidia Bastianich, the noted cookbook author and restaurateur. It’s a dish she ate many times while growing up in Istria, a peninsula that’s now part of Croatia, but once belonged to Italy.
Palacinke were ubiquitous on every breakfast menu on our recent trip to Croatia, but they were also commonly found in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s charming capital, where we also spent a few days.
They were served many different ways, including with maple syrup and a swath of jam smeared on the plate.
  
At a street fair in Ljubljana, you could order them stuffed with mango, Nutella or even Snickers candy bar.
Abundant and delicious food choices are just one of the reasons to visit this city.
 The streets in the old part of Ljubljana are jammed with tourists enjoying a drink or dinner at one of the many bars and restaurants lining the river banks.
Ljubljana’s old town has become a not-so-secret hip place to visit. Walk along its medieval streets and gaze at its beautiful architecture with clay tile roofs and you’ll hear a multitude of languages being spoken, including English.
The city’s triple bridge, consisting of a main stone bridge with balustrades, and two side bridges, is a well known landmark and popular meeting place.
 Dominating the city though, is Ljubljana castle, most of which was built in the 16th century, following a devastating earthquake.
Inside the castle, you can climb the 19th century watchtower, tour the 15th century church of St. George, or just enjoy lunch or an ice cream cone in its central courtyard.

 

The gift shop features beautifully decorated cookies:
 And lovely hand-painted boxes with traditional Slovenian designs.
 Music is everywhere in the city, performed at various venues, including the neoclassic opera house, home to the Slovenian National opera and ballet companies.
We were lucky enough to find ourselves in Ljubljana on the eve of the country’s 25th anniversary of its independence from Yugoslavia, and discovered we had front seats, from our hotel room, to a fireworks display above the castle.
The anniversary also meant we had to navigate the way to our room past armed guards outside our door, since four European presidents were staying at our hotel during the festivities.
You may not be able to get to Ljubljana any time soon, but you can pretend you’re there when you dig your fork into these palacinke.
I serve them here with poached plums, my new favorite topping for yogurt, cooked oatmeal or ice cream. Spoon some inside the palacinke, then ladle on a bit more on top. If you really want to gild the lily, serve with whipped cream.

 

 Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I’m cooking up each day.
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Palacinke
recipe from Lidia’s Italy, by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
 

 

    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tablespoon dark rum
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/3 teaspoon salt
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 8 tablespoons melted butter ( or more)
    • 2 lemons, zest of, finely grated.
      To make the palacinke batter, whisk together the eggs, 2 cups water, the rum, vanilla, sugar, and salt in a large bowl, until well blended. Sift the flour on top, a bit at a time, whisking each addition in until smooth. Drizzle in 4 tablespoons of the melted butter, whisking until the batter has slightly thickened, with the consistency of melted ice cream. Finally, whisk in the lemon zest. Put the remaining 4 tablespoons of melted butter in a small cup and keep it warm.
      Set the crêpe pan or skillet over medium-high heat until quite hot. Pour in a couple tablespoons of the reserved melted butter, quickly swirl it all over the pan bottom, then pour excess butter back into the cup, leaving the bottom lightly coated with sizzling butter. (If the butter doesn’t sizzle, heat the pan longer before adding the batter.) Immediately ladle in a scant 1/3 cup of batter, tilt and swirl so it coats the bottom, and set the pan on the burner.
      Stewed Plums
      Cut 4-6 plums in quarters, discarding pits. (I use any kind, from Italian prune plums to Santa Rosa plums). Place the plums in a saucepan with three tablespoons of water, two tablespoons sugar and a dash of cinnamon. Let come to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook over love heat for about ten minutes, or until fruit has softened.

 

Lunch on Krk Island & Alessandra’s almond tart recipe

Sorry, blog readers and fellow bloggers if I’ve been incommunicado for a while. Some of you know I was recently married and have been away on a three-week honeymoon. I thought I’d get back to posting immediately after my return, but a bike accident two days after we got back has slowed me down. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say, typing with one hand takes a little longer.

As the saying goes however, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
And there was no way I would be thwarted from showing you some of the gorgeous places and wonderful foods we ate in Vienna, Austria; Ljubljana, Slovenia and throughout the beautiful country of Croatia.
I’ll start with this post featuring delicious Croatian food from Princeton friends who treated us to lunch at their summer home on the island of Krk, Croatia. It ends with a recipe for an easy-to-make and scrumptious almond tart from our mutual dear friend, Alessandra, who died in 2011.
The above photo is the backyard of our friends Connie and Vladimir, overlooking the Adriatic sea. We ate lunch at this table overlooking the sea.
While the sun shone nearby, we were sheltered by the shade of this arched patio.
 Here’s another view of the house, taken from near the water’s edge. An outdoor oven on the left is put to use for pizzas, roasts and other grilled foods. The stones were all cut by hand by different local artisans, and Connie noted that each artisan had a different pattern for arranging the stones. It’s all superbly crafted, as you can see from the tight and perfect spacing of the stones.
Even in July, there were very few people swimming nearby. Like most beaches in Croatia, this one was rocky, but it doesn’t phase people here, who don flexible swimming “shoes” to help navigate the stones and pebbles. Once you’re in the warm, azure sea, who needs sand anyway? One benefit we found to rocky beaches was the lack of sand that normally gets stuck inside bathing suits and dragged inside the house or hotel. Clean-up is a lot easier.
 It was hard to tear ourselves away from the view, but the food competed with the panorama for our attention. Connie and Vladimir wanted to give us a taste of sea and land, starting with this absolutely delectable platter of anchovies that had been caught only a few hours earlier.
 Vladimir prepared the fish, which he said cost the equivalent of $1.75 at the market in Rijeka. There were a few sardines tucked in with the anchovies, only adding to the appeal. We had never tasted anchovies or sardines so delicious in our lives, and had to stop ourselves from hogging the whole platter.
It’s impossible to get these where I live, but if you find yourself with fresh anchovies or sardines this small, do as Vladimir did: simmer the fish for one minute in sea water, and drain. Then clean them (the head and bones come out practically in one fell swoop), and dress them with good extra virgin olive oil, salt, scallions, parsley and lemon.
 From the sea, we moved to land dishes, including a platter of cured meat similar to Italian prosciutto,  called prsut, air cured at a nearby village named Vhr (meaning the highest point). It was served alongside a Croatian cheese tinged with herbs. I especially loved the spicy cured meat called kulen, that tasted like Italy’s soppressata, served with pickled peppers and something similar to pork chittlins’. A soft spreadable local cheese, olives, figs and a salad completed the meal.
 Everything was served with Croatian wines, and we drove by dozens of vineyards during our travels throughout the country.
Connie prepared a fruit salad, using the tiny but flavorful local blueberries, and little red currants. I so wish I could find those where I live,
The finishing touch was a simple-to-prepare, but addictively delicious recipe from a dear, mutual friend Alessandra, who died in 2011. We both thought she’d be happy to know we were together in Croatia, thinking of her and enjoying her almond tart recipe. And now you can too.
Alessandra’s “torta di cinque minuti” or  almond tart
Mix for five minutes — 1 stick sweet butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 cup
ground almonds (either blanched or unblanched), 1.25 teaspoons almond
extract or a shot glass of cognac, 1 scant cup of flour.
Place mixture in a buttered and floured cake tin (or glass pan),
sprinkle the top with slivered almonds and bake for 25 minutes at 325
degrees until nicely brown. Cool completely before unmolding or cutting
the cake.Two other things: this cake is good using only ground almonds and is a gluten free alternative.
Also– Alessandra often prepared her torta without almonds on top.
Rather, she baked it and cooled it and dusted the top with powdered
sugar.