Sunday, March 26, 2017


SARMAKA is a sarma made in moussaka style.  I didn't feel like rolling chard leaves, so I decided to create this hybrid where I layered sarma ingredients like you would do with moussaka.  Coincidentally, my last post was chard sarmas.

Chard is one of my favorite crops to grow in my garden, because of its versatile use and also because it requires very little care and it doesn't get aphids.  I hate aphids.  I've been fighting them on my kales and collards.  My Brussels sprouts were microscopic in size, and had aphids jammed in between the leaves.  After 6 months of care and taking a prime real estate in my garden, I ended up pulling them out and throwing them away without harvesting anything. Meanwhile, my chard has been continuously producing perfect looking leaves for 1.5 years strait, and still going strong.  

The ingredient amounts are arbitrary.  It really doesn't matter whether you have more or less of meat, potatoes, rice or chard.  As long are you have your sarma ingredients and you're layering them like a moussaka, you can be sure that you are making a sarmaka.  

1lb ground pork
1lb ground beef
12 small potatoes
about 30 leaves of Swiss chard (2 bunches)
1 large onion
5-6 garlic cloves
1 cup rice
5-6 tablespoons of oil
Salt, pepper and paprika to taste
1 cup water

5 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup milk
1 egg

Sour cream or yogurt to serve 

Heat the oil over medium heat and saute onions and garlic. When onions become translucent, add meat and stir breaking up the chunks.  When the meat is cooked (about 10 mins) add rice and continue cooking and stirring for another 10 minutes.  Add salt, pepper and paprika.  Add water to the mixture, stir and turn the stove off.  

While the meat and rice are cooking, prepare the potatoes and chard.  

Slice the potatoes thin.  I used the grater to make evenly thin slices.  

Wash the chard leaves and cut the stems off.  You can also leave them on, but its awkward to work with them, they get in the way.  

Arrange the chard leaves in the bottom on the baking dish.  This is going to be your first sarmaka layer.  You can even make it double!

Next, layer of potatoes.

Then, layer of meat. 

Seconds layer of chard.  

Seconds layer of potatoes.  

Seconds layer of meat.

Depending on the shape of your dish and what you are trying to build, you can make a 3rd layer, or just use all all your meat in the 2nd layer and then cover with chard and potatoes.  Press down with your hands.  The card leaves make up look fluffy, but they will cook down, so it's OK if your sarmaka is overflowing at this time.  

Cover it and cook for about 20 mins at 450F in the oven.  

In the meantime, make béchamel sauce.  Use the same pan to melt butter, add flour, continuously stirring to break up the clumps, add milk.  Once your mixture looks homogeneous (should take about 1-2 mins), turn off the heat.  Mix an egg on a bowl, add the béchamel sauce to it, stir together.  

Take the sarmaka out of the oven, uncover, pour over the mix you just made and put it back in the oven, uncovered this time.  

Cook until the potatoes start to brown.  Maybe another 20 mins.  

Yum yum yum!  Eat with sour cream up top.

If you are still wondering what is this recipe exactly a hybrid of, here you go:
chard sarmas AND Serbian moussaka 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Little chard rolls- Sarmice

SARMICE (small sarmas) is something we make a lot at home. It is basically ground meat rolled up in leafy greens. There are different kinds of sarmas for different seasons throughout the year. The ones we make in the winter or heavier, greased up inside and out, smoked meat on top, and fermented cabbage is the leaf of choice. Here is a typical Serbian sarma recipe.  The summer ones are a lot lighter, leafy greens are used, and since there is no sourness of fermented cabbage, we eat them with a little bit of sour cream or yogurt. But they all follow the same basic mechanism of making sarmas.  Although a bit tedious to make, this can be a nice creative and tasty weekend activity.

1lb ground pork
about 20 leaves of Swiss chard
1 leek
1 shallot
5-6 garlic cloves
1 carrot
5-6 tablespoons of oil
Salt, pepper and paprika to taste
Sour cream or yogurt
1 cup rice

Swiss chard is a very productive and easy to grow cool season crop. I planted it last winter and it's been producing all through summer, which is great. If you don't have your own chard, you can get it at your local farmers market or grocery store.

First – put the rice to cook as this will take a while, especially if you're using brown rice. It doesn't have to be cooked all the way because it'll continue cooking in the rolls.

Wash the chard leaves on both sides and cut off the excess stems.

Cut up garlic, shallots and leak and sauté on medium heat.

Grate carrot and add to the pan.  At this time you can add other vegetables such as zucchini or eggplant if you want to have higher vegetable content.

Add ground pork and seasoning.

Mix the meat well and break up the clumps.

While the meet is sautéing, cook the chard leaves in the pot with about 1 inch of water. You just need to soften them up to gain some flexibility to be able to roll. They are too brittle when they're fresh.

You don't have to cook them too much. When they wilt and look like this you're done:

Take the chard leaves out of water and place on a plate.

Add half cooked rice to the meet.  I am using brown rice here which gives it a nice texture.

Mix well. Taste it to see if you need to add any more salt at this point. Turn off the burner, and now you're ready to roll, literally.

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Let it heat up while you roll sarmice.

Be gentle with the leaves because they're very fragile and they can break easily. If they do break, don't worry about it they are still very usable. Depending on the size of the leaf, place one or two spoons of meat and rice mixture on the leaf and roll it up folding the sides to prevent the fill from falling out. It will take a few to perfect your rolling technique.

As you roll sarmas place them in the oven safe dish.  If you have any leaves left over, cover your sarmicas with them.  They will cook nice and add flavor.  Whether you have left over leaves or not just depends on how much fill you put in.  

Rinse the pan with a little bit a water and add it to the baking dish with sarmas. Fill enough water to almost cover them.  Covered the baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes. Here I am using the oven time to bake some fresh bread as well.

Uncover the baking dish and continue baking for another 10 minutes or so to allow the water to reduce, but don't let it dry out completely. You want to keep a little bit of juice.

Carefully take sarmice out and serve (there are very fragile and after all of this work you don't want to break them now).  Serve with yogurt or sour cream and bread on the side.

I posted a very similar recipe several years ago where the meat used was ground beef and leaves were collard greens.  Please visit my friend Natasha's delicious creation here.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


I make my own bread.  Not many things come close to freshly made bread, but as all good things out there, home made bread doesn't stay fresh for long.  If not eaten within a couple of days, its just not the same anymore, and then it can be used for french toast or other dishes where the bread is cooked.  You don't want to throw away bread that you put your heart and sole in.  With a little more effort, it can be transformed into another great meal.  

On one such occasion I had some leftover bread, so I decided to make bread crumbs with it.  I cut it up in slices and left it on a paper towel to dry.  The drying time will depend on your local climate and humidity.  Here in California, it takes about 3-4 days for bread slices to dry.  Once it was completely hardened, I used food processor to chop it up.  Home made bread crumbs from a home made bread.

Now I just needed a dish that requires bread crumbs.  I settled for meatballs.  Why not.

Below is the list of ingredients I used.  You can modify quantities of the main ingredients, and add or take away spices to your liking.

1 lb ground bison (beef will also do)
1 lb ground pork 
2 eggs
1 cup bread crumbs from the prologue
1 cup milk
1 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup shopped parsley and fresh oregano
1 cup parmesan cheese
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
seasoning: salt and pepper to taste, a pinch of turmeric (it's healthy so I try to put it in anything I can)
oil (I used avocado oil, but any kind of cooking oil will do)

First, I seasoned the meat and decided to try mixing it in the Kitchen Aid mixer.  It worked well.  Still, you need to get your hands dirty a bit later, but this buys you some time.

While the meat is being mixed, combine the breadcrumbs with milk and let them soak.  

Pick some fresh oregano from the garden.

Chop onion, garlic, oregano and parsley, scramble the eggs, and shred the parmesan cheese. 

Mix in eggs first, then the rest of the ingredients.  I used the lowest setting for mixing.  It is not necessary to mix any faster.  

Once you have a homogeneous mixture, as much as meat and chopped veggie mix goes, you can start shaping meatballs.  The meat will stick to your hands, so when I do this I keep a bowl with water and wet my hands for each meatball.  It really helps with sticking. 

Here they are.  All of them.

Heat up the oil in the pan and fry the meatballs.  On all sides.  

At this point you can choose to pack some meatballs away and freeze them for later.  A great way to make two meals at the same time and at the cost of only one mess.

I added tomato sauce to the remaining meatballs for the immediate meatball experience.

Cook some spaghetti and pour the wine, and- dinner is served!