…But celery stewed is more quietly chewed.
I hope I managed to make you smile with this droll verse by American unconventional rhyme master and my personal word magic guru Ogden Nash (1902-1971).
I used to read a lot of Ogden Nash as a high school and university student. He was widely covered by a 1970s Russian book called An Anthology of English and American Verse, that I owned and loved. Unfortunately, it was stolen and I don’t have it anymore, but one can find anything on the internet these days, so no great harm done. To me, Nash ranks as high as P.G. Wodehouse in playful word mastery, and I adore both.
I thought of this clever two-line celery poem in relation to the fact that, being almost the end of June, the season of vegetable abundance is already upon us in Bulgaria, which has lately made me enthusiastically engage in peeling, chopping, slashing, mashing, slicing, dicing, boiling and broiling of vegetables. Great fun!
I have also been supporting my vegetable eating drive with serious philosophic matter and I can assure you – cooking and eating have a much deeper significance than the everyday refueling of the body they are often disparagingly reduced to.
Actually, I do not intend to comment on this book any further now, I need to read more and gather my thoughts about it. What I wanted to do instead, is share with you what I have been doing with all the veggies that have hit the markets in Sofia.
For example, I can show you an hors d’oeuvre/salad/side dish, that is typically Bulgarian, tastes great and is very simple to make – broiled peppers, stuffed with eggs and cheese.
You’ll ideally need peppers that look like those in the picture below, in a number sufficient to fill the baking dish that you plan to use.
- Wash and clean pepper seeds.
- In a bowl, mix two eggs with hard white cheese, so as to achieve a thick mixture. Add chubritsa (aka savory) and/or ground black pepper. If you have filling leftovers after you have stuffed the peppers, spread it on bread slices and broil. You’ll get very delicious and very typically Bulgarian sandwiches, to go with a herbal tisane or an ayran (yogurt thinned with water).
- Stuff peppers. If you pick the right kind of peppers, they’ll be thin, so stuffing will be a bit of a pain, but don’t get discouraged. Pour in a teaspoonful of the stuffing into the pepper and use the teaspoon handle to push the stuffing to sink deeper into the pepper. Then add more stuffing and push until the stuffing reaches one finger-width below the edge of the pepper. Perform this delicate operation above the bowl with the stuffing, so as to catch drippings and prevent making a total mess on the counter. 🙂
- Arrange the stuffed peppers in the baking dish, sprinkle lightly with sunflower oil as shown and bake, middle rack, 180 degrees C.
These peppers are delicious warm or cold and can be paired with a vegetable salad or serve as antipasti to barbecue meat.
If you really want to annoy everyone at the table, attempt peeling them before eating. 🙂 Trust me, their skin is so thin that they can be eaten as they are.
This was easy, but now let me tell you of the struggle I had finding ways to incorporate avocados into my food. By itself, raw avocado tastes very soapy and slippery to me and I find it uneatable. However, it is so healthy that I cannot pass it by so easily.
I know there is this Mexican guacamole sauce that has avocados in it, but I have never researched its taste or ingredients. Over the past days, however, I came up with an avocado-based raw dip that tasted great. It also kind of competed for the prize of the tastiest dish made with the fewest ingredients possible. 🙂
- To prepare, mash avocado with a fork, peel tomato, dice and mash with the avocado. Then crush garlic and add to the other ingredients.
- Add salt if you’d like, one teaspoon of olive oil and ground black pepper. Stir. Transfer to a fancier bowl and decorate. Ready! 🙂
To me, this tastes much like a Turkish-adopted-as-Bulgarian vegetable dip, spelled köpoğlu in Turkish.
If you bake stale bread and fail to use it up, you can always break it to pieces in a bowl, mix it with cheese, a little sugar, butter and hot water for a very traditional and tasty breakfast in the morning. I gave this to my children as a matter of fact, but added mozzarella to the hard white cheese because I did not have enough of it. As a result, the dish did not have its traditional sweet-and-pungent taste and my kids grumbled. 🙂
If you don’t want to eat bread, like myself, you can use a ribbed skillet to bake eggplant slices and then take a teaspoonful of the dip, daintily arrange in over the grilled eggplant slice and eat. It is awesome, I had this as part of my lunch on Sunday. 🙂
And if you care for more broiled vegetables, why not try this:
Another option to eat avocado is of course to mix it with leafy greens in salads. I tried two variants, which I consider standalone lunches, but they can of course serve as accompaniment for fish, meatballs or kebapcheta, or a grilled steak, if you are so inclined. 🙂
And since we talked of Wodehouse at the beginning, I am leaving you now to the 1-minute opening theme of the Jeeves and Wooster TV series, which I have seen, but prefer the books a thousand times over.
Still, the music is very playful and jazzy and I believe a foxtrot. Puts me in a great mood for donning on an apron and doing some cooking-cum-dancing! Or even better – donning on a flapper dress and enjoying culinary delicacies not intended for daily indulgence, in an entertaining and intellectually stimulating company.
Which brings to my mind another cheeky Ogden Nash verse, playfully called Ice-Breaking:
Candy is dandy,
If you’re at a loss incorporating veggies into the ice-breaking staples, why not try this: