Celery Raw Develops the Jaw

…But celery stewed is more quietly chewed. 

🙂 

Dear Reader, 

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. 

A selection of my favourite Wodehouse books.
A selection of some of my favourite Wodehouse books. His funny and effortless language is truly unmatched.

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! 

This is a picture of a vegetable shopping done around Easter. There is much more variety now. :)
Vegetable shopping done around Easter. There is much more to buy now. 🙂

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. 

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Book title is Philosophy of Eating, Cultural and Historical Contexts, by Bulgarian philosopher and university professor Raycho Pozharliev. The book is readable and very interesting, although I sometimes have to reread paragraphs to be able to follow the philosophical jargon. In the book, I encountered some thoughts that I have thought myself and many new ideas and links between things, so I am having a great time reading this. Not a quick read, though.
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The book is in Bulgarian but, being a scientific work, has a summary and a page of contents in English too. So, look how interesting the contents are! 🙂

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. 

The advantage of these peppers is that they have very thin skin and can be eaten unpeeled. Their flesh is not very thick too. The fleshier red or dark green peppers (the chushkas :)), or the bell peppers are heavily unsuitable for this dish, in my opinion.
The advantage of these peppers is that they have very thin skin and can be eaten unpeeled. Their flesh is not very thick too. The fleshier red or dark green peppers (the chushkas :)), or the bell peppers are heavily unsuitable for this dish, in my opinion.
  • 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). 

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  • 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.

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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. 

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These are two leftover peppers cut in half, and one tomato, ready to pass as office salad.
These are two leftover peppers cut in half, and one tomato, ready to pass as office salad.

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. 🙂

Avocado dip ingredients - a tomato, quarter avocado and garlic to taste. As you can see, I am not kidding when it comes to garlic. These ingredients yield one small ramekin of dip, spiced up with three garlic cloves. :) If you are in a "My fridge is empty" mode, this is a dip for you! :)
Avocado dip ingredients – a tomato, a quarter of an avocado and garlic to taste. As you can see, I am not kidding when it comes to garlic. These ingredients yield one small ramekin of dip, spiced up with three garlic cloves. 🙂 If you are in a “My fridge is empty” mode, then this is a dip for you! 🙂 It goes with stale bread, broiled in the oven. 🙂
  • To prepare, mash avocado with a fork, peel tomato, dice and mash with the avocado. Then crush garlic and add to the other ingredients.

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  • Add salt if you’d like, one teaspoon of olive oil and ground black pepper. Stir. Transfer to a fancier bowl and decorate. Ready! 🙂 
I realise this doesn't look too appealing right now, but hold on. :)
I realise this doesn’t look too appealing right now, but hold on. 🙂
Much better now, isn't it?
Much better now, isn’t it?

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. 🙂

I have had this pan for almost a decade but have seldom used it. Somehow, I am irritated that it is square and my hotplate is round. :) I may be a bit obsessive and an order freak, like Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot. :P
I have had this skillet for almost a decade but have seldom used it. Somehow, I am irritated that it is square and my hotplate is round. 🙂 I may be a bit obsessive and an order freak, like Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot. 😛

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Salt, drizzle with 1 teaspoonful of olive oil and add ground black pepper, then cover for the fragrances to mix. Awesome!
Salt, drizzle with 1 teaspoonful of olive oil and add ground black pepper, then cover for the fragrances to mix. Delicious!

And if you care for more broiled vegetables, why not try this: 

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Carrots, onions and champignons arranged on baking paper in a shallow dish and broiled in the oven. Olive oil is added after the cooking has been completed.
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These were excellent by themselves, but will also be great with barbecue meat!

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. 🙂 

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Option 1 – whatever leafy greens you have, half an avocado, tomatoes, red pepper, boiled chickpeas (150 g per salad to make it filling), capers, olive oil, salt and vinegar.
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Option 2 – very similar but not quite. Whatever leafy greens you have, tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, half an avocado, capers, olive oil, salt, vinegar and two soft-boiled eggs. Parts of the runny yolks will mix with the salad liquid, thus forming an opaque rose-coloured and very delicious sauce at the bottom. 🙂

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. 

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I have recently enjoyed this at a dinner out with my parents.
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Enjoying decadent confiserie with good music and in good company is a great idea in theory, but 80% dark chocolate was as closest as my pantry could get for a photo! Theory is one thing, while practice – totally another. 🙂

Which brings to my mind another cheeky Ogden Nash verse, playfully called Ice-Breaking:

Candy is dandy,
But liquor
is quicker.
____

If you’re at a loss incorporating veggies into the ice-breaking staples, why not try this: 

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Taking a road less traveled always makes an impression. 🙂 Source: Click here.