Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Little Journey Through Albania

Albania is one of those little-known countries. I have always known OF it, I excelled in geography in school, but I never knew much about it. Sunday nights we have a group of friends who get together from our church. We always have a meal together, and right now we are studying countries around the world. So far it's been fun, but tonight I decided to tie our meal into the country we were looking at- Albania. What is Albanian cuisine? Hmm. Good question. Internet searches bring up very little, I have to say. But for the most part, since Albania borders Greece, it is very similar to Greek cuisine, but on a poorer level. The country of Albania is very poor as a whole. The have a lot of root vegetables and meats and eggs. Tonight I settled on two recipes that I thought embraced the culture of Albania.

The first recipe was Burger Steaks. Although probably not technically an original Albanian recipe, it did take Albanian flavors and put them in a hamburger. They were pretty good, actually. I likened them to a burger sized- meatloaf. Very flavorful, moist, and overall a very good burger. I swapped in parsley for the mint called for, since I'm not much of a mint person. But overall, they were quite good, and definitely worth a repeat at some time.

The second recipe Albanian Vegetable Pie was very good. Very similar to spanikopita, it was essentially a spinach pie in phyllo dough. The phyllo was crispy and light, and the spinach really shone. And it was much easier than you would expect. I always expect phyllo to be a pain to work with, but this pie came together quickly, and we really enjoyed it. My big change to the recipe as written was that I didn't use the fresh spinach called for. Instead I used two packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed. Worked perfectly. I also didn't use a cup of olive oil. I added a drizzle to the filling, and used Olive Oil spray for inbetween the layers. Tasted perfect.

Recipes for both can be found here in the Recipe Trove. The recipes are exactly as copied from the online source. I think both recipes would be very easy to tweak and adjust to your personal taste. As I did with the frozen spinach. I could very easily see adding some red peppers or mushrooms or maybe some cooked diced potato to the spinach pie. Overall I am very glad that I decided to delve into the food of Albania. I don't know that I would have tried either of these recipes had I come across them. It has me wondering what country we might visit next...

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