Colin and I have been sailors for the better part of our relationship. Early on in dating we sat in his studio apartment dreaming about the future and talking about our desires to learn to sail. Only 48 hours after this dream discussion, Colin bought our first sailboat. We’ve since learned to communicate a bit more about major purchases, but man am I glad that he bought that boat. Knowing a bit about the basics, we really learned how to sail on a little Boston Whaler and slowly traded up boats until we landed with our current boat, Juniper. We love her. Especially during a summer pandemic. Having Juniper allowed us to escape and enjoy port towns in Michigan safely.
Today we are eating from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. One thing I learned about Bosnia it’s that it is an adventurous place. They have some of the most untouched forests and wildlife in all of Europe. Knowing their love for adventure it seemed fitting to cook this meal after a little sailing adventure. We fired up our charcoal grill on the sailboat at a dock in Grand Haven, MI. It feels good to be cooking food from around the world again. It’s like a little piece of my life has returned to something familiar, even in the unfamiliarity of food I’ve never had. We started to cook again several weeks ago but I’m just now sitting down to write about the meals now that the weather has turned colder. These pictures and reminiscing about these flavors brings me right back to a warmer sunnier summer evening.
Ajvar is a condiment that is largely composed of red bell peppers and eggplant. It comes together a bit like relish and adds a big fresh flavor to the dish. I found myself eating it with hunks of somun for days after we made this meal. It was potent stuff though, and the aftertaste of garlic did linger long after I had finished eating it…but it didn’t seem to deter me from going back for more.
Somun is a Bosnian style flatbread. With each new country we explore I’m continuously amazed at how many varieties of flatbreads there are. Each country or region seems to have its own version of flatbread. They have distinct differences in flavor, texture, flexibility, etc. Most have come together really easily with simple ingredients. This particular flatbread was soft and chewy and a perfect companion to the cevapi and ajvar.
Cevapi is a small kebab of mixed meats. We used lamb and beef, but pork can also be incorporated. Unlike when I make American Kebabs, these meats are not cut into chunks and skewered with colorful vegetables, the meat itself is shaped into short logs and placed directly on the charcoal grill. A perfect meal for a summer night.
There are loads of quotes about boats and being on the water, but there are two that seem to be exceptionally pertinent today. The first is a classic, “We can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” If ever there has been a year for adjusting the sails, this is it. We are all learning how to make adjustments, change course, and do what we can with the wind that’s whipping us through 2020. The other, “Sailing unties the knots in my mind” – Al Noble. For me getting away and finding peace on the water has been helpful. Whether you find peace in books, hikes, knitting or a good cup of coffee, find a way to untie the knots in your mind. Keep searching for what you can do to be the best human you can be in this season, but don’t lose sight of who you are in the midst of the chaos.
*I can take no credit for these recipes. I didn’t alter them at all or combine multiple recipes to make my own version. If you want to try this at home I followed Filippo.