Silva Spoon

Chorizo, Green Bean and Tomato Stew (a variation on a classic Albanian dish)

2 medium onions, chopped

2 Mexican-style chorizos, casings removed and broken into small pieces

4 cloves of garlic (or more), roughly chopped

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 tablespoon of chili flakes (or fresh hot chili if you have it)

26 oz. container of chopped tomatoes (I prefer Pomi but you can use any kind)

dash of sugar

1.5 lbs of green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1 in. pieces

Heat olive oil on medium heat in heavy dutch oven until just hot. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and continue to cook on medium high heat for another 4 minutes. Add chorizo and chili flakes and continue to cook. Use a wooden spoon to break down the chorizo into smaller pieces, resembling ground meat. Allow chorizo and onion mixture to cook over medium heat until chorizo turns a bit crispy, approximately 5-7 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and a sprinkle of sugar and allow to cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the tomatoes start to thicken, add chopped green beans and cover. Let cook covered for 20 minutes, stirring twice. Take the cover off and let the stew cook uncovered, to thicken, for 5-10 minutes more. The consistency of the beans should be very soft and starting to break down, not crispy. This way they absorb more of the flavors in the stew. 

Serve hot in a bowl with toasted country bread and a glass of your favorite wine!

Fërgese with roasted peppers, tomatoes and gjize

Fërgese is one of my favorite Albanian “tapas”. It’s a snack to always keep in the fridge ready to be slightly heated and layered on pieces of crunchy toast. The key to fërgese is freshly made gjize (see my previous post) and very ripe tomatoes. Normally it is made with green peppers but in this case I roasted Anaheim peppers to give it a kick. Anaheim peppers can be found in most grocery stores in California and specialty grocery stores all over the country. 

4 Anaheim peppers roasted over an open flame or under the broiler until slightly charred

3 large ripe tomatoes, grated (substitute a 15 oz can of crushed tomatoes if you don’t have fresh)

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 1/2 cups of gjize

1 egg, lightly beaten

salt and black pepper to taste

First roast the peppers in either an open gas flame by turning often or under the broiler for about 8 minutes until slightly charred and beginning to soften. Place the peppers in a large bowl and cover with a plate. Let them rest and cool for about 30 min until they are easier to handle. Using a paring knife or your hands, peel the charred skin off and remove seeds. Roughly chop the peppers.

Meanwhile in a large sautee pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add grated tomatoes  and chopped garlic. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes until the tomatoes start to thicken. Add the gjize and salt and pepper and lower the heat slightly. Continue mixing over low heat for another two minutes. Add roasted peppers and allow to cook with the tomatoes and gjize for 5 minutes. Add the egg and quickly mix over low heat for one minute. Cover the fërgese and serve at room temperature or slightly warmed. The longer it sits, the better it tastes! Can also be enjoyed cold straight out of the fridge!

Albanian “Gjize” - homemade cheese from yogurt

In Albania, gjize is found in any market and most definitely in any home. It is widely used in many Albanian dishes but also eaten simply on toasted bread for breakfast. With a cup of tea and some sliced tomatoes or watermelon in the summer. In the US it is almost impossible to find and my mom was always substituting it in recipes with ricotta cheese (not as tart) or feta cheese (not as creamy). I recently decided to try making my own. This is how simple it is:

2 cups of 2% or whole milk Greek style yogurt

2 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

2 cloves (or more) of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of sea salt

1 teaspoon of freshly ground white pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until yogurt and lemon juice are fully blended. Transfer yogurt mixture to a bowl lined with 2-4 layers of cheese cloth and gather in a ball. Tie at the top and let it “drain” over a bowl for 8 hours. This process will dry out the yogurt and turn it into gjize! The result is a ricotta like texture but with the tartness of yogurt. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. 

Recipes for ways to use gjize to follow.

Roasted Peppers

There are two great things about roasting peppers all year round. In the summer, they are a light smoky addition to any simple salad and in the winter they make your kitchen smell firey and warm. They are so simple to make yourself, yet so many people buy the overly-pickled versions in little jars. Not to mention, they are overpriced at the grocery store.

Some recipes call for charring the pepper skins by broiling but I prefer directly on the flame. This way you have more control (a pair of tongs is absolutely necessary). Try to pick out evenly shaped peppers, with as little lumps as possible so that it makes it easier for them to sit on the burners. Roast directly on the flame turning constantly to avoid the skin turning to ash. When the entire pepper is black, place in a large bowl and cover with a cover, a place, or plastic wrap. Let them sit and steam for about an hour. If you’re in a rush, they can be peeled within 30 minutes. With your hands, rub the charred skin off as best as possible. Using a small paring knife, cut the stem and remove all the seeds as well as any water inside the pepper. Butterfly the pepper flat onto a cutting board with the skin side up and scrape any leftover charred skin off. Slice the peppers into strips and toss with olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. If you love garlic, like my mom does, you can also add minced garlic for extra flavor. 

R. Neumann leather factory. Hoboken.  (Taken with instagram)

R. Neumann leather factory. Hoboken. (Taken with instagram)