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Dalmatian recipes
Black Risotto | Grilled Fish | Dalmatian Stewed Beef | Dalmatian Fritters | Dalmatian Fig Torte | Dalmatian Octopus Salad
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Black Risotto
Crni rižoto

This is a highly prized and unusual dish. If you are looking for a recipe to impress seafood-loving guests, this is definitely one to try. This recipe is courtesy of Joso's restaurant in Toronto, Canada, whose celebrity clientele raves about the black risotto served there. The restaurateur, Joso Špralja, is a Croatian from Dalmatia who introduced the Canadian food-loving public to this delectable dish!

Serves 4
2 pounds fresh cuttlefish (also known as sepia, about 3 medium sized)
1 pound fresh squid (about 2 medium sized)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cups arborio rice (short grained Italian rice)
1 tablespoon olive oil (for rice)
lemon slices for garnish
parsley for garnish

To clean the cuttlefish: wash the cuttlefish under running water. Pat dry and then cut
through the back of the cuttlefish using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife. Remove the
insides, carefully separating the small ink sac and setting it aside. Discard the rest of the
innards, also removing the hard white bone from the back. Next, cut the tentacles from
the body and set aside. Squeeze out the chickpea sized, round, beak which will be
protruding from the body and discard.

To clean the squid: gently pull the body and head apart. Clean the stomach of all of the entrails, and carefully remove the small ink sac and set it aside for later use. Remove and discard the transparent quill from the body sac. Wash the inside of the squid thoroughly under cold running water. Remember to squeeze out the beak and discard. Cut off the tentacles and set aside.

Next, slice the cuttlefish and squid into 1" strips, and then 2" cubes and then set aside. Chop tentacles and place in bowl with the rest of the seafood. In a small bowl break the ink sacs and scrape out the ink. Add a few drops of water, and using a fork stir into a thick paste.

Heat a large, deep skillet with the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion and
when soft, add all of the cuttlefish and squid (including tentacles).Cook until soft and golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add garlic and parsley, stirring to combine. Pour in the wine, vinegar and then stir in the ink paste. Cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Rinse the rice, and then add it to the skillet along with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir to coat the rice in oil and skillet juices and sauté for about 1 to 2 minutes. Then add enough hot water to cover the rice completely and cook uncovered until the rice
al dente, about 20 to 25 minutes. Stir occasionally. If the rice dries out, add another 1/2 cup of hot water (reduce the additions of water to 1/4 cup after 20 minutes) and then stir-cook. Remember to stir well and always loosen the rice from the bottom of the pot so that it doesn't stick.

Remove from heat when done and place on serving platter. Garnish by surrounding with sliced lemons and sprinkling additional parsley if so desired.

Black risotto may be served on its own with salad and crusty bread or it may accompany grilled fish or squid including calamari. Actually, it is sinfully delicious with any seafood!

$ Some fishmongers will clean the cuttlefish and squid for you, just remember to ask them to reserve the ink sacs!
? Reduce the 1/3 cup of olive oil somewhat by using a nonstick skillet.

Source: The Best of Croatian Cooking

Grilled Fish
Riba na gradele

Sometimes the simplest methods of preparation yield excellent results. Most locals on the Adriatic will tell you that one of the best ways to prepare fish is to grill it. Here is a basic method for doing just that. It works on any type of oily fish. The recipe is easily doubled. Baste fish with sprigs of rosemary or thyme you will love the results!

Serves 2
2 1/2 pounds fish fillets, cut in pieces
bay leaves
salt to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
chopped parsley

Skewer the fish pieces on a skewer, placing a bay leaf between each piece. Salt the
fish and grill over the barbecue. Rotate occasionally, basting continually with olive oil and lemon juice until done.

Place on platter; garnish with parsley, and sprinkle with olive oil.

$ Prepare fish on skewers ahead of time. Refrigerate and baste with oil and lemon juice to keep moist until ready to use.

Source: The Best of Croatian Cooking

Dalmatian Stewed Beef

Though Dalmatia is best known for its seafood, one cannot omit this dish from a list of traditional Dalmatian specialties. This version is a bit more exotic with its use of fruits in the sauce and it requires 2 days for preparation. Though it calls for red wine, feel free to substitute white if that is your preference. Excellent served with boiled or mashed potatoes or even gnocchi or any other fresh pasta.

Serves 6 to 8
2 1/2 pounds beef round      
6 to 8 slices smoked bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces 
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped        
salt and pepper to taste 
1/4 cup mustard        
3/4 cup cooking oil     
3/4 pound soup vegetables, chopped (carrots, celery, parsnips, parsley root etc)
1 large onion, minced 
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup tomato paste  
3 fresh figs, slivered, or dried figs
3 pitted prunes, slivered  
1 apple, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme  
1 bay leaf
Day One:  slit pockets into the meat and insert the bacon and garlic. Salt and pepper the meat and spread mustard mixed with ¼ cup cooking oil over the meat.  Place on platter, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Day Two:  heat  ½ cup cooking  oil on medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or deep stockpot with a lid.  Brown the meat on all sides and then remove from skillet and set aside. Now sauté the vegetables and onion in the same skillet. When vegetables are soft, add the meat and stew about 2 hours, adding water and wine as needed.

When the meat has softened and is tender, add the tomato paste, figs, prunes and apple and continue to stew till the fruit is soft.  Near the end, add the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf.  Remove the meat, slice, and place on platter.  Strain the sauce and pour over the meat or serve separately alongside the meat.

$ Chop your vegetables the day before and store in a water-filled dish.
? Use less oil to sauté the vegetables. Reduce the amount of bacon, but do not omit entirely.

Source: The Best of Croatian Cooking

Dalmatian Fritters
Dalmatinske fritule

These are almost like little doughnuts. Grown ups and children alike can't get enough of them. They are often made in Croatia around the Christmas holiday season.

Serves 8 to 10
6 teaspoons (2 packets) dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup plus a pinch granulated sugar
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups hot water
1/2 cup plum brandy or brandy of choice
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup raisins
grated rind of 1 lemon
7 to 6 cups cooking oil for frying
powdered sugar

Mix the yeast with the warm water and a pinch of sugar and set aside to bubble and rise. Place flour in large bowl and make a well. Add hot water gradually and blend with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the dough begins to "ball.” Continue beating, as you gradually add the 1 cup sugar, the brandy, vanilla, nutmeg, raisins and lemon rind. Blend in the yeast mixture and then let the batter rest for 15 to 20 minutes while the cooking oil is heated up in a deep pot or fryer (the oil should be at least 2 1/2 inches deep).

When the oil is hot enough (test by dropping in a small piece of the batter, it should
sizzle, but not burn), drop the batter by well-rounded 1/2 tablespoon measures. You will have to dip the measuring spoon in water between spoonfuls of batter to clean it off. You may also have to coax the batter off the spoon. Do not overcrowd the frying pot. Ensure the fritters are turned so that all sides are golden. When browned, remove with a slotted spoon, cool slightly, and roll in powdered sugar. Arrange on serving platter.

? Drain on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Source: The Best of Croatian Cooking

Dalmatian Fig Torte
Dalmatinska torta od smokvi

Fresh figs grow in Croatia and are used in some desserts. This cake though, is made with dried figs, making it easy to obtain the main ingredient, not to mention more affordable too!

Serves 10 to 14

Cake layer:
1 1/2 cups ground almonds or walnuts, plus additional (optional) for garnish
1 cup chopped dried figs
1 cup raisins
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
9 egg whites
10 tablespoons sugar

1 package (6 ounces) vanilla pudding mix (not instant)
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

Cake Layer: mix the nuts, figs, raisins and flour together in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 10" round cake pan. Beat the egg whites over medium speed, slowly increasing the speed to high as you gradually add the sugar. Beat until high, soft peaks form.

Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture and then pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on rack to cool.

Filling: combine the pudding mix, sugar, and vanilla extract and 1/2 cup milk in a small bowl. Stir until smooth and blended. Heat the remaining 2 cups of milk in a double boiler until boiling. Stir in the pudding mixture, and bring to a boil once more, while stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Cream the butter. Then beat in the pudding 1 tablespoon at a time until you have
completely blended in all of the pudding mixture.

Assembly: cut the cake layer in two horizontal pieces, place filling between the layers, reserving some filling for the sides and top of the cake. Decorate by sprinkling ground nuts on top if so desired.

$ Make the cake layer a day ahead. Just cover in foil so it doesn't dry out.
? Use low-fat or skim milk.

Source: The Best of Croatian Cooking

Dalmatian Octopus Salad
Dalmatinska salata od hobotnice

This is a salad that seafood lovers will enjoy. A trick we learned from a friend, who is a native of Split in Dalmatia, is to boil the octopus with a few wine corks in order to help make it tender. Strange, but true; it really works. Serve with crackers or breadsticks.

Serves 4
1 large octopus, cleaned and rinsed
2 to 3 wine corks, if at all possible
1 red onion, thinly sliced
olive oil
wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons capers (optional)

Pound the octopus with a meat mallet. Place in a saucepan with water to just cover
the octopus, add the wine corks. Simmer over medium heat for about 3 hours until
completely tender. Let cool in its cooking water, then chop or slice the octopus and place in salad bowl. Add the sliced onion. Season with olive oil, wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic and parsley. Add capers if desired.

$ Buy cleaned octopus at quality supermarkets and fish markets. You may also find octopus that is cleaned and frozen, just thaw and cook.
? Use fat-free or low-fat Italian dressing instead of the olive oil and vinegar.

Source: The Best of Croatian Cooking

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