Ćevapi ingredients: Match® vegan beef, bulgur wheat, egg, onion, garlic, Vegeta, ghee, black pepper, salt.
Sataraš ingredients: tomato, bell pepper (red/yellow/green), eggplant, onion, garlic, sugar, Vegeta, vegetable oil, salt.
Served with: chopped onion, lepinja-style bread.
According to Senka, the joke goes like this: “What do Bosnians do when they’re hungry? … chop onions, then decide what to make for dinner.”
Having traveled south with her to Sarajevo last summer, I can now say that I’m in on the joke. They put onions in everything, and they don’t stop when the cooking’s done – a modest pile of chopped raw onions accompanies your food to the table, in case you want more.
Today’s post is my attempt to reproduce two typical Bosnian dishes: ćevapi (chu-VAHP-y) and sataraš (sattah-RASCH). Ćevapi are little hamburger-fingers, served hot off the grill with distinctively airy rounds of lepinja bread (and plenty of onion). This is the ubiquitous Bosnian fast food of choice, beloved by locals and mandatory after a night on the town. Sataraš, on the other hand, is more of a homestyle dish, a rustic stew of simmered garden vegetables.
The sataraš was simple to prepare. We diced up garlic and onion, sautéed them in plenty of oil on low heat, then added large chunks of eggplant and bell pepper. When the eggplant had absorbed most of the oil, we added a can of whole tomatoes to the pot, plus a hefty pinch of sugar and a sprinkling of Vegeta (all-purpose soup mix). I crushed up the tomatoes and let the mixture simmer for about 25 minutes, at which point Senka claimed the taste and texture were correct.
Our sataraš was shockingly good. It was silky and rich from the oily eggplant, texturally balanced by the tomatoes’ bright acidity. The peppers lent their deep yet subtle bitterness, while the pinch of sugar tied everything together by bringing out the vegetables’ own natural sweet flavors.
Given the cheap, foolproof, and practically labor-free preparation of sataraš, I will certainly be making it again. It even tastes great straight from the fridge!
Reproducing authentic ćevapi was more of a challenge, considering we don’t eat meat. I substituted a package of Match® vegan beef (a souvenir from one of my trips home to Philadelphia), which does a fairly good job imitating raw hamburger. I seasoned it with plenty of grated onion and garlic, black pepper, Vegeta, and salt. I also fortified the texture with some cooked bulgur wheat for chewiness, and mixed in an egg for binding.
I tried to roll the ćevapi into skinny cylinders, but eventually gave up (too soft) and settled for rectangular patties. I pan-fried these in a bit of ghee (clarified butter). I like using ghee for jobs like this, because it can be raised to higher temperatures than butter, while still providing a nice brown crust.
For the bread, I took a shortcut and used a similar offering from the local bakery. The texture should be like puffy pizza dough, chewy and full of air pockets.
While not exactly authentic, our ćevapi were meaty and delicious, accented in true Bosnian fashion by crisp raw onion.