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How to Peel & Seed a Tomato September 3, 2012

Posted by Paula Erbay in Other.
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Score the bottom of each tomato with a sharp thin bladed knife.

Place in a large bowl and pour boiling water over the tomatoes.  Let sit for about 1 minute, the peel should start to separate where the tomato has been scored.

Carefully pour out the hot water and run cold water over the tomatoes to stop them from cooking.  Keep the tomatoes in the cold water and carefully peel the thin skin from each starting where it has been scored. You may need to run a thin bladed knife just under the skin to help loosen – but with this method you should be able to easily remove the peel with your fingers.




To seed them: cut in half crosswise; cut or scoop out the exposed seeds.


Sophia Ducich and the Serbian Sisters’ Bake Sales December 29, 2011

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts, Other.
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This article was published in the July/August 2011 issue along with my article “Remembering Our Past Through Celebrations at LA’s St. Sava & Jackson’s Summer Camp”  and is posted here with  permission from Serb World USA.  Order a copy of the magazine to also view the companion piece “Everything Old is New Again” by Nadine Radovich and Anita Sabovich Rowe.

Draga Milkovich, Olga Stanisich, Baba Sophia

Sophia Ducich and the Circle of Serbian Sisters, or Kolo Srpskih Sestara (KSS), were steadfast supporters of the St. Sava Summer Camp and Mission. They had a contract with the mission and ran the day-to-day operations of the camp and the kitchen—ensuring that the camp was open to all children every summer.

Sophia’s experience had begun decades before. At the age of 5 and already proficient in arithmetic, she had helped her mother run a boarding house in her native Montenegro, or Crna Gora. Sophia would use those skills often throughout her life.

First, there had been another boarding house in Wyoming after her father died in World War I (1914-1918). Years later in Butte, Montana, Sophia Ducich often provided board for miners, and in Fresno, California, she had owned and operated the Hiawatha Guest House.

When she came north to Jackson, she devoted herself to supporting the St. Sava Summer Camp and Mission. When donations were sometimes difficult to come by, she would offer her home to Serbs visiting Jackson, suggesting they donate what they felt was fair for their lodging: every penny went to St. Sava Mission since her own income came from other properties she owned.

In addition, Sophia and the ladies of the KSS would raise additional money by catering events for up to 450 people two or three times a month. The banquets were held in the mission’s large dining room, one of the largest banquet facilities in the area.

Also to benefit the mission, the Serbian Sisters would hold large bake sales. The whole of Amador County would be invited, and the sales were a huge success.

Another of Sophia Ducich’s projects was remembered by Lana Vukovich: “Baba Sophia would sell the old miners’ favorite meat pas ties up and down Main Street on St. Patrick’s Day to raise money for the mission.”

One St. Patrick’s Day, a reporter from The Amador Dispatch recognized Baba Sophia and asked, “Isn’t it unusual for the ladies of St. Sava Mission to participate in a St. Patrick’s Day event?”

“I don’t see why not,” she responded. “St. Sava and St. Patrick were both working for the same cause.”

While the recipe below is not one of Baba Sophia’s, I’d like to think it could have been at one of the bake sales, and in that spirit, I have chosen it. There are similar recipes, with slight variations, from Montenegro to Vojvodina, and for me, the fresh cherries are a reminder of all the roadside fruit stands along old Highway 99 heading north to Jackson’s St. Sava Summer Camp.

Koljivo or Žito January 31, 2010

Posted by Paula Erbay in Desserts, Other.

Koljivo or Žito is a sweetened whole wheat dish that is served after Parastos, a Serbian Orthodox Church service held 40 days, and again at 1 year, after someone’s passing. More information can be found at Serbian Unity Congress website.

See my website Table Talk for the article about Bora Gajicki that accompanies this recipe.

Marge Gajicki gave me her recipe for Koljivo, which she translated from Cyrillic – she really has come a long way from Mrs. Mikulicich’s class.  However, the recipe that follows is one that I’ve created based on my memories of my grandmothers’.  To me it is the taste of old Saint Sava Church in Los Angeles.

1 pound whole wheat
1 pound powdered sugar
1 pound walnuts, shelled
1 vanilla bean
3 tablespoons golden raisins (or more to taste)
3 tablespoons golden rum (or more to cover the raisins)

Jordan almonds, blanched almonds, or additional raisins for decoration

This is not a complicated recipe, but it does take time, so start the day before (especially if you are making it for a church service).

Place whole wheat in a large pot with 6 cups of cold water over high heat.  The wheat will become about three times its size when fully cooked, so be sure to use a pot that accommodates that volume.  When it comes to a boil, reduce heat to keep it at a soft boil or simmer.  Check often to ensure that it is always covered with water.  Add additional water as needed one cup at a time (9 to 10 cups of water in total).  Allow the wheat to simmer until it is tender and “pops”, approximately 2 hours.

Draining cooked wheat

When the wheat is cooked rinse it several times in cold water and strain in a fine mesh colander.  You can leave the wheat in the colander to drain overnight (cover with a kitchen towel).  Or, spread it on a clean dry kitchen towel for at least 2 hours.

While the wheat is boiling:

Scraping the vanilla bean

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the back of a paring knife.  Mix the vanilla seeds into the powdered sugar and set aside.   Soak the raisins in the rum, set aside.

Ground walnuts

Grind the walnuts finely.  Note:  Most of the old recipes specify that the walnuts should be ground with a meat grinder.  While I have my grandmother’s old meat grinder, and fond memories of her using it, I prefer my food processor.  Place walnuts in the food processor in batches (2 or 3 batches for 1 pound of nuts).  Pulse until the nuts are finely ground, but not a paste.

Mixing it all together

Place the wheat in a large mixing bowl, mix in the vanilla powdered sugar and ground walnuts with a wooden spoon or strong spatula.  Drain the raisins and add them to the Koljivo.

Transfer the Koljivo to “your best cut-glass bowl” I can hear my grandmothers’ voices say.  Decorate with blanched almonds in the shape of a cross (optional).  Raisins or candied almonds can also be used for decoration.

Ready for a taste