It was Monday, September of 2013 and we were docked at the seawall of Komiza on the island of Vis. The weather was great and life was good.
Komiza is this “beyond-adorable” fishing village on the southwestern side of the island. It is located at the end of a large bay and at the foot of the imposing Hum mountain. A fort built to protect the village from pirates is one of the main tourist attractions and houses a fishing museum.
One of our regular destinations in Croatia, Komiza is also my favorite place for excellent pizza and beer in one of the several affordable restaurants on the waterfront. I should also not forget to mention the unbelievable gelato’s…
So, here we were docked at the seawall and next to us was another charter boat with an all-male Croatian crew. They had set up a small grill on the quay and were grilling tiny sausages that smelled mouthwatering deliciously. While they were preparing their food, they were taking numerous shots of a clear liquor from a bottle that contained a fully grown pear.
Needless to say, we had to strike up a conversation. Two of them spoke perfect English and told me that they were high school friends who had left Yugoslavia when, in the mid-nineties, the country was falling apart. Some of them left for the United States, others to Germany or Italy and, after all these years, they had decided on a reunion in their old country, which is now Croatia. As they always had sailed together when they were young, they wanted to make their get-together a sailing vacation.
Of course, we traded many shots of their pear schnapps with ones from our vodka bottle and they had me taste the finger licking good little sausages called Cevapcici (Che-vap-chi-chi). I order them at restaurants when in Croatia and I love them accompanied with ajvar and fries. Sometimes, when I get an uncontrollable urge for them, I will make them here in the USA and put them on the grill or on the plancha.
If you want to get an idea of how good these cevapcici sausages are, but if you do not have a Balkan-style restaurant close to you or (even worse) you cannot accompany us on our next trip to Croatia, here is my recipe.
You will need:
- half a pound of ground lamb
- about one and a half pounds of ground pork or mild Italian sausage
- one pound of lean ground beef
- three or four garlic cloves to taste, minced
- about one teaspoon salt or more to taste
- ground black pepper to taste
- cayenne pepper to taste
- a dash of paprika
- one finely chopped onion
- one egg white
Mix all the ingredient in a large non-reactive bowl and let rest for a few hours in a cool place to have the mixture thoroughly absorb all the flavors. Form the meat mixture in little sausage of about two and halve inches long and three quarters of an inch think. Cevapcici sausages do not have casings and are really easy to make.
Grill them on a BBQ or on a plancha griddle at medium-high heat for about 30 minutes, turning them frequently and eat them with ajvar, a typical Balkan spread that you can find in the international food sections of major grocery stores, like Pete’s Market and Caputo’s in the Chicagoland area. If you can’t find it, you can easily make it yourself.
You will need:
- six red bell peppers
- one medium eggplant
- three generous tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- at least three chopped garlic cloves (but more if you really like it garlicky)
- freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
- a dash of vinegar
- cayenne pepper to taste (if you like your ajvar hot)
- a tablespoon of red wine vinegar
- one teaspoon of sugar
Cut the bell peppers and the eggplant in half and put them face down in a hot oven (450F / 232C) until the skins are roasted and blistered. Let them cool down then peel the peppers and discard the skins, scoop up the flesh out of the eggplant and discard the skin. Put all the ingredients in a food blender until well mixed and voila! Your ajvar is ready…
Ajvar is often called the caviar of the poor man. It is healthy and tasty. You can eat it with your cevapcici while dreaming that you are in Croatia, cruising the crystal clear waters with us, or you can also use it as a dip, spread it on a toast, try it as a pizza sauce. Whatever way you use it, you will love it…
More flotilla food stories and travel adventures to follow in my next blog.
Fair Winds and Bon Appétit.
Capt. Jean De Keyser