Idaho is no longer a "meat and potatoes" type of state: it is becoming a veritable culinary melting pot! New and interesting ethnic restaurants and grocery stores are opening up in cities around the Treasure Valley and a growing group of "new" Idahoans is introducing exciting unfamiliar ingredients, different approaches to old-fashioned foods and secret family recipes that have been handed down from one generation to the next.

This blog allows us a peek into the pots and pans of these travelers that have chosen to make Idaho their new home. It captures a compilation of stories and dishes from people who, far away from their country of birth, recreate familiar elements in the dishes they prepare. For many, food from their home country is a comfort to the soul: for some it's an important part of their cultural or religious celebrations and for others, it's just good eating!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Name: Asija Jusufbegovich
Born in: Derventa, Bosnia
In Idaho since: December 1999

Bosnian food is an interesting mixture of Eastern and Western flavors, a combination of Mediterranean and northern-European influences. The dish that Asija prepared for the Idaho's Melting Pot is called sarma, a wonderful meat dish made with sour cabbage leaves and simmered in a tomato-based sauce. Its name stems from the Turkish word sarmak which means "wrapping or rolling", according to Wikipedia.

"We make our own sour cabbage", Asija explains while she unfolds the rubbery yellow leaves. "In the fall, my husband and I prepare a big vat with four or five heads of green cabbage, add water and salt to it, cover it and let it "sour" over the winter." It's the traditional way of making sauer kraut, or sour cabbage, except that Asija does not shred the heads but leaves them whole.

"Sarma is traditionally served during Christmas and New Year's Eve" Asija continues to explain, "but my husband and I will eat it pretty much all year long. When I cook it, I usually make a big pot. Whatever we don't eat that day gets served the next day. Sarma also freezes well and the good thing about sarma is that it improves each time it is reheated."

For the leaves
1 medium size green cabbage
3/4 cup of salt
Enough water to fill

Wash and core the cabbage, filling the hollow with salt. Place core-side up in a crock or stone container (not metal), cover with the water and place a dish on top so that the cabbage remains submerged. Check after two to three weeks to see if the cabbage is sufficiently pickled. The leaves will be yellow and flexible and a slightly sour but clean smell will come from the water. (Instead of pickling the cabbage and waiting three weeks to make this dish, you can also just separate the leaves from the cabbage head, boil them in water with a cup of vinegar and a tablespoon of salt until soft. It's not the same, but it beats waiting!)

For the filling
1 lb of ground beef
1/2 cup of rice, washed and rinsed
1/4 cup of shredded smoked beef (or roast beef or the meaty part of bacon)
1 tomato, minced
1 medium yellow onion, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon of sweet paprika powder
Salt and pepper
Vegetable seasoning such as Vegeta* or Aromat to taste

Mix the meats with the rice, the vegetables, the spices and the seasonings. Take some of the meat, about the size of a golfball, and roll it into a cylinder. Unfold a sour cabbage leaf, place the meat at the bottom (toward the stem) of the leaf and wrap the meat tightly into the leaf, tucking in the ends. Keep rolling until you are out of leaves or out of meat.

Now place each roll snugly next to each other in a Dutch oven. Build two layers. Add half a cup of warm water and simmer on the stove for about 2 hours. Make sure it doesn't burn or cooking too fast: the key is in the slow simmer!

For the sauce
1 tablespoon of flour
1/2 cup of water
1 small can of tomato sauce

Make a paste with the flour, the water and the tomato sauce and pour it over the sarma. Sprinkle the paprika on top. Maintain the simmer for another fifteen minutes.

Serve with a nice piece of pogacha, a white Bosnian bread, or any other type of bread for sopping up the sauce.

*Vegeta can be found at the Bosnia Express store on Emerald in Boise.

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