We captured this picture which includes all but the appetizers at Baba’s Table which were:
Baked Brie cheese wheels wrapped in puff pastry sheets with sauteed apples on top. A delicious spread with crackers or crostini. Also served prior to the meal was a spectacular butternut squash soup with parmesan sprinkled on top.
We captured this picture which includes all but the appetizers at Baba’s Table which were:
I am Rada Jr., author and founder of the blog Baba’s Table. That’s me and my husband Chef Daniel Burns, responsible for the absolutely amazing gourmet Thanksgiving meal. For those of you who are curious, Dan brined the turkey for 72 hours in carrot, celery, salt, peppercorn, onion, bay leave, sugar and of course water. Last night he fired up the smoker with wood chips for flavor and smoked the turkey from midnight until noon today. Try this at home food lovers. Get in touch with us for other recipes mentioned in the blog. Follow us on Twitter @babastable or like us on facebook.com/BabasTable.
Baba Rada’s great granddaughter Lorelai is responsible for these amazing and festive table decorations which she hand picked to and from the park then glitter glued. Follow us on twitter @babastable or like us on facebook www.facebook.com/BabasTable
How many of you caught the InStyle UK fashion spread featuring Rose Byrne? Love her, particularly in this issue. This modern twist on the classics defines our fashion taste buds here at Baba’s Table. A personal all-time favorite and classic character portrayal of hers is the Duchess De Polignac. The hair was extraordinary and one of the many parallels we’re finding in terms of etiquette and dress code between the lifestyles of the french monarchy circa the eighteenth century and the Serbian society circa 1960 along with: politics, dancing, desserts, drama, picnics, hats, gloves, and bouffants.
How could we forget the nostalgic moment at the masquerade ball, which the Duchess and Marie Antoinette’s entourage crash on a winter’s eve. It reminded me of so many Serbian zabavas (social gatherings with folkloric dancing), handsome men and women holding hands, dancing. It has been known to happen that at these formals, friendships formed and relationships blossomed. It takes a beautiful mane to pull off the coiffed hairstyles of both eras.
Our very own Baba Rada was a fashionista in her own right. One Sunday morning on Schiller Street, she wore one of her famous wide-brimmed hats to church. She had cut her hair short and she wasn’t sure how my grandfather would react to the new bob. When asked by her husband why she cut her hair short and sacrificed her long raven like locks, she responded with a typically witty and confident remark, “Sta ce mi kosa kad imam pamet.” (Who needs hair when you have a brain). Whether the new style appealed to him or not, Deda Dusan couldn’t help but be amused by her spontaneous wit and independent air. Below are some pictures of the 1960’s vs. the 1760’s bouffants. It appears as though they gave Marie and the Duchess a run for their money.
Above on the left is our late grandma Stella Pavichevich, in the middle our Great Aunt or “Tetka” Ljuba, and to the right Baba Rada Popovich at our mother’s wedding.
Another fast is among us my friends and you know what that means…vegan recipes! Baba was busy whipping up this prebranac (bean casserole) this morning. The recipe can be found in the “Vegen, Lenten Recipes as Mentioned in When The Saint Comes Marching In” entry earlier this year. Below is a picture of it being made.
Let’s talk about Baba and basketball…
All of my siblings and I are athletes. Our dad is Montenegrin. They’re known for their height and general physical dominance among Serbs. He played college football and our mother was the captain of the cheerleeding team at Tuley High.
Between the five of us we danced (Serbian folklore, ballet, tap, jazz),
played volleyball, soccer, football, baseball, karate as well as track and cross-country. However, it was my two sisters and I that played basketball. We participated in travel teams like AAU throughout our childhood, sometimes back-to-back practices, which required constant meal preparation by Baba and mom. It was then, in the eighties and nineties, that Baba developed an appreciation for the game.
While we’re on the topic of sports, surely we all watched the London Olympics this summer, and what a memorable closing ceremony the Brits left us with. Speaking of Brits, my former teammate Molly joined me tonight for a women’s WNBA game in Chicago to watch our fellow athlete and Serb Sonja Petrovic and the Chicago SKY sink a few jumpers. We were a part of “Sonja’s Squad” along with the rest of her fan club.
As I was observing Baba in the kitchen this morning before the game, I began explaining to her that my plans were such. I thought oh, I’ll have to really rack my brain for the rhetoric in explaining this to her…but before I could finish my sentence which sounded something like this, “Baba, I’m taking Molly to see a WNBA game, you know the women’s”- Baba cut me off…”Oh Sonja Petrovic plays for the Chicago team,” she says. I don’t know why I was surprised. It’s not like we haven’t seen the likes of one or two professional athletes at Baba’s Table. She is a die-hard fan of basketball and the players that she so jovially hosted.
Now that we’ve given a taste of Baba’s Table in relation to food, touched on fashion, and society, we would like to introduce a whole other dimension of food and hospitality and where it can lead or who it has led to Baba’s table.
To be continued…
There was once a kind lady named Visnja (Veeshnya), (translated means sour cherry), who lived in a village in Herzegovina, at that time part of Serbia, circa 1940. A cetnik (chetneek) army commander named Bacevic (Bachevich) also known as “Baco” (Bacho) and a group of his soldiers, which included Dusan Popovich, our grandfather, went to her door hungry from battle against nazi invaders and Tito’s Communist Partisans.
As all gracious Serbian hostesses do, she displayed typical “gostoprimstvo” (hospitality). She welcomed them, fed them with humble yet hearty Serbian staples, gave them a place to rest, and most importantly made them feel at home. Commander Baco was so grateful for her generosity, patience and understanding that he proceeded to thank her endlessly for those few days. However, he confused her name and kept referring to her as “Baba Tresnja”, (Tresh-nya which means sweet cherry). “We can’t thank you enough for the delicious yogurt.” Then again the next day, “Baba Tresnja, the kacamak (cheese polenta) that you made today was absolutely mouth watering.”
Finally, after several more thanks, Baba Visnja, a sweet lady who could have become quite sour, politely interrupted the commander and said, “My name is not Tresnja, dear, it’s Visnja”. Baco replied with a wittily incisive, “Well I knew you were some kind of fruit!”
Granted, this was all in Serbian, and Deda Dusan and the platoon never made a peep that night at Baba Visnja’s table out of respect, of course. However, at their home on Schiller Street in Wicker Park, it was a classic World War II story, which Baba told often, especially when kacamak was on the menu.
War stories, jokes and fables were popular at Baba’s table. It was a way of breaking the ice with guests or just plain entertaining when the theme of politics was exhausted. Just this week while making kacamak for her great-granddaughter, Baba laughed and retold the story with her signature comic timing.
In the decadent 80’s, we would go as far as to say that mom and Baba Rada hosted what seemed like one serendipitous event after another, which we called our childhood. The fact that it centered around church life and the backdrop of Saint Steven’s Cathedral in the Alhambra hills in L.A. made it euphoric. There were a lot of parties, there were a lot of guests, a lot of etiquette, and there was a lot of cake!
In a sense, we Pavichevich kids took the sweet delicacies for granted, but that’s what you get when your Baba is a culinary artist, mother is a master of theater arts, and your living room is constantly full of the well-heeled, cream of the Serbian crop. It’s food meets high fashion, our favorite arena. The atmosphere slightly resembled that of a scene in Sophia Coppola’s highly theatrical “Marie Antoinette” starring Kirsten Dunst in which Marie is indulging in hundreds of little cakes and sweets.
One of the most epic post-lenten curtain calls at Baba’s Table throughout the year is without a doubt, Easter! Easter is the feast of all feasts in our home. Our mom, Jovanka took pictures as she helped Baba Rada with the cookies and pastries this year.
If you’re not going to the Drake Hotel for high tea on the Magnificent Mile this Mother’s Day, consider making Baba Rada’s “Orange Torte” for mom (recipe below). Surprise her with this light citrus delicacy that tastes even better than it looks. Baba has a saying which has been mentioned already called “od prilike” translated means by memory and use of common sense. Her recipes are so engrained in her head from practice that they are sometimes difficult to extract. However, we were able to conjure up the recipe below. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
10 Eggs (separate yolks and whip whites in a bowl).
12 Tbls powder or crystal sugar
12 Tbls blanched ground almonds.
2 large oranges (zest & juice in separate bowls)Reserve some orange peel for decorating the cake.
2 sticks unsalted butter (whipped)
In bowl: whip egg yolks with sugar (beat well)
add 1/2 of the orange zest and juice
add 4 Tbls flour
To this, fold in the whipped egg whites
Grease and flour 3 round cake pans, distribute batter evenly.
Bake at 350-360 ten to fifteen minutes. Cool and remove from baking pans.
Filling: Combine 4 whole eggs, 3 Tbls. flour, 1/4 cup milk and remaining 1/2 of orange juice and zest, and 4 Tbls. sugar. Stir this over a double boiler, to thicken. Cool filling mixture well, then combine it with 2 sticks whipped butter. Frost the cake. You can decorate with almonds and orange peel.
One thing you should know about Baba’s Table is that WE LOVE FASHION. Check out these shades posted on fashion church.
The life of a PK (preacher’s kid) is one comprised of nothing if not compromise and sacrifice. We are always on stage, held to a higher standard than most children, and criticized more than our peers. Unlike celebrities, however, who often complain about the same frustration and scrutiny, this is something we did not volunteer for, and for which the compensation is significantly less. There is an order by which we PK’s live, and with that comes the expected social graces, entertaining of dignitaries and even royalty, but the perks are one of a kind experiences that cannot be purchased online or contractually agreed upon. The photo above is one of Princess Margarita of Baden, wife of Tomislav, Prince of Yugoslavia and our Baba, Popadija (title of priest’s wife) Rada Popovich in the living room of our grandparents’ apartment above the church on Schiller Street in Wicker Park, Chicago. Her Royal Highness Princess Margarita, is a descendent of Queen Victoria of England. (http://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Princess_Margarita_of_Baden). Baba hosted the Princess seven times on Schiller Street.
One of the casualties of my grandparents’ sense of duty to their compatriots and their country (former Yugoslavia) was the celebration of our mother’s birthday on July 1st, which falls very closely to “Vidovdan”, St. Vitors Day- the commemoration of the epic battle of Kosovo. Therefore, the Annual Vidovdan celebration typically held at the Congress Hotel in Chicago, usually overshadowed mom’s birthday, as Baba Rada was preparing the house for important guests like the Prince and Princess, other royalty, politicians, intelligentsia, and planning a spread for her table. These three-day spectacles consisted of symposiums during the day and ethnic and cultural programs followed by elegant dances/balls in the evening.
Sometime during the 16th century, Pope Gregory XIII, head of the Western Christian Church (now referred to as the Roman Catholic Church), instituted a new calendar, called the Gregorian Calendar, which is followed today. The Eastern Orthodox world continued to follow the calendar of Julius Caesar, the Julian Calendar. To this day, a select few Orthodox groups, including Serbs, continue to follow the Julian Calendar for our religious/church life and cycle of holidays, like “Serbian Christmas”, which falls on January 7th on the Gregorian Calendar. Apparently, this shift of calendars is responsible for what we now know as April Fool’s Day. (For more on this check out www.april-fools.us/history-april-fools.htm)
Deda (grandpa) Dusan photographed above entertaining his guests around Baba’s table, was a notorious April Fool’s prankster. He most likely was unaware of it’s roots, but simply saw this as a whimsical American phenomenon that appealed to him much like the game of baseball. This was one of the beautiful dichotomies of our grandfather. He was serious and resolute, brave and stoic, but was also the life of the party, beloved by all who knew him. There is one particularly amusing story about how far he would go to successfully fool someone. One April Fool’s Day in the late 1950’s, he made one of our Kumas (godmother) get dressed up and race across the street, because a very prominent woman in the community was in failing health and they were going to go visit her at her lakefront home on Miller Beach. Kuma left her Monday morning wash, climbed up the three flights of stairs to her apartment then got dressed in her best Marshall Field’s (beloved department store) tailored suit. It was no small task to dress up in those days, when for an average outing a woman wouldn’t think of leaving her home without dressing to the nines, which included her gloves, hat, high heels, suit and handbag.
Imagine her surprise when Baba Rada emerged from the laundry room in a house dress and slippers and Deda Dusan sat laughing hysterically, cigarette in hand at Baba’s Table. Kuma soon found that she was the target of another one of Deda Dusan’s notorious April fool’s pranks or the “poisson d’avril” as they say in France, and that Gospodja (Mrs.) D was alive and well and not expecting her for so much as a visit. Let’s just say Kuma was not amused considering she had frantically left her wash and had instead herself been put through the ringer.
One is a vegan lenten pasulj (baked bean) casserole aka “PREBRANAC”
The second is lenten pasulj soup - “PASULJ CHORBA”
The third is a recipe I picked up on Cape Cod while working a summer job in college as a live in chef. It’s a Three Bean Salad for the cilantro lover:
Prebranac (Baked Beans)
1 package Navy Beans (wash & drain in colander) (You can use other beans if you prefer like Lima)
Place beans in pot, cover w/ cold water, bring to a boil
Drain beans into colander. Place beans in pot, add hot water, salt, and cook until tender. Turn off heat. Leave them.
In saute pan:
saute 1/2 cup oil, 2 large onions until tender, add paprika, pepper and 2 Bay Leaves.
In a baking dish, place onions from saute pan, add drained beans. combine this gently and bake about 30 minutes @350.
Pasulj Chorba (Bean Soup)
Wash Navy Beans and drain in colander. Add beans to a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil.
Drain beans and add fresh hot water. Bring to boil and let them cook.
While cooking, add diced carrots, celery, and 1/2 an onion, chopped. Add vegeta, salt, pepper.
In saute pan: make a roux
1/2 cup oil, 1TBsp flour, - brown this slowly stirring
Add 2 TBsp tomato paste, stir this into a nice roux
Add the roux into the pot of cooking beans to thicken.
You can add garlic powder, salt pepper, etc.. to taste…..
Three Bean Cilantro Lover’s Salad
In a large bowl combine the following:
Kidney Beans 1-2 cans
White bean or Chick Peas 1-2 cans
Black Bean 1-2 cans
chopped onion (to taste) or chives
chopped cilantro (to taste)
Diced cherry tomatoes (optional)
fresh corn (optional-I prefer to shave a few sweet stalks but the can works too)
extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
add garlic powder, salt pepper, etc.. to taste…..
Mix with a spoon and serve or chill then serve.
To this day, I can ‘t think of a holiday gone by that Baba Rada didn’t roll a sheet of dough out onto the large wooden breakfast table to make a pita. Whether it be vegan, made with apples, oil, nuts, & sugar, or a salty cheesy sensation, it’s usually included in the spread on Baba’s table as a first or last course. However, pita is also an extremely satiating treat in-between meals for unexpected visitors because of its dense components.
I’m sitting here tonight reflecting on the slavski kolac (slava bread) I made for my brother-in-law’s patron saint day, St. Patrick’s Day, last week. Gosh, I used the dough hook and the mixer. That’s not how Baba Rada would have done it. She would have kneaded the dough with her own hands. I’ve watched her do it a thousand times. Similarly, the American in me sometimes skips steps by using phyllo dough when making pita. What kind of domacica (homemaker) am I? Am I being too hard on myself? I don’t think so, because the truth is, producing delicious food takes heart and soul, effort and time.
The picture below captures a group of Cetnik women in a DP (displaced persons) camp, laying the dough out on the long tables to prepare one of our favorite Serbian trademarks called “Pita”, more specifically ”gibanica” (cheese filled), “burek” (meat filled) all varieties of strudel. The dough is kneaded (notice no kitchen aids at the uh camp site) then left to rest, then finally it is rolled out to the two ends of the table until thin enough to lift like a bed sheet. This allows air underneath it and allows time to stretch it until the pita dough has enough surface area to fill by sprinkling either chopped apples, sugar and cinnamon, or a combination of cheeses, eggs, then rolling the gigantic piece of dough and cutting it into cooking sheet length pieces, maybe three or four, and baking it.
These women whose lives as wife, mother, homemaker were interrupted by war and exile evidently had the strength and pride to practice and preserve the tradition of a Serbian homemaker. This includes producing delicious old world European food like pita on the table. To me, this picture is a reflection of hope in these refugees’ minds that they would one day again prepare pita in their own home. And prepare Pite (pitas) they did, particularly the dark haired dame fourth from the right, Baba Rada Popovich. When this much time and devotion is put into the food the result is the perfectly satiating sweet or savory effect that Baba’s pita has. Following our grandfathers’ and great uncles’ battles during WWII, once in the DP camps, it was the women commandeering when and what the next meal would be.