Thursday, June 24, 2010

Split: Non Fish Edibles: Cevapi. And non-Cevapi.

Split is a seaport town full of fishermen and sailors, a breed of men who, oddly enough, do not want to eat fish every day. When you eat at a cheap konoba like Fife's the local characters - the grizzled, sunburned guys who work the boats - rarely order fish. After a day of tossing nets and getting slimed by conger eels and mackeral about the last thing you want to be near at dinner time is fish. And after a week of fresh fish there are some days when a nice hunk of meat goes down well. For me, that means cevapcici, the grilled meat tubules that fueled the fabled glory days of Yugoslavia. In Split, we checked out Ba!Će cevapi, located near the old city hall and fish market on the northern end of the Riva. Ba!Će serves "Bosnian Style" cevap, which means veal and no pork.
The bread, although toasted and dabbed with the cooking cevap juices, was very Croat style lepinje... heavier and spongier than the somun that one gets in Bosnia. Still, one of the best buys in town at 30 Kuna for a ten piece cevap feast, complete with cheesy kajmak and onions. Croatians love their cevap with ajvar, a red pepper relish, and that is how it is usually offered up in konoba restaurants, such as the one we went to with Captain and Madame Squid located a few alleys north of the Ethnographic museum in Diocletians Palace.
While you can find cevap anywhere in Croatia you can only find Dalmatian ham - prsut - in Dalmatia. What's the big deal you ask? Don't ask. Eat. This is a ham that drives vegetarians to eat meat. This is better than 90% of the Italian proscciuto you will ever come across - the stuff is air cured in dry mountain valleys and has a great fermented flavor that makes it one of the best things Europe ever produuced that you can put in your mouth and digest. The prsut of happiness. Usually you get prsut as an appetizer - the only problem is that in the summer it is often too hot to go for more than one course at a konoba. Madame Squid took us to a small konoba behind the train station one afternoon - Lučac on ulica Svt. Petra Starog street. I had tripiće - stewed tripe in a very light tomato sauce. Fumie went for a cold salad of boiled octopus and potatos. A few Days later Camille reproduced this at home, and it is one of those dishes that makes you wonder why the world hasn't discovered this and subsequently gone on a mad crusade to kill all the world's octopuses and smother them in oinions and potatos.Pizza is another great thing about travel in Croatia: the Croats don't simply copy Italian pizza, they adapt it and move forward. Split used to be a part of the Venetian Empire, but Venice was not known for pizza. When the hordes of sandal wearing summer tourists show up, pizza is what keeps them going. And there is some killer Za to bve found.
Like this double crust pizza filled with swiss chard blitva and onions. This same pizza place - None" near the fish market, made a foccaccia stuffed with anchovies that was fantastic: a combination of tomato, fresh fish, and crusty bread that should make this a must-try place in Split.
They also make cevap, sandwiches, and salads. Its worth wandering around the northern end of the old town just to find them. Just follow Captain Squid - when it comes to matters of the stomach, he never leads you wrong.
The market in Split at this time of year is an explosion of Mediterranean color - the tomatos are worth eating like fruit. Who would dare cut them up into a salad? A splash of olive oil, pinch of salt, and you are done.Greens are everywhere like rucola and chard and wild asparagus that we would never see in dowdy Central Europe (where greens are boiled, boiled, and boiled, then pureed, and eaten with a spoon.) How I can live without a steady supply of greens in Budapest is still a mystery - we actually do have an illicit supplier of swiss chard at our local market. The local olive oil in Dalmatia is some of the best in the world, and we always bring some home with us. We got a mild bottle of oil from the island of Solta from one old woman in the market, and later picked up a spicy oil in the fish market. And the cheese... the cheese...

1 comment:

richard said...

Hate You :).