Round One: Slovenia.

Let me begin by admitting that my research of Slovenian cuisine was pretty shallow, and limited to the first two links in a Google search. The country is known for mushrooms, dandelion greens and potatoes. And most of their dishes are heavily meat-oriented, which made my task a little difficult, as I was cooking for a vegetarian.

I selected two recipes: a salad, laden with potatoes and a hard boiled egg and a mushroom and cheese appetizer. The former was supposed to be comprised of dandelion greens, but I went with some irresistible-looking local red leaf from the store. Once again, I compromised the integrity of this project by completely ignoring the main ingredient. Even with the wrong greens, the salad was the easy winner in this meal. Cool, tangy and light, I’ll likely make it again.

The mushrooms, on the other hand, lacked something. The recipe called for just two ingredients: button mushrooms and Muenster, and required almost no work. Too good too be true.

And it also required the use of my oven, which immediately gave it negative ten points, as yesterday was one of the hottest, stickiest days of the season so far. In a cooler climate (or another time of year) these little guys would have had a chance.

But at the end of the day, they were just half-cooked mushrooms with melted cheese. Slovenia, I don’t blame you for the lackluster meal; I’m sure you have killer cuisine. The handicaps against you were too strong to register a win.

Baked Mushrooms with Cheese

1 8-ounce container of mushrooms
¼ pound Muenster cheese, sliced

Preheat oven to 300°F. Wash the mushroom caps under running water, and remove the stems. Dry with paper towels. Cut the cheese into squares to fit between two mushroom caps. Make a “sandwich” of two mushroom caps with one square of sliced cheese between them. Secure with a toothpick, and place the mushrooms into greased pie plate or baking dish. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Dandelion Salad

1½ pounds dandelion shoots or leaves (any flat-leaved lettuce may be substituted)
2 medium potatoes, peeled
1 hard-boiled egg, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
salt, to taste

Several hours before serving the salad (or even the day before), prepare potatoes. Cut the potatoes into quarters and put them into a saucepan. Cover with water, heat the water to boil, and simmer the potatoes until they can be pierced with a fork (about 15 minutes). Drain and cool.

To prepare the salad: Place the dandelion shoots or leaves, potatoes, egg, and garlic in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, prepare the dressing: Mix the vinegar, oil, and salt. Pour over the dandelion mixture and toss.

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