Mediterranean Beef and Lamb Burgers (Cevapčići): Succulent Flavors Courtesy of “the Old Country”

Mediterranean Beef and Lamb Burgers (Cevapčići): Succulent Flavors Courtesy of “the Old Country”

Mediterranean Beef and Lamb Burgers (Cevapčići): Succulent Flavors Courtesy of “the Old Country”

 

My husband, Jame, was born in the former Yugoslavia. As a matter of fact, he still has a large group of relatives living in a village in Macedonia called Gostivar. Gostivar is an ancient community that’s rich in history and customs, and is nestled in the foothills of the nearby Shar mountains. In case you’re unfamiliar with where the country of Macedonia is, it’s only a stone’s throw north of Greece.

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See it there in all of its avocado green glory representin’ like 1970’s kitchen appliances?

I once ran into an elderly saleswoman when I was buying a blouse in Marshall Fields, back in the day when it was still Marshall Fields and the Sears Tower was still the Sears Tower, whose accent sounded just like my mother-in-law’s. When I told her so, she asked where my mother-in-law was from.

“She’s from the former Yugoslavia.”

“Oh, yes? What part?”

“Macedonia.”

“That’s Greece!” she proclaimed with her “R’s” rolled, her chest pushed out, and with an emphatic stomp of her black, rubber-soled shoe.

“Well, actually, she’s not from the territory within Greece called Macedonia. She’s from the Republic of Macedonia,” I explained, thinking she was merely confused.

“That’s still Greece! Always!”

I just smiled, nodded and slowly backed away before she could whip out a bottle of Windex and attempt to polish my eyeballs. Needless to say, a few folks still harbor a smidgen of resentment about borders and such.

Jame moved to the U.S. when he was two years old with his parents and his older brother. His father had owned an ice cream shop in Yugoslavia that did a good bit of business, and he was tired of Yugoslavia’s communist regime reaching into his pockets and taking all of his hard-earned profits. Their first stop was Vienna, Austria, and then eventually, Chicago.

Moving to a new city, a new country, even a new continent didn’t mean that his family left all of their traditions behind, however. While they enjoyed new American culinary adventures upon arriving here like German food at The Berghoff in the city along with the colonel’s chicken and “King Burger” Whoppers, they were also passionate about keeping old country favorites alive like stuffed green peppers and grape leaves, goulash, rice pudding and pilaf.

One of their favorite Macedonian foods, which quickly became one of mine as well, is a type of garlic, onion and herb-infused mini lamb and beef burger called ćevapčići. (Pronounced:  che-VOPP-chi-chi.) Instead of the round patties we’re familiar with, we often fashion these ground beef treats into sausage-like shapes as my mother-in-law was taught to do as a girl.

Jame’s mom had a stroke a few years ago, so she can no longer cook her old country favorite dishes. Never fear, though, Logan stepped in and made delicious grilled cevapcici for all of us along with delectable rice pilaf flavored with Garam Masala and fennel.

Watching Jame’s mom enjoy the flavors of her childhood was priceless. Along with the meat, we served the meal with grilled pita bread, a cucumber and tomato salad, plain yogurt, fresh feta cheese, and Ajvar – a Mediterranean condiment made with roasted red peppers and eggplant. What a delicious combination!

 

Mediterranean beef/lamb burgers (cevpacici): Logan rolling the cevap.

 

If you like Pita Inn, you will LOVE this recipe. One caution – this recipe, as written, could feed the entire cast and crew of Hamilton. You’ll probably want to cut it in half.

Here’s how you make cevapcici.

 

Recipe courtesy of: Cookingchannel.com (modified)

Ingredients:

  • pounds ground beef
  • pound ground lamb
  • 1/4 cup club soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • teaspoons granulated garlic
  • teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • slices white bread, crusts removed, ripped into small pieces

 

Directions:

Combine the beef, lamb, club soda, salt, garlic, pepper, baking soda and bread in a mixing bowl and mix together by hand for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Refrigerate, covered, for a few hours or up to 12 hours. 

Grab a small handful of the meat mixture and roll between your hands to form breakfast sausage-size links. Repeat with the remaining meat. 

Heat a griddle until hot. Lightly grease the griddle with some oil, and then cook the cevapcici, rolling them around occasionally, until cooked through and golden. OR, you can simply grill them.

Yum!

Mediterranean beef/lamb burgers (cevpacici): The final spread.

 

I guess we kind of liked it.

Mediterranean beef/lamb burgers (cevpacici): An official member of the empty plate club.

 

Oh, yeah, and Spence helped me make a lemon cream crumb cake for dessert. How much do I love that face? Excuse me while I go pinch him on the cheek.

Mediterranean beef/lamb burgers (cevpacici): A happy Spencer makes the cake.

 

Here’s the handy printable version of the ćevapčići recipe.

Mediterranean Beef and Lamb Burgers (Cevapčići)

Website cookingchannel.com

Ingredients

  • 2lb ground beef
  • 1lb ground lamb
  • 1/4 cup club soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 slices white bread (crusts removed, ripped into small pieces)
  • vegetable oil for greasing

Directions

Step 1
Combine the beef, lamb, club soda, salt, garlic, pepper, baking soda and bread in a mixing bowl and mix together by hand for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Refrigerate, covered, for a few hours or up to 12 hours.
Step 2
Grab a small handful of the meat mixture and roll between your hands to form breakfast sausage-size links. Repeat with the remaining meat.
Step 3
Heat a griddle until hot. Lightly grease the griddle with some oil, and then cook the cevapcici, rolling them around occasionally, until cooked through and golden. Or, you can simply grill them.

 

Enjoy!

Written by Becky


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9 Comments
  • Pat Altman says:

    Hi, Becky! I love reading your posts! I was not aware of your husband’s heritage. My father’s parents came from the former Yugoslavia. They were of Slovenian and Croatian descent. My maiden name, Grgas, is Croation…notice only the one vowel!!! It is great that you are passing on family traditions to your sons! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Becky says:

      So nice to hear from you, Pat! That’s interesting that your family comes from the former Yugoslavia. I can count the people on one hand who I’ve met from there. Hmm, how does one go about pronouncing a name such as Grgas? I’ll bet you stumped teachers the first day of every new year!

  • Yeah and I wish I could hug Spence right now and ask him once again not to grow whiskers on that silky face skin. I’m sure, however, he will deny me that request and being dark haired, he’ll eventually have a pretty permanent five o-clock shadow. Oh me! Such is life. The grub looks scrumptious too Becky. YLM

  • Patty from MMC says:

    Loved fhe backstory. Love that the boys (men) helped with the meal!

  • Diane Patriarca says:

    Hi Becky:

    Do you think I could substitute seltzer for club soda?

  • Jamin says:

    Great post


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About Me:

Hi! My name is Becky. I’m a mom, a wife, a friend, a writer, and a compulsive thinker. Don't invite me to a spa or to shop the day away, but rather, make me laugh, engage me in interesting conversation, play a game with me, or give me a cappuccino and homemade vanilla bean flan and I’m yours ‘til the cows come home.

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