Down Home by the Sea


Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "New Warsaw Express"

I just made a salad with sun-ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, long green peppers and fresh herbs, all of them picked straight from the vegetable garden behind me. It is sunny, warm and quiet except for the kids, who are playing in a rubber pool under an apple tree surrounded by flower beds. I can hear the relaxing sound of the warm sea, not far from the amazing garden, where I write these words.
I guess you might be curious where I am. No, this isn't Sopot or Ustka. The garden is a 10-minute drive from my home town, Varna, the country is Bulgaria and the ancient Greeks named the warm sea Black, because of the terrible storms that took so many of their ships and sailors. If the geographic designation doesn't ring a bell, football fans could try Christo Stoichkov. Yes, Barsa's former top striker is my fellow countryman. For the food lovers – Bulgaria is the home of the ubiquitous "shopska salad".
I finally managed to fight my way out of Warsaw this summer and hope you'll consider the same destination next year. Not only because of the more than 300 kilometres of beaches and sunny weather, but also because of the great food and wines you can get here for next to no money.
Bulgaria is becoming a popular vacation destination with Poles now. This is in no way a credit to the Okecie airport staff. When checking in to Sofia, which they apparently consider a much less prestigious destination then Madrid or New York, they sent me and the kids to the dead end of the check-in points, where the line was stalled for some unknown reason. After a little altercation with one of LOT's less pleasant attendants and a 1h 30min flight I found myself surrounded by relatives and being force-fed great heaps of truly amazing food. For those of you who are still in Warsaw, here's a recipe for the salad I mentioned in the beginning, just to give you an idea of my home cuisine.
Take four sun-ripened tomatoes (try local producers like Bracia Kasprzak or Mysiadlo) cut into medium cubes; 1 long or 2 medium cucumber, peeled and cubed; 1 green pepper, deseeded and cubed; 1 onion, peeled, halved and cut in thin rings; 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs like flat-leaf parsley, basil and mint; 150gr feta cheese; extra virgin olive oil; red wine vinegar; salt.
Mix all the vegetables and herbs. Season with salt, possibly some sugar if the tomatoes are not really sun ripe. Sprinkle with the vinegar and toss well. Then sprinkle with the olive oil. The way the Bulgarians do this – we grip the bottle, put one finger on the neck of the bottle and pour some vinegar or oil with a circling move above the salad. Do this twice and that's it! The last touch is crumbling feta cheese over the salad. Now you can serve this great summer dish with chilled dry white vine (I suggest Blue Ridge Chardonnay to keep it Bulgarian – you can get this genuinely excellent wine in most hypermarkets) and lightly toasted slices of Italian bread.

MARGO CYGIELSKA

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