Cevaps vendor at Pierogi Fest

I will try to find out for the reader who requested the vendor’s name. Check back in a few days.

Sophia Saliwonczyk’s Nut Roll Rocks!

By Barbara Rolek
Sophia says "Dobro nam dosli," which means "good that you came" in Serbian.

Sophia says "dobro nam dosli," which means "good that you came" in Serbian. © 2008 Barbara Rolek

Sophia Sekerez Saliwonczyk, of Crown Point, Ind., is a nut-roll baker extraordinarie. Originally from Gary, Ind., the mother of five — Michael, Gregory, Nicholas, Lisa and Laurie — has been making Serbian nut roll for the past 30 years and has passed the tradition on to her own children.

She welcomes you into her kitchen with “dobro nam dosli” — Serbian for “good that you came” or welcome. The aromas are heavenly as she displays a table spread with pastries of all sorts, including Russian tea cakes, kolachky (a variation of Polish kolaczki, http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/polishdesserts/r/kolaczki.htm), honey-dipped cookies and her specialty, nut roll! 

Here is a picture of Sophia and her boys as they dive into her homemade nut roll in 1978.

Michael, Gregory, Nicholas and Sophia Saliwonczyk

Michael, Gregory, Nicholas and Sophia © 2008 Barbara Rolek

For the nut roll recipe, pictured below, visit my About.com Web site at http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/desserts/r/nutroll.htm.

Sophia Saliwonczyk's Serbian Nut Roll © 2008 Barbara Rolek

Sophia Saliwonczyk's Serbian Nut Roll © 2008 Barbara Rolek










For the honey-dipped cookie recipe, pictured below, visit my About.com site at http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/crossculturaldesserts/r/honeycookies.htm


Sophia Saliwonczyk's Honey-Dipped Cookies © 2008 Barbara Rolek

Sophia Saliwonczyk's Honey-Dipped Cookies © 2008 Barbara Rolek


For the Russian tea cake recipe, pictured below, visit my About.com Web site at
For the kolachky recipe, pictured below, visit my About.com Web site at
Kolachky © 2008 Barbara Rolek

Sophia Saliwonczyk's Kolachky © 2008 Barbara Rolek

Old World favorites at Balkan Restaurant

By Barbara Rolek


Marinko “Mike” Gvero and his mother, Jovanka Damjanovic 

You’ll think you’re in Baba’s (grandmother’s) kitchen when you sit down to a meal at Balkan Restaurant in Merrillville, Ind. This no-frills place with white tablecloths is easy to miss, tucked away as it is on West 80th Place. So look sharp. You don’t want to pass this one by. 


Owned by Mirko and Jovanka Damjanovic, and Radovan Trivunovic, the restaurant is managed by the Damjanovics’ son, Marinko “Mike” Gvero. If the food doesn’t charm you (and it should), Mike certainly will. He’s an affable host and makes you feel comfortable the moment you step inside.

Open since July 1, the restaurant features comfort food familiar to Serbians, Croatians, Yugoslavians, Romanians, Macedonians, Bulgarians, and other Eastern Europeans. But, actually, anyone who enjoys good food would like these offerings that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Everything is made from scratch and à la minute, which means “to order.” So, if you have to wait a little longer than at a fast-food restaurant for your meal, you’ll know why.

A recent visit to Jovanka’s spotless kitchen revealed just what fresh cooking means. Tomatoes and peppers are not pre-diced and the potatoes for the homemade french fries are peeled and cut only when a customer places an order.


Jovanka says she cooks at the restaurant the way she would for her family. That can only mean one thing — lovingly prepared authentic Eastern European food!

For step-by-step photo instructions to make “Selsko Meso” (pork tenderloin with onions, mushrooms, green peppers and tomatoes), visit http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/recipestepbyste1/ss/selskomesostep.htm on my About.Com Web site.


Entrées are huge and reasonable. They come with homemade mashed potatoes (Jovanka makes them with half-and-half!) or homemade french fries, coleslaw, diced onions, soup, bread and “kajmak” (that delicious spread that is a cross between butter and cream cheese).


When I visited, the soup of the day was a golden “Pileca Corba” (chicken noodle) with chunks of chicken that had the flavor only achieved by long, slow cooking. 


Here are just a few of Balkan’s other offerings: “Sarska” (a 2-pound hamburger stuffed with mozzarella cheese), “Zaviok” (grilled pork tenderloin wrapped with bacon and stuffed with mozzarella cheese, ham, mushrooms, pickles and yogurt), “Leskovacki Ustipak” (a ground beef patty with garlic, hot peppers, mozzarella cheese and ham), “Raznjici” (pork kebabs), “Manastirski Dvojnik” (pork tenderloin stuffed with mozzarella cheese), “Bela Vesalica” (grilled pork tenderloin).

And then there’s “Kremenadle” (twin pork steaks), “Gulas” (goulash made with beef tips), “Cevapi” (grilled sausages), “Pljeskavica” (a giant grilled meat patty), and “Schnitzels” (breaded veal steak). Hot peppers are optional with any of these dishes.

 On top of all this, they offer omelets, “Shopska” (salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers and feta cheese), American burgers, chicken strips and shrimp, Turkish coffee and more.

Don’t miss dessert — “Palacinke” (crepes filled with bananas and chocolate and topped with more chocolate and whipped cream, or with jam or plain).

Among the amenities are beer and wine, live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays, and accommodation for private parties up to 120. And if you can’t fit all your “Slava” guests in your house, here’s a place to hold it. Best of all, you won’t have to do all that cooking yourself!

Are you hungry yet? You’ve got to give Balkan Restaurant a try.

Balkan Restaurant, 44 W. 80th Place, Merrillville, IN 46410

219.736.7784 or 219.512.3974

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays; closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Prices: $5.95 to $16.95

Pranzari Restaurant in Crown Point now open


Pranzari awaits you in Crown Point, Ind., in Beacon Hill, the shopping mall anchored by Strack & Van Til at East 109th Street and Broadway.

A recent visit to the Italian restaurant, owned by Ross Pangere and managed by Kirt Witham, reveals this is probably the region’s newest crown jewel. The hand-painted murals, black linens with butcher paper table tops, glittery glass, tiled floors, piped-in Italian music, nice wine list all spell success.


“Pranzari” is Italian for, variously, “to have lunch,” “to eat.” And, with Chef Greg Kretschmar at the helm of the kitchen, you’re in for a treat. Kretschmar has consulted on many restaurant openings in the region and his cooking is legend. He uses organic produce and his sea bass and salmon are wild and flown in from Hawaii.


“Wild is better than farm raised because farms use growth hormones to mature the fish fast so they can turn a profit quicker,” Kretschmar says.

And, as we all know, growth hormones have a shady reputation. Consider some of his offerings:  Black Mussels in spicy marinara sauce, Veal Meatballs with roasted garlic and red peppers, Panzanella (bread salad), Cannelloni in marinara sauce, Penne Amatriciana with bacon, onion, garlic and basil, Risotto al Paesano with Italian sausage and green beans, Twin Boneless Pork Chops, Pranzari Filet of Sirloin DeVinci Barolo with a demiglace sauce.


In a few weeks, Pranzari will open at 11 a.m. Mondays to Saturdays. The restaurant will be open on Sundays for private parties only. There is a separate bar with full service. The martini menu looks interesting!

There’s a children’s menu and desserts, sorbettos and gelatos are yours for the asking. Chef is even considering featuring my Babette’s Biscotti at the restaurant!

Kretschmar is still looking for professional kitchen staff for the 125-seat venue. Call (219) 226-1400.

I fully expect to give this place Two Yums Up! I’ll race you there! Check out Chef Greg’s garlic bread.


Warm up with Potato Sausage Soup

Have you been to Cappo’s at 6656 U.S. 6, in Portage, Ind., yet? The next time you visit the Imax theater, stop there. Owner Dolly Cummins will have your stomach smiling in no time.

The food is reasonable and delish. Consider these: a four-piece crispy chicken dinner, catfish, ocean perch, eggplant Parmesan, homemade lasagna, and more. Build-Your-Own Burgers start with lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion on a 1/2-pound Angus beef patty. A 12-and-younger kids’ menu has five selections for less than $5.

Cappo’s opens at 11 a.m. daily. Beer and wine are available. Don’t have time to sit down and eat? Get one of their take-and-bake pizzas. Call (219) 762-5563 for the soup of the day.

In the meantime, Dolly shared her recipe for Potato Sausage Soup. Enjoy!

Cappo’s Potato Sausage Soup

1 1/2 cups cooked pizza sausage

3/4 cup onions, diced

6 slices bacon

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons chicken base

1 quart water

2 medium potatoes, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/4-inch slices

2 cups spinach or kale

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

* Place onions and bacon in large saucepan and cook over medium heat until onions are almost clear. Remove bacon and crumble. Add garlic to onions and cook 1 more minute.

* Add chicken base, water and potatoes. Simmer 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to roughly puree soup.

* Add crumbled bacon, sausage, spinach or kale and cream. Simmer 4 minutes and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

SOURCE: Dolly Cummins, Cappo’s, Portage, Ind.

Discover the Joys of Eastern European Food


Discover the joys of Eastern European cooking at http://easteuropeanfood.about.com for which I am the guide. About.com is an online neighborhood of hundreds of expert “Guides,” real people who are eager to share their knowledge on everything from ice skating to hobbies to food.

Founded in 1996, About.com was acquired in March 2005 by The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT). Today, About.com is recognized as a top 10 content site and one of the largest producers of original content.

Check out http://easteuropeanfood.about.com. You’ll find recipes, articles, cookbook reviews, product and equipment reviews, step-by-step recipes and so much more.

I’ll cover food from Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, the Czech and Slovak republics, Lithuania, the Ukraine and more.

Sign up for my newsletter. I’ll take your palate on a magic carpet ride!

Chocolate Espresso Truffles

Nothing says I love you like chocolate. And with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, there’s no better time to try your hand at making truffles. With chocolate’s aphrodisiac qualities, you’ll have a win-win situation!

You don’t have to be female and you don’t have to know how to cook to make truffles. They’re so easy. Try these.

By the way, chili powder is another known aphrodisiac! Check out my Nacho Typical Chili Recipe by clicking the “recipes” button under “What’s on the Menu” to your right.

Babette’s Espresso Truffles
8 ounces best-quality chocolate (at least 60% cacao), chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream, heated to boiling
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (it must be instant, otherwise you’ll have espresso grounds in your chocolate!)
* Chop chocolate into small chunks. Place in a heatproof bowl.
* Mix espresso powder with boiling cream.
* Pour cream over chocolate and immediately cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit out for 45 minutes or so and stir it until it’s smooth.
* Transfer to the refrigerator until it firms up. Using a cookie scoop, scoop out truffles. They’re delicious unadorned like this or you can roll them in chopped nuts, flaked coconut, cocoa powder, chocolate sprinkles, crushed coffee beans, whatever your heart desires.
Makes about 12 large truffles.
SOURCE: Barb Rolek