Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oh Croatia ... You're Getting Mixed Reviews

I have to admit that before doing the research for tonight's dinner, the only thing I really knew about Croatia was the War of Independence in the early 1990's. I'm a journalist (and a news junkie), so I'd seen plenty of pictures of soldiers and bombed out buildings.

I had no idea the country was as beautiful as it is! Check this out.

And if you really want to have some travel envy, jump over to HeatherOnHerTravels and see more photos like the one below.

When it comes to Croatian food, each region has its own distinct culinary traditions. Inland, the cuisine hints at Slavic food (think Hungarian, Viennese and Turkish). In the coastal regions you'll find the influences of Greek, Mediterranean, Italian and French cuisine. In this region, the sea rules!

Just like Croatia, there's also a clear line of demarcation in our house. The grown-ups like spicy foods. The kids, not so much. Not sure if that's just our individual preferences or a factor of the age of taste buds.

Tonight's World of Food dinner is a perfect example. After successfully tackling Belgian Moules Marinieres with Frites two weeks ago, Olivia was excited about the chance to torture her little sister with Croatian Baked Calamari and Potatoes tonight.


  • 1 kg (2 lb) calamari, whole (We couldn't find them whole, so bought frozen rings)
  • 1 kg (2 lb) potatoes, peeled and cut in round slices
  • 2-3 large onions, cut in round slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped (We used 1 tsp. dried parsley)
  • 100 ml (1 /2 cup) olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine (We used Chardonnay)
  • salt, black pepper

"Ooooh! Mom! I don't want to touch it!!"


1. Preheat the oven to 165 C (330 F). (This seemed low to us, so we bumped it up to 350 F)

2. Season potatoes with garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.

3. Arrange 2/3 potatoes in a greased casserole dish. Cover with whole calamari. Top with remaining potato slices and onion. Pour olive oil and wine over it.

4. Cover and bake over a low heat for 1 hour, until the potatoes are tender. Serve hot from the oven.

Chef Olivia with her dish....

So here's where the taste bud demarcation thing comes in. A gambling Mom would've bet that Jason and I would like this dish and this kids would balk... but no!


Chef Olivia -- The calamari was good, even though it didn't taste like anything. I like fried calamari better because it actually has a taste. I didn't eat all of the onions because I didn't have the appetite. The potatoes were good except I cut myself a little bit with a really, really sharp knife.

Hannah -- I liked the Baked Calamari and Potatoes because the potatoes were baked just right. They were not too crispy, but they had a hint of crispy to me. And the calamari - I liked that because it had a different kind of taste, but it wasn't too pizzaz, too much, but it still had a unique taste to it. onions taste good. if you like onions you would like this dish. I really liked the leftover Mac 'n Cheese because it was very cheesy and it had a lot of crunch to it because we added the croutons.

Miranda -- (okay, she abstained from eating & commenting)

Tanya -- I like calamari, but this is a pretty boring dish. It looks boring (white, white, and more white) and tastes boring. Not bad, just not that much flavor. Pretty disappointing, especially given the price. Calamari was $6.99/pound at Whole Foods and only came in a 2.5 pound package. We'll be frying the leftover calamari.

Jason -- It was okay, but I'm going to go out of my way to have calamari, I rather have something else, like fried calamari or basil squid. (If you're ever in Birmingham, Alabama, head down to Mr. Chen's in Hoover for their Basil Squid. Sooo good! In fact, lots of people give Mr. Chen's big kudos for "authentic chinese food".)

Maybe we need a Re-Do, because after doing a little more post-dinner research we found this:

I mean, c'mon! Look at those colors! Doesn't that look infinitely more yummy that our bowl full of white?

I think this might be the key:

"2-3 teaspoons of the Croatian ‘secret spices’ – cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, Chinese Five Spice (that is, approximately ½ teaspoon of each spice)"

Our dish would've tasted sooooo much better with a little zing.

Okay folks, can anyone help redeem Croatia a little more? Got a non-squid recipe to suggest? Because I'm pretty sure the kiddos won't go for the spicier, more squidy-looking version above.


  1. Good luck on your adventure. Half the fun is trying stuff you'd never normally try. We had a wonderful time with our Croatian meal... my favorite was the holiday nut roll ... it was sweet and nutty.. and totally addictive. The potato salad was neat too. Here's a link to my Croatian posts if you're curious.

    I'm almost 1/3 of the way through the countries. Keep in touch and happy cooking :)

  2. Thanks Sasha!

    We're on to D next, so we'll have to check your blog for recipes from Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, and Dominican Republic.

    About 10 years ago one of my husband's students, who was from the Dom. Rep, lived with us for about a year. I will never forget him quizzically looking at the pot roast we served the first night and asking me what is was.

    I wrote his mother (in my really choppy spanish) asking for suggestions for foods he'd like from 'home'. She sent a cookbook that started with instructions on how to pick out, slaughter and prepare the goat/chicken. Freaked me out a little! But we weren't nearly the culinary adventurers back then that we are today.