Sunday, January 24, 2016

Svinjski Vrat and Ajvar Mezze

     A Balkan Style Snack Platter!
     Svinjski Vrat basically translates to "pork neck."  Svinjski Vrat is prepared many different ways in Balkan region countries.  Fresh raw pork neck is usually poached, stewed or slowly roasted and it is served as an entrée.  At Greek or Eastern European delicatessens, pork neck products are usually boneless, dry cured and/or smoked.  Thin sliced Cured Smoked Svinjski Vrat is perfect for making sandwiches, mezze and snack platters.

     The Svinjski Vrat that I chose was purchased at a Croation/Bulgarian deli near Chicago.  The pork neck was lightly seasoned, dry cured and lightly smoked.  The deli clerk explained that this version is meant to be eaten like a lunch meat at room temperature or it can be gently warmed in a sauce.  After tasting the Svinjski Vrat, I noticed it had a rich flavor that was almost like Italian style cave aged dry cured ham.  The locally crafted Svinjski Vrat was one of the best tasting pork products that I have ever tasted!
     The shop owner recommended a vegetable spread to go with the variety of deli meats that I purchased.  The deli had a large selection of Ajvar Vegetable Spreads and similar products.  Serbia is where Ajvar originated and it is popular throughout the entire Balkan region.  Ajvar is a finely minced relish of sweet red bell pepper, eggplant, garlic and mild fresh paprika pepper.
     Ajvar is relatively easy to make from scratch, but purchasing a jar of avjar is much more cost effective.  A glass jar of ajvar only costs a few dollars, while the fresh ingredients needed to make the same amount will cost at least twice as much.  Honestly, the quality of ajvar products at an Eastern European deli are just as good as ajvar that is made from scratch, so the ajvar products are the better bargain.  
     I purchased a mixture of spicy olives while I was at the Croatian/Bulgarian deli too.  There was no less than seven different kinds of olives in the mixture.  I also bought a thin loaf of crusty fresh baguette bread, so I was all set for making a nice mezze platter!

     The word Mezze (Meze) translates to "an appetizer platter that is meant to be shared or one of many courses offered during a casual social meal."  When arranging an appetizer platter, it is best to keep the presentation simple with a clean organized look.  The deli meat appetizer platter presentation in the pictures is a good example.
     Just like with Italian cuisine, it is not how many ingredients or extra garnishes that makes a plate of food great.  It is the quality of the few select ingredients that makes a good plate of food something to remember!
     Svinjski Vrat and Ajvar Mezze:
     This recipe yields a simple appetizer platter for 2 guests.
     The ingredients for this appetizer platter can all be found in an Eastern European food market or Greek delicatessen.  
     Overlap 6 thin slices of Dry Cure Smoked Svinjski Vrat on the front half of a plate.
     Overlap 6 slices of crusty baguette bread on the back half of a plate.
     Mound 1/4 cup of Ajvar on the middle of the plate.
     Place about 10 assorted spicy olives on one side of the plate.
     No garnish is necessary!
     This simple Balkan style deli appetizer platter really pleases guests!

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