Sunday, December 29, 2013

Krusedol Monastery - Fruska Gora, Serbia

The Fruska Gora is a mountain massif in the Vojvodina province of Serbia and has been referred to as the "jewel of Serbia" because of its beauty. It is 50 miles from east to west and 9 miles from north to south with a high peak of 1,768 feet in elevation. Fruska Gora means "Frankish mountain" referring to a time when the area was part of the Frankish Empire.  The slopes are covered with orchards and vineyards and there are areas of dense deciduous trees, including the largest concentration of lime trees in Europe. The valleys are covered with meadows, pastures and cornfields. The area has one of the oldest wine traditions in Europe. There were massive plantings of vines there during the third century reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus. There are 23 villages and several towns on the edge of the mountain and at one time there were 38 monasteries of the Serbian Orthodox Church, endowed by the Serbian royal family from the 15th to 18th centuries. There is no other area of the world with a greater concentration of monasteries, including Mount Athos and Mount Sinai. In fact, Fruska Gora is sometimes called the Mount Athos of Serbia. 17 of the monasteries still exist. I have previously posted on the Novo Hopovo Monastery and the Staro Hopovo Monastery, also on Fruska Gora. 
A roadside stand selling fruit grown on the Fruska Gora.
Krusedol Monastery was built between 1509 and 1515 by Bishop Maksim Brankovic on the southern Fruska Gora near the village of Irig. The monastery church is dedicated to the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin. It was originally built in a Moravian architectural style, with a three-leaved clover floor plan, with an altar apse and two semi-circular side apses. It has an eight-sided dome with eight windows which sits above the nave (main body of the church). The monastery was heavily damaged in 1716 when retreating Turks, fleeing before Prince Eugene of Savoy and his Christian armies, set it aflame. The fire destroyed the relics of the Brankovic family, but what remains of them are preserved in special coffins. As a result of the fire, the church was renovated in a baroque style, beginning in 1721 and completed in the late 1750s, and a five story bell tower was added. There are now nine baroque style windows on the facade.  On the western wall, above the entrance, is a fresco of the Last Judgment. The church has a beautiful iconostasis, believed carved in 1653, with 36 icons, including one from the 15th century. 
The monastery is surrounded by a fence and the entrance gate is a large red church-looking building (this picture is taken from the inside looking out).
A closer look at the church-like entrance structure.
Mosaic in the entrance structure.
Mosaic in the entrance structure.
The monastery itself looks a lot like Novo Hopovo, with yellow buildings a red roof and a church in the inner court inside the rectangular structure. However, unlike Novo Hopovo, this rectangle is completely enclosed and the buildings are painted white in the inner court. 
The church inside the rectangular walls. The altar apse is at the back, one of the side apses is to the right and the bell tower is at the right. 
Inside the monastery walls are beautiful flowers and grounds.

Monastery products.
Honey and honey packed with nuts and dried fruit: we bought one of the latter and it was very good.
The monastery's own wine with a monastery label. 
The dome, center, the bell tower to the right which is disconnected from the church - the entrance is in front of the bell tower.
Back of the church.
View which includes the front of the church., taken from here.
One of the Baroque windows.
Small cross on the back roof.
The eight-sided dome with eight windows.
A monument embedded in the church wall: a crown over two Russian style eagles on top of a lion or some other sort of wild beast.
Fresco above the entrance. 
Portion of the entrance fresco.
Portion of entrance fresco.
Portion of entrance fresco.
Inside frescoes: we could not take picture inside, so this picture is taken from here.
Inside frescoes: taken from here.
Inside frescoes: taken from here.
Iconostasis: from here.
Portion of iconostasis: from here.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Buffalo Tongue Stew: Basque Style

I"ve not had a lot of experience eating or cooking tongue. I've cooked beef tongue once before, and sheep tongue, both with mixed results. In both cases, I didn't enjoy them as much as I might have otherwise because my mind colored the experience. I've had and enjoyed a lengua taco and really enjoyed buffalo tongue and pig tongue on special occasions at restaurants when I didn't have to prepare it.  So, I felt some pride as I recently made and absolutely loved a tongue dish. It was buffalo tongue purchased from Whisper Mountain Ranch in Oak Glen. Whisper Mountain recently slaughtered three buffalo (or I guess technically bison) and one tongue was available: it was 1.72 pounds. 

I found a wonderful looking recipe for Beef Tongue Stew Basque Style on the internet and decided to use it. I'm still kind of getting used to the whole tongue structure. The part of the tongue we see is just the tip of the iceberg, there is a whole part embedded in the mouth we don't see. The recipe called for a 3 pound beef tongue, but I really didn't alter it much for the 1.72 pound buffalo tongue. 
The structure of the tongue beyond what we see is quite amazing. 

First, using a saucepan, I covered the tongue with water, then added two cut-up carrots, a quartered yellow onion and 15 peppercorns. This was brought to a boil and then simmered for 2 1/2 hours. 
Tongue in saucepan with onions, carrots and peppercorns.
Second, in another saucepan I made a sauce starting with 1/4 cup of olive oil, two chopped onions (the recipe called for two cups, I used a little more than that), about 15 cloves of garlic lightly chopped (the recipe called for 8 cloves crushed), and three chopped up peppers (two red and a yellow - the recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of diced green pepper). These were sauteed for about 10 minutes, then I added two 14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes without the juice, a four ounce can of diced green chiles (the recipe said to puree them, but I didn't) and a little more than four cups of stock (about three vegetable and one plus beef - the recipe called for five cups of beef stock). These were covered and simmered for an hour. Then I uncovered the pan and simmered them for another hour. 
Second saucepan with sauce.
Third, back to the first saucepan, I removed the tongue and saved the broth for another dish, and peeled the outer layer off. Then I cut the tongue into quarter-inch slices crosswise and discarded the first quarter-inch slice from the back. These sections were added to the sauce in the second saucepan and simmered covered for 45 minutes. 
Tongue after simmering.
The cooked tongue before the outer layer is removed.
The outer layer is in a pile in front and the remaining tongue is behind. 
The tongue sliced into quarter-inch slices.
The sliced tongue from another angle.
One slice of tongue in the sauce.
Tongue in the sauce.
This is by-far the best tongue I've had. It was melt-in-your mouth moist, and had the texture and taste of very good steak. This recipe is a real winner and if you can get beyond the mental part of the dish, it is amazingly good. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Cathedral of St. Nicholas - Sremski Karlovci, Serbia

Sremski Karlovci, Serbia is located on the Danube River about five miles from Novi Sad. From 1698 to 1699 Sremski Karlovci was the site of a negotiation between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy League which was a coalition including the Habsburg Empire, Poland, Venice, and Russia. The negotiation resulted in the Treaty of Karlowitz and the town became part of the Habsburg Empire. Just 13 year later, in 1712, Sremski Karlovci became the patriarchate for the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Habsburg Empire. As a result, many Serbs who had been under Ottoman rule emigrated to this area which transformed it into a strong center for Orthodoxy and the cultural capital of Serbian Vojvodina. The Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas was started in 1758 and completed in 1762 and from the outside it looks pretty ordinary. There is a fun four lion fountain out front, which has become the symbol of Karlovci, made out of red marble. 
Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Sremski Karlovci. Note the four lion fountain in front. 
Closer view of two of the four lions on the fountain.
St. Nicholas adorns the facade between the two front towers. Note his white beard and red vestments. 
Christ above the main entrance.
But on the inside, the iconostasis is the height of Baroque work in Vojvodina and the rest of the interior is full of color, beautiful stained glass and paintings. Even today, the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch retains the title of Metropolitan of Karlovci (look here for more on the Serbian Orthodox Church). 
Amazing floor to ceiling iconostasis. 
The Trinity in the iconostasis: Jesus, the Father and the Holy Ghost as a dove.
Jesus on the cross at the top of the iconostasis. Note that the cross is perched on a skull: Golgotha.
The inside of the dome. The angels remind me of those found in Hagia Sophia. See a close-up of the top-stained glass below which is faded-out in this picture.
The dove in the top stained glass. One of the prettier ones we've seen.
Beautiful and colorful stained glass.
Stained glass.
The chandelier hanging from the dome: emblematic of the crown of thorns. 
Close-up of one of the angels ringing the dome.
Underside of an arch.
Floor tiles.
Wood choir seats.
Beautiful, colorful, fake pillars.
Closer view of the top of a pillar.
With it being the Christmas season, it seemed appropriate to do a church dedicated to St. Nicholas, the basis for the modern Santa Claus (which comes from the Dutch derivation of St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas). St. Nicholas was a fourth century bishop in what is now Turkey. He was a participant in the First Council at Nicaea and one of the bishops that signed the Nicene Creed. He is known for secret gift giving which is where the Santa Claus legend stems from. For example, he became aware of three daughters in a poor family that could not afford a dowry for them. Without a dowry they could not marry and St. Nicholas was concerned they would turn to prostitution. So during the night, St. Nicholas went to the house at night and threw three purses filled with gold coins through the window so that each girl would have a dowry. No red suit, no reindeer and no chimney, apparently those portions of the legend developed later. In iconography, he is portrayed in different ways, sometimes with an omophorion, the vestment of a bishop, which is a band of brocade with four crosses and an eight-pointed star worn about the neck and shoulders. Sometimes he is an old man with a white fluffy beard (more shades of Santa Claus). 
St. Nicholas with his white beard and omophorion around his shoulders.
St. Nicholas again, this time in red.
St. Nicholas in stained glass.