Cooking in Albania 101. When I was living with my host family, I came up with this grand plan of cooking great meals every night once moving to Lezhë. But cooking is a lot harder than I thought it would be; it requires time, planning, and patience. For the past year, I’ve been stretching what basic knowledge I have in the culinary arts and have pretty much stayed to the same basic dishes. Not to mention, contrary to the States, homemade Albanian cuisine is more expensive than it is at a restaurant (byrek, fasule, pilaf and qofte, pace, pule zgare, spec mbushur…).
With the return of sunshine and warmth, I find myself spending extra time at the duqan market, going through a list in my head of dream dishes to make. After all, never before in my life have I been forced to use ingredients in a different language, or foods I’m not sure about until a quick taste test. Never before coming here had I looked at a recipe, specifically at ingredients, searching to make sure my city has everything it requires. I went to the biggest store in town yesterday, that has a spice rack, to see if they carried cumin and ended up with ground ginger – zenzero. I should have known. I suspect I’ll be making ginger snaps (sans molasses) soon.
My adventure into the unknown world of cooking has started off slow, with a new meal every week or so; homemade tortillas last night was a breeze with my fancy Teflon pan. But my shining moment this week was carrot cake with a cream cheese frosting. ‘Twas a beauty.