Traditional recipes are an ideal way to preserve your heritage and teach younger generations about your culture.
Robert Serra and his wife, Marla, live in Kansas City, Kansas, and both actively support Slovenefest, a benefit for Holy Family Catholic Church. Robert is a retired district judge for Wyandotte County.
Q: What is your heritage and how did you learn to cook?
I am of Slovenian descent and my family came to the United States just prior to World War I.
You will notice I spell the name of my ancestral home, Slovenija, which is how I was taught and how they still spell it there. Both of my grandfathers were bakers in Slovenija and I still have relatives living there, so I enjoy traveling there often. Marla’s family is also Slovenian and we were married in a cathedral there.
I was born in my grandmother’s home in a rural area of southeast Kansas. My mother was very skilled in the kitchen, as she took over the task of cooking for her family at a young age.
I grew up helping Mom in the kitchen, so I learned to cook from her. I really enjoy cooking.
Q: What is the recipe you are sharing?
It is for polnjene paprike, or stuffed peppers, a recipe that will be served at Slovenefest. I got the recipe from my cousin Igor Bergent, who still lives in Slovenija. It is a family recipe that we serve all year round. I prepare the recipe in a roasting pan that I inherited from my mom.
Q: What is the Slovenefest and how are you involved?
Slovenefest is a festival that celebrates the Slovenian culture, plus the money raised benefits the Holy Family Catholic Church.
We have been involved with the festival for about 11 years and I have served as the master of ceremonies each of those years. I am a parishioner of Holy Family Catholic Church and play the organ there while my wife sings in the choir.
The festival will be held at the former Holy Family school ground, 513 Ohio, Kansas City, Kansas, on Saturday, Sept. 28, beginning with Mass at 4 p.m. After Mass there will be family games and activities, music, a silent auction and an authentic Slovenian dinner.
You will be able to enjoy the poljene paprike or you could choose sarma, which are stuffed cabbage rolls, krvavica, a specialty Slovenian sausage, kranjska klobasa, a smoked sausage, as well as sauerkraut, a Slovenian potato salad, green beans and apple strudel.
They will also serve potica, a tasty, traditional yeast bread in which very thin layers of dough are spread with sweetened nuts or other fillings, then the bread is rolled and baked. The Slovenian name for this bread is potica, while the Croatian name is povitica.
We want to teach younger generations about our culture so we will have a cultural booth at the festival. We get high school students to volunteer so we can encourage future generations to keep our history alive. It is a fun day and we invite the public to attend, to learn about our culture and enjoy our delicious food.
Polnjene Paprike (Stuffed Peppers)
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 cup rice
2 pounds ground beef, not cooked
2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons salt
Fresh minced parsley, to taste
6 to 8 medium green peppers
6 cups water
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, not drained
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
Paprika, to taste
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup vegetable oil
Cook the rice, according to package directions until the rice is partially cooked, but still slightly firm. Drain and place rice in a mixing bowl. Stir in the beef, onions, eggs, garlic, salt, and parsley.
Cut the top off the peppers and remove the seeds. Spoon the filling into the peppers.
To prepare the sauce, combine the water, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper and paprika in a Dutch oven or roasting pan. (Select a pan that will hold all the peppers in a single layer, allowing them to sit upright.)
Place the peppers, upright, in the sauce. Heat until boiling, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for 2 ½ hours. If the peppers appear to become dry or if the sauce boils down too much, partially cover the pan.
In a small saucepan, stir together the flour and oil, blending until smooth. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is golden brown.
Gently lift the peppers out of the sauce and arrange in a serving dish. Blend the flour-oil mixture into the sauce with the peppers. Cook, until thickened, stirring constantly.
Spoon the sauce over the peppers.
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Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore are cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. They have published over 14 cookbooks and thousands of recipes. They are members of Les Dames d’Escoffier and blog at pluggedintocooking.com
11th annual Slovenefest
Event begins with Mass at 4 p.m following by a traditional Slovenian dinner, along with a silent auction and games. Proceeds benefit Holy Family Church. 4-10 p.m. 513 Ohio St., Kansas City, Kansas. www.holyfamilychurchkck.com