OPA!!! This past week I got a chance to cook at a real down to earth Mediterranean café called Apropo. JeremyCooks will soon be starting a series of Cookisodes in front of live audiences. Our first show won’t be for a couple of weeks but that doesn’t mean we can’t start working on future shows. Located in East Boca Raton, Florida, near Royal Palm Plaza and Mizner Park, Apropo offers a wide variety of Mediterranean dishes. Orly and Robert Herscu, who own the café, are definitely one of a kind. Being from Bulgaria and Romania they pull all the traditional recipes and ingredients from the Mediterranean itself. When I got to Apropo I immediately noticed the “Mom & Pop” feel and it’s warm and cozy atmosphere. Orly greeted me with a kiss, one on each cheek (a European tradition) and immediately brought me into her kitchen. While Robert prepped for the day, Orly and I cooked our way through three authentic dishes.
Our first dish was Orly’s famous vegetable soup, filled with carrots, onions, celery, sweet potatoes and more. According to Orly her secret is the sautéed chopped onions with not one, but two kinds of paprika, Hungarian and Spanish. She says it really makes for a flavorful soup. Instead of regular russet potatoes she uses sweet potatoes, which gives a sweet bite to the soup. I cut the carrots into half moons; I diced the sweet potatoes, sliced the celery, and chopped the onion. Once the vegetables have sweated, Orlys own bouillon is added along with water and the soup is brought to a simmer. Next we made a Romanian salad that is made with grilled eggplant, tomato, cucumber, radishes, and of course feta cheese (which Orly and Robert claim is Bulgarian). After that we started to make the Babaganoush which is an old Arabian dish made with Tahini, which is a paste made from ground sesame seeds (its also the base for hummus). The Tahini, by itself has a bitter taste to it, but is flavored with garlic and lemon juice. Orly had previously grilled the eggplant and mashed it up, which is a main component in Babaganoush. She mixes the mashed eggplant and Tahini together, spreads it on a plate and tops it off with olive oil. Lastly we made Hummus. Hummus (for those who do not know what it is) is a dish of Mediterranean origin. The word hummus translates to chickpeas, which is the main ingredient in the dish. Tahini is added to the chickpeas, which are then pulsed to a paste. It is served as an appetizer with warm pita bread.
At the end of the “lesson” my dad joined Orly and I as we sat down to enjoy this Mediterranean feast. All I can say is that the meal was exceptional. The soup was flavorful, the salad was refreshing the Babaganoush was one of a kind and the hummus was one of the best I’ve ever had. I enjoyed it even more personally knowing the cook who prepared my meal. In the end it was an awesome experience learning from another extraordinary and noteworthy cook. I’ll hopefully be working with Orly for a live Cookisode in the upcoming weeks, preparing the wonderful dishes above. Keep on cooking