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A family recipe for a beloved Bosnian dish

ERIC DEGGANS, HOST:

Every family has that one dish, the recipe that takes you back to childhood. Starting this month, NPR's sharing your kitchen gems in a series called All Things We're Cooking. We asked our audience to send us their special family recipes, and we're sharing those favorites along with the stories behind them. Today, we're hearing from Miriam Madetovic (ph), who shares a silly name her family uses for a beloved Bosnian dish.

MIRIAM MADETOVIC: My name is Miriam Madetovic. I am 27 years old. I was a refugee baby, born in Germany. My parents were refugees of the civil war that we had in Bosnia. And then they were accepted into the States a couple of years after I was born. We lived in the States until 2003. And then we moved back to Bosnia.

So the dish is called kljukusa. I think the easiest way to describe it to somebody who's never had it is like a baked latka. So it's made with grilled (ph) potato mostly, grated onions, egg as a binder, flour. And then it is poured into a large pan and then baked. Oftentimes, it's covered with a yogurt garlic sauce. It's kind of like an easy, fast dinner recipe that a lot of families make. While I was living in the States, my parents put in a lot of effort into teaching us about our culture, my country, our language and the food. My mom always put effort into making Bosnian foods like pita (ph) that's very similar to what a lot of people known as spanakopita, which is Greek.

And so when we moved back to Bosnia, when I was in second grade, I spoke technically some Bosnian. And with both of my parents working, my grandmother took care of both me and my sister during the day. And so one evening, she was prepping kljukusa. And I, as the curious second grader who didn't know boundaries, I was like, what is this? What are you making? What is this? And she was explaining to me, she first told me it's kljukusa. I was like, what is that? And then she would tell me how she makes it. And I'm like, OK, but what is it? And then she would tell me what the flavors are like, what the texture is like. And she was so, so patient with me.

And then, you know, like from all of the onions, like, the tears streaming down her eyes, she stopped. She looked at me. And she was like, you know what? It's kind of like pita's cousin. And then that, like, that just made all the sense to me in that moment. And ever since then, we call it cousin. Even now, I had to call my family to ask what cousin actually is, what is the formal name? And we have funny conversations of, hey, mom, what are you making for dinner? Oh, I'm making cousin. Mom, I'm really craving cousin for dinner. Oh, mom, could you maybe put a little bit more garlic on the sauce when you make cousin? And it's even weird for people, like, in our own native language. And out of context, it just doesn't make any sense. But it's that, like, little funny thing that we still carry. I love my grandma a lot. She's one of my favorite people.

DEGGANS: Miriam Madetovic. of it. She spoke to us from her home in Michigan. The rest of the All Things We're Cooking series is online at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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