One of our happier surprises last summer was going to dinner with some friends at a place they chose, Restoran Oskar in Dorćol. This was in fact a place we had passed hundreds of times but never noticed, its appearance is not remarkable from the outside and not much more remarkable inside (when we arrived, we were the only customers save for a couple of cops who were watching a football match). The food was traditional and perfectly prepared, and nicely set off by good rakija and some outstanding Slovenian wine.
Like in so many good places, the best approach at Oskar is to ignore the menu and ask the waiter what is good today. On that day they were featuring sarme (lamb sarme!) with raštan kupus, and the waiter more or less insisted that we have this Montenegrin specialty. Everyone at the dinner will support me in saying these were the best sarme we had eaten in our lives. And naturally we became addicted to raštan, got it and made some sarme of our own, and began to lament the fate the fate that awaited us on our return to a forlornly raštan-free Massachusetts. Apparently other lovers of that little slice of leafy heaven have confronted the same problem.
But now a friend of East Ethnia writes in to tell us that, after exhaustive and delicious research, he has determined that raštan is nothing more or less than that humble and hearty (and monumentally healthy) Southern staple, the collard green. I love them, children hate them, and the bitterness can be turned into a fine sweetness by sauteeing them with a bit of vinegar. Anyone who is intimidated by their healthiness should be reassured by the fact that they go best with some nice, greasy, salty smoked meat.
This also solves an old East Ethnian mystery. Way back in 2006, we posted a photo of a proud farmer with what had to be the biggest kupus anyone had seen. A canny philologist noted that it looked a lot like blitva. Well, there you have it.