Sunday, September 29, 2013
Friday, September 27, 2013
Georgia and the Ukraine boast more moderate climates than the other nations that once made up the Soviet Union and have long supplied fruit and vegetables across the region. Specialties rely on fresh ingredients and a variety of flavorful sauces (served with meat and fish) of tomato, plum, pomegranate and more. These thin slices of eggplant were rolled around a tasty creamy walnut paste. One of many typical combinations of nut meats and vegetables.
Several regions have their version of Khatchapuri, a tasty cheese filled bread. But this was my first time tasting the Georgian version, Adjarian Khatachapuri. Tender dough holds a lake of melted cheese (and probably oil) with a raw egg in the center. As instructed by my friend I rubbed the supplied pat of butter over the dough and then tossed the remainder in with the egg and gave the center ingredients a good stir with my fork. Then you dip torn pieces of the surrounding dough into the creamy sauce created in the middle. A new benchmark for world bread and cheese cuisine and the start of my Moscow ethnic eating tour.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Part of a Moscow mini-chain, Breakfast -- which is open until 11 pm and seems busiest for dinner -- features retro American style baked goods, sandwiches, salads and yes Russian interpretations of breakfast items to stylishly clad young professional patrons following up their very California style arugula and chicken salads with mountainous plates of fluffy banana pancakes.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
I've wandered into Maison Paul, a downtown Moscow coffee bar and bakery. In the twenty years or so since the iron curtain fell (or maybe it was just pulled back) Russia has invited the world in. Where once the upper classes spoke French as a status symbol today they flock into French (and American) themed cafe's. The grocery stores stock borscht and caviar and smoked fish of every variety but the streets are full of frothy lattes (even in French cafe's the coffee is "Italian"), bagette sandwiches, and croissants.
I'm still searching for my stroganoff and a glimpse of what I though Russia would be, but for now the coffee is pretty darned good.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Last year I put up a few jars of sauce and they came in handy over and over again adding flavor to soups and stews and braises and sauces. I decided on an easy cook batch of Sicilian style tomato sauce.
I was feeling pretty lazy by the time my sauce was ready to jar. I thought about just pouring some into freezer containers and tucking them away. But my sauce was so thick and beautiful (and tasty), I knew I would miss seeing the filled jars on the pantry shelf and hearing the satisfying thunk of a hot jar's seal setting. Out came the canning pot.
I processed the jars for about 10 minutes, wiped them clean and tucked them away for future meals. I had just a bit of sauce left in the pot with dinnertime on the way. I started a pot with olive oil, garlic, onions, and finely chopped peppers (there were fresh ones calling my name in the garden). As the aromatics sautéed I mixed up some easy meatballs. Ground pork and beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, chopped garlic, chopped shallots, basil, parsley, oregano, S&P and crushed red peppers, rolled around fresh cubes of mozzarella. A plain meatball with a surprise. I browned the meatballs in the pot with the onion mixture, poured in a little red wine and the leftover sauce and let everything simmer for about 30 minutes. The sauce was thick and rich and meaty. Just right for a cool fall evening. A perfect last meal at home (for a while).
Friday, September 20, 2013
Because the girls have been busy while I was away I poach a fresh egg in the bubbling broth and serve everything with a sprinkled of parmesan cheese. Everything is better with cheese.
Friday, September 6, 2013
Thursday, September 5, 2013
The Italian sauce tomato. Long a treasured heirloom, the San Marzano is also (and has been for nearly a century) the most important commercial tomato in Italy. Thick flesh, few seeds and a distinct full flavored almost bittersweet taste these thin red fruits are the only ones "allowed" to sauce "true Neopolitan pizza." Though my garden can't match the unique terroir of Campania's volcanic soil, I'm still looking forward to canning and making my own sauce with these lovely red heirlooms.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Equally good fresh or pickled when our vines are most prolific I preserve our harvest by making several jars of Joan Nathan's Hungarian cucumber salad. It keeps for a couple weeks even and makes a great side for sandwiches or grilled meats.
Slice cucumbers very thinly, about 1/4 - 1/8 inch on a mandolin -- and layer the slices, sprinkled with plenty of salt -- into a colander. Nathan calls for two cucumbers ( regular sized cucumbers, Persians are smaller) and 1 tsp salt. I always at least double or triple the recipe and generally use closer to 1TB of salt (or even a touch more) for each 3-4 Persian cucs. After the cucumbers have sat (weighted with a heavy dish or pot) for about an hour, I squeeze out the excess water (if there is any that didn't drip through the colander) and combine them with one large onion sliced as thinly as the cucumbers. Next I mix together 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup water, a pinch of sugar, and a healthy grating of black pepper and pour the liquid over the cucumbers and onions and let the salad marinate for a few hours. The result is pickle-y and bright and summery. A great make ahead salad for picnics and parties and guests.
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Sunday, September 1, 2013
And yet --as it goes with dinners that aren't so good -- we had a lot left over. Originally when I looked at that pork roast I thought tacos and veered away thinking it was too easy and obvious an answer. This time tacos would save me. The first time around the meat was tough. In its second time around I knew slow cooking with lots of liquid would help turn that leftover roast into tender taco morsels.
I started with onions, hot peppers and garlic in a pan with hot olive oil and let them cook until a bit soft. Then I added in the roast, now cut into smaller than single bite cubes, along with chili powder, chili peppers, oregano, cumin and paprika. After just a few minutes I added in 1/2 a jar of tomatillo salsa I found in the fridge, about 1 cup of chicken broth and a splash of hot sauce and let everything simmer slowly until the now tender pork was coated with a spicy, flavorful sauce.
Resting in a warm tortilla, topped with onions cilantro and cheese a past pork mishap quickly became second helping tacos. Taco salvation.