It was the first recipe I learned as a child, and it became my signature dish. I was extremely proud to be able to make these sweets for the whole family all by myself. They sort of disappeared from my adult menu. I don’t even remember when I made them for the last time. A request to make them for the coming Fat Thursday surprised me. I had no idea they are traditional carnival sweets! For me, making them was another chance to reminisce about my childhood, family, home… Thank you.
Until a few days ago, I was sure Polish Pączki have something to do with Easter bread Paska because for a Russian speaking person this word looks like it should sound the same. I was wrong, and I was wrong. Apparently, Pączki are pronounced POONCH-key [ˈpɔnt͡ʂkʲi] and are similar to what I know as Ponchiki from my childhood. Only now I discovered their name came to Russian from the Polish language!
If you read about original Salsa Macha, you’ll see that there is a reason for its name. Salsa Macha comes from Veracruz region that features extremely hot chile peppers comapeños available only locally. It’s a truly fiery condiment. When this salsa is made in other regions of Mexico, comapeños are replaced with other hot peppers (e.g., arbol). I admired this condiment not so much for its heat, but for the bold and intense flavors. To adjust it for my palate, I combine my favorite dry and fresh red chile peppers, which are fruity and smokey, but pretty mild.
Think broccoli with thinner and more fibrous stalks and stems. That’s huazontle, just with more tiny green buds and fewer stems and leaves. Huazontle bud clusters are simmered in salty water for 5-15 minutes (different sources give different timing) first. Then they are cooked as tortas (patties), which are formed by pressing huazontle clusters around a portion of queso fresco, dipped in flour then into an egg foam, and deep-fried. This recipe is sort of the same, but deconstructed.
I was convinced acaraje deserve all the efforts and time to make them, when found sources naming them Brazilian falafel. Everybody loves falafel! They are a true find for people who follow gluten-free diet, but crave for spongy wheat bread texture. Acaraje’s texture is exactly as it looks on the picture — light and fluffy, doughnut-like.
My first XO sauce was a gift from Taiwan. Three little jars with shrimp, scallops, and assorted seafood flavors looked very expensive. I opened the first jar, sniffed, and immediately liked its complex flavor. The sauce went into a variety of stir-fries and I was gone in the blink of an eye!
Asian cooks claim that homemade XO sauce is always better than commercial. It makes sense, obviously, if all ingredients are available. In Austin, find them in MT Supermarket.
Chef J got us one of authentic recipes for the class. We made it, and the whole school came to taste our falafel — the best I ever had. I remember other chef-instructors couldn’t believe it was truly vegan and gluten-free, with no wheat flour added to the mix.