Delicately dehydrated (aka sun-dried) tomatoes are extremely popular as a vegetarian snack, appetizer, or a dish element for many reasons. First of all, they add a concentrated flavor of fully ripe tomato to the dishes. They are sweet and tangy, light in calories and with an intense aroma. Now, imagine adding some campfire-like tasting notes to sun-dried tomatoes! It takes 10 minutes using Cameron’s stovetop smoker. Keep smoked tomatoes refrigerated in a jar and serve them on grilled bread rubbed with garlic, or on top of pasta and rice dishes, or add them to your favorite sauces and salsas. Enjoy the summer!
Today, canning vegetables at home is mostly reasonable for farmers, I guess, who grow vegetables and need to preserve their harvest. Pickling, on the other hand, is a simple and quick cooking method for summer vegetables. Unlike many overwhelmingly spicy, salty, and vinegary store-bought pickles (they have to be that way for shelf life), homemade pickles can be forgivingly gentle. We can protect their natural flavors, texture, and most importantly, keep their nutrients! Make a few jars at a time, keep them refrigerated, and enjoy your cold, crunchy, refreshing, healthy, comforting vegetables — a great snack to survive Texas summer.
For those who have never tasted most of the greens on the picture, it probably looks bizarre. A few of my followers commented the same: “It’s a flowerbed!” The truth is, all flavors here are balanced, all herbs work together. It’s fun to taste one of each and recognize a special note that belongs to a plant, and then let your salad fork work and create a perfect load for a full of spring bite.
Everybody knows what Limoncello is. Not everybody knows how it should taste. I don’t. I haven’t been to Italy and didn’t have a chance to get a sip of “as good as Nonna’s” Limoncello. Nevertheless, there is an ideal flavor I am looking for every time I buy a promising bottle of this authentic, imported from Southern Italy liqueur. So far, it’s always been a disappointment. Maybe an authentic Limoncello is about lemon zest, not a lemon? Maybe our local lemons are not good enough?
Talk to people from the Middle East about hummus, and the first thing you hear is that this dip in the U.S. is nothing like the one they enjoy at home. According to my Israeli friend, the right variety of chickpeas play the leading role. Latin American chickpeas are better for soups and salads because they are larger, firmer, and stay whole when cooked. The best for hummus are pea-size chickpeas known as Baladi in Israel. They become soft and easily smashed between fingers when cooked. Unfortunately, in the United States, all chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are labeled the same, unless you shop for them at ethnic stores. And even if you make a trip to an ethnic grocery store, Indian for example, the chickpea names will be specific to Indian cuisine — larger Kabuli and smaller Desi aka chana dhal. Choosing the right chickpeas variety is not really an option for an average grocery shopper who craves for amazing hummus. What is the option then?
The original chutneys come from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal cuisines. They can be made of fresh or cooked ingredients. Their texture varies from smooth to chunky. To prolong their shelf life, they can be fermented or cooked with vinegar, citrus juice, or tamarind puree. There are many variations, and recipes vary from region to region.
Today chutney is a large category of condiments made of spiced fruits and vegetables. In addition to traditional Asian condiments, there are American and European (aka Major Grey’s style) chutneys that became popular in western cuisines. This recipe is based on the classic Anglo-Indian version with apples and raisins. Serve smoked apple chutney with mild cheddar, ham, roasted pork, poultry, on top of baked brie, etc. This chutney will beautifully flavor brown stock and demi-glace sauces.
May this holiday season bring joy to your heart and a pleasure to your taste buds! Thank you for being Lyukum Cooking Lab friends!
Mzhave Combosto is widely popular in former Soviet countries appetizer made with cabbage and beetroot. Since it belongs to the Georgian cuisine, it is also known as Georgian or Guria-style cabbage. Word MZHAVE literally means salted, fermented, or pickled. There are variations in different regions of Georgia (e.g., in Guria, Imereti, and Kakheti). Some cooks prefer natural fermentation when other add vinegar to pickle vegetables. Some recipes make the cabbage more hot and pungent, while other are not heavy with spices and herbs. Every household adjusts the recipe to the taste. The common ingredients are juicy white cabbage, beetroot, garlic, and chile pepper. Celery is also often in the list.
In Ukraine, we have a similar recipe — Pelyustka. The name comes from the word “petal” probably because pickled with beets cabbage leaves look like pink flower petals.
An inspiration for this recipe came from two unexpected directions. My friend, pastry chef Diana, mentioned her based on sweet Spanish coca seasonal hit with candied pumpkin and pine nuts. The day I processed half of my Cinderella pumpkin for this dessert, we were invited for dinner — our neighbors threw a party for their visiting Puerto-Rican relatives. To my surprise, among other delicacies, I found chunks of candied pumpkin served as an appetizer to pair with queso fresco. My neighbor explained it was seasonal and traditional calabaza en tacha. I ran home to bring my version to share, and we were enjoying them side by side. While Latin American candied pumpkin is darker, sweeter, spicier, and made of whole or big chanks, Diana’s is grated, doesn’t use any spices, elegantly citrusy, and light. If you stop on earlier stages, pumpkin flavor will be recognizable. If you continue until most of the moisture is evaporated, your guests won’t be able to say what this treat is made of. I’ve heard people comparing it to other fruit from apricot to quince.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.
Edward Lear — 1871 Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets
“The Owl and the Pussy-Cat”
I’ve seen it at the Central Market almost always available but never considered buying because of the price. Then a month ago, I came to shop for something else to the H Mart, and its fragrance attracted me from the moment I entered the fresh produce department. I followed the perfumed scent and after a few turns found a pile of quince with smooth golden skin. It was impossible to miss and irresistible.
Quince is known as one the most difficult fruit to approach. It is tough to prep and long to cook. I’ve been thinking is there a way to cook it elegantly and effortlessly?
I thought learning how to make soba at Cooking Sun would be fun but impractical skill. How would I find proper buckwheat flour and soba making tools in the U.S.? Little I knew! This summer, soba became my favorite meal.