Those who are familiar with Georgian and Azerbaijani cuisines can easily identify the origins of this recipe. In Georgia, kefalia, a small trout from the mountains of Adjara is stuffed with walnut paste seasoned and adorned with aromatics and herbs and roasted in a clay pot ketsi. A similar way of stuffing and roasting fish (and also poultry and eggplants) is known as Lavangi — a popular festive dish of Azerbaijani cuisine.
Both beet varieties in this salad are an heirloom. Detroit red beets are the most popular, often described as “old standard.” Touchstone Gold roots have bright yellow flesh and retain their color when cooked. They are smooth, sweet and tasty, highly flavorful. Creamy Feta dressing with a touch of garlic compliments them, and the toppings add to their beauty. If you like a combination of earthy-sweet and pungent-salty, this salad is for you!
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?
I say those are lucky who have never tasted certain delicacies because they don’t know what they are missing. If you didn’t enjoy eating fresh creamy and dreamy melt-in-your-mouth soy milk skins in Kyoto — kumiyage yuba — you obviously don’t miss it. With a tiny drop of freshly grated wasabi and diluted with dashi soy sauce for dipping, it is something to crave for. Fortunately, it is easy to make at home.
The longer I lived in the States, the more I realized it’s possible to find almost anything in specialty food stores and online. And later, traveling places and getting edible gifts from around the world proved that unfathomable are the ways of experiencing delicious food. A few years ago, this crepes recipe sounded exotic to me because of its unusual ingredients. Later, it became an illustration for the provocative statement above. Being curious is fun!
Are crêpes better when they’re turned into cones? (c) I remember Tokyo pastry houses and bakeries surprised me. It seemed like Japanese pastry chefs took the best from European traditions and creations and perfected them even more. It was true for inexpensive street food and for desserts at luxurious, exclusive places. So, don’t be surprised to see many videos and blog stories full of excitement about Japanese crepe cones, which became a common street food in Japan. Crème Brûlée crepe cone is also a Japanese idea. I saw the pictures and I wanted it! Is it possible to make it at home without special equipment (large diameter crepe makers, spreaders, etc.)?
A batch of 24 crepes (see a link to my favorite crepes recipe in Recipe Notes) provides 3-4 days of different breakfasts and lunches for two every week. Make crepes in advance, keep them covered with plastic wrap in a refrigerator, and quickly serve an endless variety of foods! With a pile of crepes and two more simple ingredients like ground meat and BBQ sauce, you can make a quick, attractive, and filling appetizer for unexpected (or expected) friends. Serve it in individual ramekins or a large baking dish — easy to grab bite-size rolls will be gone in no time! Thus the name.
Crepes — a type of very thin pastry — exist in the majority of world cuisines. Nevertheless, when I discovered Italian crespelle, it was a surprise for me. Italian cuisine is associated with pasta and pizza in my mind, so I assumed Italians would rather use flour for those. While going through many crespelle recipes, it became clear that crepes in Italy are mostly used as a quick version of stuffed pasta. When stuffed, rolled, and baked covered with sauce and grated cheese, they relate to cannelloni. When stuffed, folded into triangles (fazzoletti di crespelle or “crepe handkerchiefs”), and baked with a sauce and grated cheese, they are a shortcut for lasagna, aren’t they?
I kept this recipe unpublished for so long because it is part of my favorite party trick. I let my guests taste the ice cream and ask them to name four ingredients they think were used to make it. I hear all kind of answers — caramel, toffee, some say vanilla bean seeds because they see tiny black dots, etc. Everybody is genuinely surprised when I name them — milk, sugar, eggs, and butter.
I divide all Harissa recipes into three groups: basic, variable, and exquisite ones. For basic harissas, the list of ingredients is shorter — dried chiles bring heat and fruity flavors, cumin and coriander represent spices, garlic (often sun-dried) adds pungence, salt, and olive oil. Variable harissas may include sun-dried tomatoes and fire roasted sweet peppers, onion, and herbs. Extra fancy harissas have an extensive list of spices and herbs and even include Damask rosebuds. My recipe belongs to the second category.