Steamed Buns: Char Siu Bao

It feels like an ode to pork belly! I can’t stop cooking it since my experiments with Ukrainian-style salo. After salo I wanted to make chashu, and this morning I woke up craving for char sui bao — super soft and fluffy steamed buns filled with flavorful barbecued pork.

February 20, 2017
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Red Pozole

Toppings are my favorite part of this soup. I think they are what makes this traditional Mexican soup exceptional from the taste and texture point of view as well as its serving and eating experience. I like how some recipe authors refer to pozole as a “soup-salad,” because so many raw ingredients are added to a hot bowl of soup right before eating it.

January 21, 2017
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Tortilla Soup

Tortilla soup is one of the most popular Mexican soups. Google it, and you can easily get tons of “classic” recipes and even more variations. The base is always the same — dry red chili peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, tortilla chips, cilantro, and lime. In some recipes tortilla chips are used to thicken the soup, in other, they are the topping. In central Mexico, this soup flavor is defined by pungent and tangy thin fleshed pasilla, in Michoacan region it’s a fruity and mild ancho, in Puebla a smokey chipotle takes the place. There are also a variety of additional toppings from cooked meat and poultry to avocado, cheese, and cream. Every local chef or home cook features the best regional ingredients in this soup. I often joke comparing tortilla soup in Mexican cuisine to borsch in Ukrainian.

January 20, 2017
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Winter Salads: Sunshine and Frost

…It’s so cold outside and so warm and cozy in our tiny kitchen. We can’t wait for lunch! I peel the radishes and one big apple. My Mom grates them. We season and toss them with a touch of salt, honey, apple cider vinegar, and homemade sunflower oil, and sit down for a little snack. This salad is white like snow and fresh and sharp like cold air. Every time black radish becomes available, I make this salad for the pleasure to experience white Winter sensations again…

November 22, 2016
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Cranberry Gems

It’s cranberry harvest season! Have you been missing fresh cranberries? Like many other passionate cooks, I have my favorite recipes that call for fresh cranberries — sauces, pickles, jams, etc. This one is neither. Why do I call the gems? Imagine a whole bright berry, still tart inside, but with thin sweet glossy coating outside. I usually make a batch of 3-4 jars, keep them refrigerated, and use for everything — to decorate cakes and pastries, to add to salads, to serve it with soft creamy cheese or greek yogurt, to top oatmeal with honey, to drop a few berries into the hot demi-glace based sauce for meat and poultry, to make quick cold and hot sparkling drinks — the list is endless.

October 10, 2016
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Dumplings: Vareniky with Black and Red Currants

I don’t have an explanation why we’ve never made dumplings with red and black currants at home. My Mom used to add currents to the sauce, but never fill dumplings with them. It’s funny that I am tasting this well known version of Ukrainian varenyki only now, so far from home, in Texas, where currants are exotic! I asked myself why dumplings with tart cherries and currants are so popular in Eastern European countries. I think, the key is the intensity of sweet and sour flavors rounded with soft dough and a little bit of cream or butter. Many other fruit and berries change its flavor when cooked, but tart cherries and currants keep it well and tease our taste buds with every bite!

August 4, 2016
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Red and Black Currants Tart

I suppose, there are not so many people in ATX who know what black, red, or white currants are. I am sure there are even less people who crave for these berries so much they are ready to pay $5-6 for 6oz (170g). That’s why, I guess, Central Market gets just enough fresh currants to satisfy crazies like me during the season. Currants appear for a few days. And gone. Obviously, I can’t just eat them. I have to make something special with them. Last year, it was Air Chrysalis: Bubbles Bubbles. This year I made “Red and Black Passion” tart with the same idea for textures — creamy and silky background for popping with bright flavor red and black bubbles. No tricks! All effects are purely natural.

July 21, 2016
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Baked Rice with Pineapple — Khao Ob Sapparod

This recipe is part of the Taste of Thai cooking classes (BLOCK 1: Sense of Cuisine. Introduction to Thai flavors, curry pastes, nam phrik kaeng). Pineapple rice is simple to make either for 2-3 people, or for a big crowd. It can be plated or beautifully served in halved pineapple boats. It’s a good way to use cooked long grain rice leftovers, as well as cooked lean meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetables. Personally, I cook all the ingredients for this dish form scratch. There are recipes that use only fish sauce and white pepper for seasoning. They are good for those who can’t tolerate any heat. I prefer variations with Thai green, red, and yellow curry pastes, adding more or less of them depending to my guests requests for the level of heat. I tried many ways to cook and serve this dish — all of them are delicious!

July 4, 2016
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My Hawaii: Poke

Today (I mean 21 century, covid19 will pass), when people travel more, and so many places become more accessible and affordable, exotic foods become well known and loved all over the world. That is also true for Poke. It doesn’t really need any introduction these days. So, I’ll skip it. I’ll only say that below are versions that are considered sort of classic. They can be transformed creatively into many poke dishes and appetizers by substituting ingredients and adding more elements. 

Poke can be easily made for dinner or lunch for two or can be served buffet-style for summer parties along with tropical cocktails or beer/sake, fruit salads, etc. Poke is a filling yet light food for hot weather — doesn’t require heat to make and served cold.

June 21, 2016
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My Hawaii: Lomi Lomi

The name of this salad comes from its cooking method. Lomi lomi today is a term for “massage therapist” or “Hawaiian massage.” In Hawaiian, the word lomi traditionally used to describe an action of kneading, rubbing, or soothing, just like happy or content cats do. It is documented that for ages Hawaiians have beed preparing fresh fish salads by mixing diced ingredients — fish, sweet Maui onions, tomatoes, and salt — and gently massaging them with hands, letting fish to get cured by salt and vegetable juices.

June 17, 2016
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