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.
As you know, the main ingredient of basic ceviche recipe is fresh raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juices and seasoned with salt, chili peppers, onions, and fresh cilantro. Ceviche de pulpo, or octopus ceviche can be made with cooked octopus. This ceviche is good for those who avoid eating uncooked fish (acid marinades do not provide the same level of food safety as heat cooking). In case of cooked octopus, we don’t need large amounts of citric juices and hours of marinating to cause denaturation of the proteins. We mostly add flavor, and the level of acidity in ceviche can be adjusted to your taste.
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.
It’s amusing to read historical recipes and observe how the perception of foods changes over time. At first, all those stories about delicacies we highly value today being served as dog or prison food in old times seem shocking and funny. On the second thought, it’s logical. It’s in human nature to praise what is not easily available and disregard what is more abundant. Oysters are different. “There were always oysters, and there were those to praise them.” Are oysters to be admired forever?
Antipasti, or little cold and hot appetizers used to be served before the main course with the intention to whet an appetite. Modern eating habits have changed. A variety of small plates often replaces a complete meal. This warm artichoke and seafood salad with melted cheese is an example of how versatile this traditional combination of ingredients is. Slight preparation modifications and you can serve it as a warm salad or appetizer, or with pasta, or on pizza. No herbs, spices, or other strongly aromatic ingredients overpower the delicate flavors of artichokes and seafood. Moderate seasoning and good extra virgin olive oil are all we need to make this dish shine.
Korean-Style carrot salad is another phenomenon of Soviet cuisine nad my favorite way of eating carrots. Julienned carrots are seasoned with salt (and sugar if needed) and quickly marinated with spices, chili peppers, vinegar, and vegetable oil. Due to its popularity all over former Soviet republics and now internationally, there are variations for spices, the level of heat from chili peppers, for kinds of vinegar and oils to use, and where oil should be cold or hot. This recipe is my family version adapted to local, not very sweet carrots.
This recipe is classic French/European recipe for chicken liver pate, except for the first step with soaking livers in starchy ice bath. Most recipes include soaking livers in milk. “It is often said that milk improves the taste, purges blood, lightens the color, or affects some other property of the meat.” (“Modernist Cuisine” (Nathan Myhrvold, p. 147) Soaking lean proteins in cold water (or flavored liquids) mixed with starch is “velveting”, a technique used to prevent delicate foods from overcooking. I’ve heard about it first from my Japanese friend and then found more in Chinese Gastronomy by Hsiang Ju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin.