Pretzels

Pretzels

Pretzels are my obsession. I like all of them, including soft Auntie Anne’s ones offered in most American malls and airports. No wonder pretzels were my point of interest during the trip to Hessen and Reinland-Pfalz states in Germany and Alsace region in France. Those I loved. The recipe below is my favorite version of homemade pretzels adjusted to locally available ingredients.

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As American As: Oysters

Oyster Loaf | La Mediatrice

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?

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As American As: Mincemeat Pie

Mincemeat pie

Even though American taste buds are known for the love of sweet and salty food combinations, traditional Mincemeat pie is seen today as an acquired taste. There are many implications on why early settlers combined savory meat and ingredients that are considered belonging to dessert dishes. Was it really for food preservation purposes or our ancestors were fond of bold flavors?

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Of Love and Hate: Brussels Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts with Cranberries, Barberries, and Smoked Blue Cheese

We kids feared many things in those days – werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday School — but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts. — Dave Barry
I feel sorry for all people who were served poorly cooked Brussels in the childhood and now miss the beauty of these tiny cabbages every season. How do YOU like your Brussels?

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Glace au Beurre Noisette | The Best Ice Cream Ever in the Whole World

Prosecco Mazerated Pears with Brown Butter Ice Cream and Miso Caramel

I kept this recipe unpublished for so long because it is part of my favorite party trick.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.

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Homemade Harissa

Harissa, suace, Tunician, Middle Eastern, hot

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.

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Cinderella Pumpkin Soufflé Cheesecake

Cinderella Pumpkin Souffle Cheesecake

This recipe is based on me Japanese soufflé cheesecake, which is also known as “cotton” cheesecake. Very popular in Asian countries for its texture — fluffy and velvety creamy at the same time — it is getting more and more known in the U.S. Just like regular cheesecakes, this souffle cheesecake can be flavored with vegetable and fruit purees. This pumpkin cheesecake is as soft and creamy as a mousse, with delicate flavors of honey and pumpkin.

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Potato Cake with Smoked Cod and Caramelized Fennel

Potato Cake with Smoked Cod and Caramelized Fennel

Gratin Dauphinois is known much better than Gâteau de Pommes de Terre, isn’t it? Gratin Dauphinois (aka potato gratiné in the U.S.) is made with thinly sliced layered potatoes and cream in a buttered dish rubbed with garlic. For the cake, potatoes are sliced thick and boiled first. Then, potato slices are mixed with some duck fat and smashed in the skillet to be cooked for the second time as a cake with golden brown and crispy crust. Traditionally, this French potato cake is served with nothing but chopped fresh garlic and parsley on top. So, feel free to omit fennel and smoked fish. But they are so good together!

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