Smoked Cherry-Grape Tomatoes | Juliet Roma Grape Tomato

Juliet Grape Tomatoes | Sun-dried and Smoked

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!

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Gently Pickled Summer Squash

Gently Pickled Summer Squash

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.

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7-Herb Green Sauce

Frankfurter Gruene Sause | Frankfotter grie Soß

I remember how difficult it was for me to recreate Grüne Sosse in Texas 6 years ago. Two herbs with fresh cucumbery aroma — borage and burnet — were impossible to find. Since they were not available at any local stores or farmers markets, and I tried to grow them, unsuccessfully. Finally, I gave up and replaced them with finely diced cucumber. Who knew a few years later I would find both of them grown by Livin’ Organics farm right here in Spicewood, available almost regularly! This season, Frankfurt-style green sauce is a delicacy I can enjoy more than once during the season.

One of my German friends says Grüne Sosse is a higher-calorie modification of Italian salsa verde. As if herbs, vinegar, and olive oil were not enough for Germans to survive in a colder climate, and they added eggs and fatty cream. Per about 5 oz of chopped herbs, a typical recipe includes 1) 3.5 oz of Schmandt (24% milk fat) and 2) 3 eggs + 3.5 oz vegetable oil + 3 tbsp white wine vinegar + 2 tsp mustard. Does the second part remind you something? Exactly! It’s mayonnaise.

It’s hot and sunny in Texas most of the year, and the ratio of herbs to the mix of sour cream and mayo is different in my recipe. I go for more herbs and less fat. I also skip making mayo and use my favorite Kewpie. In my opinion, this sauce is the best served with soft-boiled eggs and boiled Yukon Gold potatoes. If you want to add proteins, consider seafood — fried or roasted fish, smoked salmon, seared sea scallops, etc.

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Spicewood Salad with Edible Flowers

Greens Salad with Watermelon Vinaigrette, Blueberries, and Edible Flowers

I think I’ll remember my parents’ and my in-laws’ gardens forever and for many reasons. They provided us with most of the food during difficult times in the 90s. They became the source of our memories about the best tasting fruits and vegetables. They gave us the knowledge of how much hard work, patience, and passion goes into gardening.

I still see something magical in being able to walk to the garden, harvest whatever looks good at the moment, and quickly fix a meal, fresh and satisfying, and undoubtedly healthy. The next best thing for me is going to the local farmers market. The closest, Pedernales farmers market is slowly growing on me. Things changed when I started talking to farmers, asking questions, talking about ingredients, food, eating experiences. It became a pleasure to see them almost every week and to notice their ever-changing assortment of fresh vegetables. The more we talk, the more I realize how passionate they are about their lifestyle. I have to mention two farmers and farms that became special for me — April @LivinOrganics and Neal @food_forest_tx — my major organic vegetables, greens, and herbs suppliers for the last month. These farms are the reason my family eats much more plant-based food recently, and not so much for health reasons, but mostly for the pleasure of true, real, natural flavors of food as we remember it from the past.

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Beets Salad with Feta Dressing

Steamed beets salad with Feta dressing

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!

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Mzhave | Georgian Cabbage Pickled with Beets

Mzhave Georgian cabbage pickled with beets

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.

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Flowering Leeks | 韭菜 | jiǔ cài

Blanched and Seasoned Flowering Leeks

Years ago, I discovered foraged ramps in the U.S. though available only matured, expensive, and very difficult to find. Unfortunately, matured ramps cannot substitute cheremsha, which is ramp sprouts from Kavkaz mountains. But flowering leeks can! Cooked the same way, I consider succulent stems of flowering leeks the second best. The recipe below is exactly how we prepared ramp sprouts in our family — simple and delicious. It works for the flowering leeks to the letter.

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Cucumber Guacamole Topped with Octopus Ceviche

Octopus Ceviche and Cucumber Guacamole

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.

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Romanesco Salad with Israeli Couscous, Mushrooms, and Asparagus

Romanesco Salad with Mushrooms, Ptitim,  Asparagus, and Garlicy Pesto

Have you ever been served a dish with food so beautiful you felt it was a crime to eat it? Imagine a cook, who is so charmed by the natural beauty of raw ingredients and hesitates to cook them. That’s what I feel when I see Romanesco Broccoli. What is the best way to put it on a pedestal of our dinner plate? How to protect its color and shape? How to bring out its nutty flavor and crunchy texture?

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