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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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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Red Cabbage Salad with Shrimp and Corn

Red Cabbage Salad with Corn and Crustacean

This recipe is one of my favorite salads with red cabbage. My Mom used to make it with white cabbage, imitation crabmeat, and canned corn kernels, dressed with mayo. After moving to the U.S., I eventually substituted white cabbage with red and an imitation crabmeat with the crustacean. Who cares about imitation when the real stuff is readily available? Love it dearly and still name it Mom’s Cabbage Salad.

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Italian Antipasti: Artichokes with Seafood and Mozzarella

Baby Artichokes with Seafood and Mozzarella

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.

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Salsa de Pina y Mango | Fresh Pineapple and Mango Salsa

Pineapple and Mango Salsa

This salsa is one of my favorite. I like seafood, and it’s perfect with many seafood dishes as a side. It’s beautiful! Bright, sunny colors of fresh tropical fruit. It tastes like vacation in Hawaii, if, of course, you come across excellent ripe golden pineapples and Ataulfo mango. This salsa is easy to make — all its ingredients are raw, but you have to know smart ways to cut, slice, and dice pineapple and mango to enjoy the process of making it. When you do, you can make this salsa quickly and impress your guests with a presentation.

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Huazontle Salad

Huazontle Salad

Think broccoli with thinner and more fibrous stalks and stems. That’s huazontle, just with more tiny green buds and fewer stems and leaves. Huazontle bud clusters are simmered in salty water for 5-15 minutes (different sources give different timing) first. Then they are cooked as tortas (patties), which are formed by pressing huazontle clusters around a portion of queso fresco, dipped in flour then into an egg foam, and deep-fried. This recipe is sort of the same, but deconstructed.

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