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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Patlican Kebabi | Oven Roasted Eggplant Kebab

Roasted Eggplant Kabob | Patlican Kebabi

This recipe is an adaptation of southern Turkish style kebab, prepared in the oven. Eggplants are cooked twice — either grilled or fried first, and then baked with meat in a tomato and pepper sauce — to concentrate flavor. My version of Patlican Kebabi doesn’t look the same as Turkish, but the idea of vertical rolls allows to use large Italian eggplants we mostly have available in Central Texas.

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Tapas: Pinchos Morunos | Moorish Skewers

Pincho, or pinchito, means “little thorn” or “little skewer,” so pincho moruno roughly translates as Moorish kabobs and is a typical tapa of the Spanish autonomous communities of Andalusia and Extremadura. Being Muslims, the Moors made similar dishes with lamb. Christian Spain took their traditional spice mixes and applied them to preferred chicken and pork. During the summer, pinchitos are often served with bread, wedges of lemon, and wine. Usually, these skewers are made during the barbecue season. Steps 5 nd 6 of this recipe show how to make this delicious appetizer using the convenience of your indoor kitchen, rain or shine.

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Salo #3 | Cured in Hot Brine and Smoked Pork Belly

Pork belly cooked 60C sous vide for hot smoking

As I mentioned earlier, Salo in a Jar (сало в банке) is a highly popular way of wet curing salo at home, and there are recipes with cold and hot brine. But where the idea hot brine comes from? Can I speculate that someone impatient decided to try it hot? The result was somewhat in between cured and cooked salo, which is another widely used cooking method for pork belly in Ukraine. Cured with hot brine salo was so pleasing that the recipe quickly became popular. Using sous vide allows full time and temperature control in this recipe.

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Salo #1 | Dry Salted Pork Belly

Pork Belly with Skin

Even though true salo comes from the back of the pig, a thick pork belly with one or two thin layers of meat is what most of Ukrainians consider a treat as well. In any case, it’s a good start for homemade salo in Texas. There are different ways to make salo: dry and wet salting, using cold and hot brine, making it cold or hot smoked. Adding other ingredients to salt rub or brine changes the recipe from region to region. In Kharkov and Poltava region, I’ve seen salo made with salt and garlic only. In Western regions, black pepper and paprika are added to salt. The recipe below is my first experiment with local pork belly and dry salt rub and covers both variations.

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Dumplings: Dargin Khinkal

Dargin Khinkal

If you are with me for a long time, you already know about my roots and my fascination with layered dough. They come together in this recipe. I’ve seen dargin khinkal on pictures and videos only and know about its taste and texture from somebody else’s descriptions. The combination of boiled beef and garlicky tsahdon (sauce) is the treat from my childhood, one of the dishes my grandma used to make for me.

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Khashlama

Khashlama

I prefer slowly cooked beef shanks for plain khashlama and leg of lamb for festive version. A slow cooker/crock pot is the most convenient device to make this dish. Otherwise, assemble vegetables and meat layers in an iron pot, start on the stove to bring water to boiling and finish in the 300F oven by slowly cooking for another 3-4 hours. There is also a version when meat is cooked first; then it is layered with vegetables in small ceramic or clay pots and cooked in the oven to serve khashlama individually portioned. In this case, it only takes 1-1.5 hours in the oven — just to cook vegetables.

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Easy-Fizzy Cucumbers

Fizzy Cucumbers

If you live in Texas, where we have everything available in every supermarket, you don’t really need to know how it works. The main three ingredients for success are baby aka cocktail aka small Persian cucumbers, San Pellegrino carbonated mineral water, and Kosher salt. Just skip to the recipe and do it! Unless, you are curious…

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Chicken and Portobello Mushrooms Julienne

Portioned Chicken amd Mushroom Julienne

While the rest of the world used this word to describe a matchstick knife cut, for Russian-speaking culinary community julienne has always been a chicken and mushroom casserole en cocotte. This legendary dish was extremely popular during the Soviet era in high-end restaurants as well as at home. Naturally, the assumption was that the recipe is a result of French influence on pre-revolution Russian cuisine. All stories I know about this dish are mostly anecdotes. Many different recipes claim to be original. Some insist on using mushrooms, preferably porchini. Other include cooked chicken and other vegetables. Restaurant versions often add bechamel or mornay sauces, while home cooks prefer sour cream. Everybody makes this dish adjusted to their personal taste, keeping the same only basic ingredients and the way it is served. Russian julienne has to be cooked individually portioned in mini casseroles and covered with a generous amount of cheese to melt on top. It is simple and delicious!

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