Gata

Gata

“My mom just made her signature Gata. It smells like summer, sun, and a mountain breeze.

— This recipe is traditional, — she anticipates my question.
— Why is your Gata ten times better than mine?!
— It’s the quality of ingredients. The sour cream and matsun are the freshest and made of real milk. The butter is a Flower butter I melted myself.

Flower butter! It is made in June-July when high in the mountains wild strawberries are ripe, and flowers are in bloom. Cows then are milked with cream, and the butter churned of this cream makes any other butter seem like a mockery. If happiness has a taste, it should be the taste of Flower butter.”read more: (in Russian) Narine Abgaryan Facebook post

After this story, I’ve been dreaming of the Flower butter, trying to imagine how it smells and tastes. Since Gata is made of 4 ingredients — flour, fermented milk, butter, and sugar — the quality of each component is what makes this pastry special. I can use the best there is in the states. And then a crazy idea came to my mind. What if I also add the flavor of edible flowers? How about Roman Chamomile? For the first experiment, I powdered 2 teaspoons of dry flowers and added them to the dough and the stuffing. For the second, I’ve infused heavy cream with Chamomile flavor and then fermented it. That was a hit!

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Bloody Butcher Red Cornbread

Bloody Butcher Cornbread with Roasted Peppers and Spanish Sweet Paprika

If you ever made a good Southern-style cornbread, you most likely came across Mark Bittman’s recipe, which was featured and adopted by many online sources. James Brown shared his adaptation during the workshop at his mill. Obviously, James’ cornbread was made with his heirloom corn, yellow and red, and was wonderful. I skipped yellow corn and added some diced roasted peppers and Spanish sweet smoked paprika.

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Oaxacan Green Corn Cakes with Green Chilies

Corn Cakes with Green Chilies

“The Corn Mother from whom we receive our nourishment is thus an entity like Mother Earth, and so closely are they united that they are virtually synonymous. Because we build its flesh into our own, corn is also our body. But corn is also spirit, for it was divinely created, so we are also offering spiritual thanks to the Creator.” — Book of the Hopi

I started with Nopi’s soufflé corn cakes recipe and … changed it to make them greener and gluten-free. I also walked away from the Mediterranian flavors. Oaxacan Green corn flour, miso-glazed shishito peppers, and Roth’s Moody Blue (American smoked blue cheese) made a wonderful contribution to a complex flavor and color of the cakes.

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Сочени | Socheni — Pastries Stuffed with Fresh Cheese

Sochniki, Socheni, Farmer's Cheese Stuffed Pastries

It’s already scorching hot in Central Texas. But early in the morning, the light is golden and gentle, and the air is still fresh. Socheni and some tea in a shadow of live oaks filled my morning with dear flavors, nostalgic images from the past, and piece. And it was good.

If you recognize the pastry in the picture, you and I probably belong to the same culture and generation. Most likely you are smiling and wishing you could get one of those right now. I bet you are thinking about your school years and other favorite cookies and pastries from a long time ago, aren’t you? Socheni, aka Sochniki, don’t need any introduction to those who know what they are. The rest of people would probably pass them by as they look pretty rustic and not as attractive as modern pastries. This phenomenon is an illustration how much we treasure our childhood food memories. They stay with us forever.

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Maslenitsa | Crepe Week, Day 3 | Crespelle ai frutti di mare

Crespelle ai frutti di mare | Crepes with Assorted Seafood (Salmon, Bay Scalops, Sea Bass, Prawns), Bechamel, and Asiago Cheese

Crepes — a type of very thin pastry — exist in the majority of world cuisines. Nevertheless, when I discovered Italian crespelle, it was a surprise for me. Italian cuisine is associated with pasta and pizza in my mind, so I assumed Italians would rather use flour for those. While going through many crespelle recipes, it became clear that crepes in Italy are mostly used as a quick version of stuffed pasta. When stuffed, rolled, and baked covered with sauce and grated cheese, they relate to cannelloni. When stuffed, folded into triangles (fazzoletti di crespelle or “crepe handkerchiefs”), and baked with a sauce and grated cheese, they are a shortcut for lasagna, aren’t they?

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Polish Doughnuts | Pączki

Polish doughnuts pączki

Until a few days ago, I was sure Polish Pączki have something to do with Easter bread Paska because for a Russian speaking person this word looks like it should sound the same. I was wrong, and I was wrong. Apparently, Pączki are pronounced POONCH-key [ˈpɔnt͡ʂkʲi] and are similar to what I know as Ponchiki from my childhood. Only now I discovered their name came to Russian from the Polish language!

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Family Recipes: My Mom’s Creamed Mackerel with Vegetables

Not sure how widespread it was in the Soviet era and what variations existed out there. We discussed it in LCL Group on Facebook and, apparently, the recipe with tomatoes was more popular. In other regions, pink salmon (aka Gorbusha) was more available than mackerel and was cooked similarly. The recipe below is how my Mom made it. I loved eating creamed mackerel with vegetables as a cold appetizer after school. My favorite part of this dish was the vegetables — naturally sweet, slightly flavored with sea salt and umami, and rounded with silky cream. They had to be soft and barely crunchy.

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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: 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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Culinary coach and personal chef with extensive knowledge of cuisines from cultures around the world. I invite you into my cooking lab to share my discoveries.
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