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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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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Green Dukkah with Hatch

Green Dukkah with Hatch

Last year I finally discovered dukkah and it found its honorable place in my kitchen. I served many vegetable spreads, salads, casseroles, appetizers turning basic recipes into flavorful Middle Eastern delicacies with one simple step — sprinkling dukkah on top. Besides Ottolenghi’s recipe, I created a few my variations. The one with dry powdered Hatch is one of them.

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Green Harissa with Hatch

Green Harissa

Harissa is the basic flavoring agent in Tunisian cuisine. This recipe is based on Yotam Ottolenghi’s harissa recipe, which uses red hot chiles, tomato paste, red onion, and lemon juice. We are replacing all red with all green — green tomatoes, local green chiles, and key lime juice. This recipe is used for making Shakshuka with Hatch and Dukkah.

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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 #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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Soviet Korean-Style Carrot Salad

Korean-Style Spiced Carrot Salad

Korean-Style carrot salad is another phenomenon of Soviet cuisine nad my favorite way of eating carrots. Julienned carrots are seasoned with salt (and sugar if needed) and quickly marinated with spices, chili peppers, vinegar, and vegetable oil. Due to its popularity all over former Soviet republics and now internationally, there are variations for spices, the level of heat from chili peppers, for kinds of vinegar and oils to use, and where oil should be cold or hot. This recipe is my family version adapted to local, not very sweet carrots.

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Pho Bo with Beef Tendon and Tail

Serving Pho Bo

It’s raining, it’s gloomy and dark, perfect weather to eat a bowl of steamy hot Pho Bo — to warm your soul, to wake up your tastebuds! Last year, I made my the first and the best Pho at home, because it was 100% to my taste. I also managed to adjust the recipe logistics to a busy lifestyle. In other words, no need to stay hours in the kitchen to enjoy a bowl of good Pho Bo at home.

There are many good Pho recipes available online. My version is based on Andrea Nguyen’s Beef Pho Noodle Soup Recipe (Pho Bo), where you can find a lot of detailed information about Pho.

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Dukkah’s Exotic Charm

Grilled vegetables with labne and dukkah

Just reading the list of ingredients convinced me I have to make it: roasted hazelnuts and sunflower seeds, fennel and cumin seeds, dried green peppercorns, coriander seeds, sesame, nigella, sea salt, and sweet paprika. Ottolenghi suggests sprinkling this mix over leafy salads, roasted vegetables, bean pastes, and rice and legume dishes. “It adds an exotic charm,” — he says. And it’s true to the letter!

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Pickled Oyster Mushrooms

There are a few species of Lactarius genus, commonly known as milk-caps, that are very popular salt pickled in Slavic cuisines — L. deliciosus/Ryzhik, L. resimus/Gruzd’, etc.

Today in the U.S., mentioned above milk-caps are either unknown or deemed inedible, while in Easter Europe they are traditionally considered among the best edible mushrooms. After removing the bitterness, they are salted and later enjoyed as a condiment (there is no better companion for a shot of ice-cold vodka!) or as an ingredient in other dishes. Salted mushrooms are fleshy, juicy, and have a unique flavor.

When gruzd or ryzhik mushrooms are not available, my second favorite are P. ostreatus or Oyster mushrooms. Luckily, they are farmed by Kitchen Pride just about two hours away from Austin, in Gonzales, TX.

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