Summer Squash Stuffed with Fish

Summer Squash

I am not sure how common a combination of seafood and summer squash flavors is in cooking, but in my mind, it is genius. Mildly flavored seasonal squashes have hints of floral and nutty notes. We recognize the natural sweetness and enjoy their lush and silky texture in fully cooked summer squashes. Would any fish compliment summer squashes? Probably not. We should consider a saltwater fish for umami and complex flavors and give the preference to fatty fish for a tender and moist stuffing. Salmon and halibut come to mind as good candidates that can do the job well.

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Smoked Steak Tartare

Smoked steak tartare

We went for the SIP N’ SHUCK event with oysters and sparkling wine to Fulton and (unexpectedly!) discovered smoked steak tartar. I wanted to recreate it in my home kitchen with Cameron’s Stovetop Smoker. I didn’t know how the Fulton steak tartare got its smokey flavor, but since it was barely there, I suspected they used a smoking gun and a relatively short period for the smoke to set. My experimental timing with Cameron’s smoker was a bullseye, and I liked my version even better! My beef tenderloin got the right amount of smokiness, and its internal temperature was a bit above the body temperature. Here is the recipe…

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Heirloom Wheat and Rye Galette with Alaskan Salmon

Heirloom Rye and Wheat Galette with Alaskan Salmon

I am not a big fan of that kind of galettes — rustic looking flat cakes stuffed with whatever. This one is the first I’ve ever made, and the reason it made me curious was a combination of fish and rye. The origins of rustic rye pie with fish, I believe, come from Northen Europe. Kalakukko is a good example. My friend’s recipe inspired me, but the amount of vegetable oil in the dough forced me to go through several rye crust recipes available online just to see what else is out there. There were plenty and all of them overloaded with fat. One, in particular, made me almost give up my search for the low-fat version. It was a very tempting flaky rye crust made with tons of butter using the same method as for the flaky Pâte Brisée. But then I remembered my recently discovered The-Best-Ever dough. I tried using the same method for the rye and wheat mix of flours, and it worked! Again.

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Guglhupf | Kougelhopf | Alsatian Brioche

Kougelhopf| Guglhupf | Alsatian Brioche

What we call brioche is a bread highly enriched with milk, eggs, and butter. The more eggs and butter in the ratio, the puffier the bread, the more tender its crumb, the longer it stays fresh and soft (read it as moist). Similar dough recipes exist in many cuisines and have different uses. Differently shaped and cooked, brioche is loved all over the world. Alsatian brioche can be less sweet and served with foie gras and Riesling and can be sweeter and served as a dessert with coffee.

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Pyrizhky | Pies

Smoked Sour Cabbage Stuffed Pies

This is one of the best dough recipes for small stuffed baked pies common for Eastern-European cuisines. It is best for its ability to keep the crumb soft, fluffy, and moist for a few days, because this enriched dough comes close to the dough for brioche. Can you imagine two-bites sized stuffed brioche pies? That’s what I am talking about.

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Sweet Snowflake | White Poppy Seed Bread

Snowflake Sweet Bread

With slight variations, this versatile dough recipe is used for many baked goods all over Ukraine. The same dough is made for savory garlicky pampushky served with borsch and for sweet, plain or filled with fresh berries, jam (povydlo), poppy seed filling, and dusted with sugar powder. Pies, braided and intricately decorated loaves of sweet bread, rolls — it is good for all of them. Try it this holiday season! This snowflake-shaped sweet bread makes a light, fluffy, nutty, and delicately sweet gift to remember.

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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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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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Kefir Cheese Easter Bread

Easter Bread with Keffir Cheese | Kulych

Since the kefir culture started living in my kitchen, I have fresh kefir products (drinking, strained, and soft cheese) in my fridge all the time. When they are handy, I find more amazing culinary uses for them all the time. The moment I saw a kulich recipe where farmer’s cheese was an ingredient to add to the dough, I knew I have to try it with my kefir cheese. I also wanted to try an idea I saw a few time online (don’t know who the author is) for forming this Easter bread as a flower, sunflower or daisy. The result is amazing! There is a faint hint of cheese. The texture is so creamy, a comparison to Japanese Souflee Cheesecake came to my mind. It is still a sponge, but the sensation of crumb melting in your mouth is incredible.

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