This is one of my old, before-culinary-school recipes. I was tweaking some rhubarb cake recipes six years ago, and this one was my final ever since. It came to my mind again a few days ago when I saw beautiful bright pink, glossy rhubarb stalks at Central Market. I tend to improve either proportions or techniques when revisiting recipes from the past. This cake escaped any changes at all. It doesn’t require any pro equipment or special skills, very easy to make, just follow the steps.
Made with relatively low-moist fresh cheese, traditional syrniki don’t need a lot of flour. Less flour helps to maintain low-carb diet and appreciate the natural taste of cheese in cooked pancakes. Syrniki are light textured, soft and fluffy, with only a hint of sweetness and vanilla. Serve them hot or warm, simply with a dollop of sour or whipped cream. The more elements you add, the more exciting this dessert becomes. You can add fresh seasonal or preserved berries and fruits. On top of the cream, sprinkle syrniki with sliced and toasted nuts, or cocoa nibs, or any other crunchy crumbs to add more texture and flavor variety to the dessert.
It is known as Tarte Flambée in France and as Flammkuchen in Germany. The dish is popular in both countries and there are many variations for the dough as well as for the toppings. Traditional basic version is made with thinly rolled rectangle of dough, which is covered with a generous layer of schmand/crème fraîche/20-30% butterfat sour cream, topped with onions and speck/lardons/small strips of lightly smoked uncured meaty bacon, seasoned with pepper and salt, and baked in a wood-fire oven. Flammkuchen was the first thing I wanted to recreate at home after my trip to Germany and France. The goal was to find the right recipe for the dough and the best local ingredients for the toppings. This recipe of flammkuchen is not final yet, it’s version 1.0, the closest to my favorite so far.
Empanada Gallega is popular all over Spain and around the world, it is one of the most known Spanish dishes.
The dough is made of wheat flour, fat (lard or oil), and water. The base for the filling is sofrito — onions and peppers — plus seafood or meat. Empanada Gallega is served freshly cooked or cold, sliced into portions, as an appetizer or tapas. The most common versions of this pie are made with canned tuna, scallops, and chopped pork sausage. My absolute favorite are scallops.
Empanadas Gallega can be large or small, round or square; they can be shaped as a large crescent and named empanadillas. As it often happens with famous dishes, there are many recipes of this pie. Mine is based on the original recipe in Spanish from recetaempanadagallega.com, which is featured as one of the best recipes of this pie. It uses a very interesting cooking method to prepare vegetable filling — peppers and onions are poached in oil, strained, and the same flavored oil is used for making pie dough. Which is genius!
I don’t have an explanation why we’ve never made dumplings with red and black currants at home. My Mom used to add currents to the sauce, but never fill dumplings with them. It’s funny that I am tasting this well known version of Ukrainian varenyki only now, so far from home, in Texas, where currants are exotic! I asked myself why dumplings with tart cherries and currants are so popular in Eastern European countries. I think, the key is the intensity of sweet and sour flavors rounded with soft dough and a little bit of cream or butter. Many other fruit and berries change its flavor when cooked, but tart cherries and currants keep it well and tease our taste buds with every bite!
When serving beef wellington, the ends with just dough and mushrooms are sliced off. They are so delicious, I’ve never seen them left on a plate. Always gone! It feels like they deserve to be featured as an appetizer and have their own recipe.
Khinkali (Georgian: ხინკალი) is a juicy Georgian dumpling, filled with seasoned minced meat (lamb or beef + pork). Minced onions, red chili pepper, and cumin are always part of the recipe, while herbs (cilantro and parsley) are optional. Khinkali is supposed to be eaten with hands (no utensils). It is picked up by the top of the dumpling (aka kudi or “hat”) and turned upside down. First, you bite a small hole to suck all the meat juices trapped inside. Than, you can eat the rest of the dumpling, except for the part you’ve been using as a holder, the “hat.”
Dark tart cherries are one of the most traditional fillings for Ukrainian varenyki — sweet dumplings served with fruity sauce, or melted butter and honey, or sour cream and sugar. Their recipes vary from region to region. Varenyki I remember were mostly made with the dough enriched by soured milk or whey and eggs. There are also recipes using only boiling water for the dough. All of them have the same goal — a dumpling with a soft and pleasant texture.