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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Peach Frangipane Tart

Frangipane Tart with Texas Peaches

A frangipane tart with pears might be a classic recipe, but nothing makes it as exciting as stone fruit — peach, nectarine, apricot, plum, etc. Since they belong to the same prunus family, they pair with almond cream better. They belong to each other.

Texas peaches season starts in May and continues till September. For five months, we can enjoy different varieties of local peaches. Early ones are clingstones and have a refreshing tartness which disappears in late summer freestones. An acidic tang in the fruit empowers and balances the sweet creaminess of frangipane at the same time. That’s why now the best time for the frangipane tart with Texas peaches. They are perfect together.

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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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Limoncello

Limoncello and lemons

Everybody knows what Limoncello is. Not everybody knows how it should taste. I don’t. I haven’t been to Italy and didn’t have a chance to get a sip of “as good as Nonna’s” Limoncello. Nevertheless, there is an ideal flavor I am looking for every time I buy a promising bottle of this authentic, imported from Southern Italy liqueur. So far, it’s always been a disappointment. Maybe an authentic Limoncello is about lemon zest, not a lemon? Maybe our local lemons are not good enough?

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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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Smoked Chicken Breast Stuffed with Seasoned Cherries

Stuffed with cherries and smoked chicken breasts

Hot smoked chicken breasts make any meal exciting! Salads, sandwiches, soups, pasta dishes — you name it! — will benefit if you add some smoked lean chicken. But cooking skinless and boneless chicken breasts is easy and challenging at the same time. To make them tender and juicy we need to protect their moisture and to make them uniformly thick. Usually, a combination of pounding and brining is a solution. In this recipe, we make a pocket to stuff it with moist and/or fatty ingredients instead of pounding. As a bonus, different stuffings add interesting flavors to otherwise mild-tasting chicken.

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Candied Pumpkin

Candied Cinderella Pumpkin

An inspiration for this recipe came from two unexpected directions. My friend, pastry chef Diana, mentioned her based on sweet Spanish coca seasonal hit with candied pumpkin and pine nuts. The day I processed half of my Cinderella pumpkin for this dessert, we were invited for dinner — our neighbors threw a party for their visiting Puerto-Rican relatives. To my surprise, among other delicacies, I found chunks of candied pumpkin served as an appetizer to pair with queso fresco. My neighbor explained it was seasonal and traditional calabaza en tacha. I ran home to bring my version to share, and we were enjoying them side by side. While Latin American candied pumpkin is darker, sweeter, spicier, and made of whole or big chanks, Diana’s is grated, doesn’t use any spices, elegantly citrusy, and light. If you stop on earlier stages, pumpkin flavor will be recognizable. If you continue until most of the moisture is evaporated, your guests won’t be able to say what this treat is made of. I’ve heard people comparing it to other fruit from apricot to quince.

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Kamo Nanban Soba | Buckwheat Noodles Soup with Duck Breast and Scallions

Kamo Nanban Soba

Duck is one of my favorite ingredients, and Kamo Nanban Soba became one of the most repeated summer soups in my kitchen. This dish can be made with duck tsukune (meatballs) and/or seared and thinly sliced duck breast. Duck meatballs should be pre-cooked, and they are the best when grilled. I prefer duck breast in this dish. One breast is enough for two portions. It takes time to render fat from its skin, so it makes sense to start doing it while making buckwheat noodles. The rest is simple — baste the breasts with hot rendered duck fat until 80% cooked, let rest and cool, keep refrigerated until ready to serve the soup. Thinly sliced and arranged on top of the soba in a bowl, the duck is cooked to complete doneness with steaming hot stock poured right over it.

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Quince Poached in Riesling with Vanilla Pods

Quince Poached in Riesling with Vanilla Pods (Instant Pot)

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Edward Lear — 1871 Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets
“The Owl and the Pussy-Cat”

I’ve seen it at the Central Market almost always available but never considered buying because of the price. Then a month ago, I came to shop for something else to the H Mart, and its fragrance attracted me from the moment I entered the fresh produce department. I followed the perfumed scent and after a few turns found a pile of quince with smooth golden skin. It was impossible to miss and irresistible.

Quince is known as one the most difficult fruit to approach. It is tough to prep and long to cook. I’ve been thinking is there a way to cook it elegantly and effortlessly?

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