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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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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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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Dolma | Lamb and Fresh Grape Leaves Rolls

Dolma with Lamb and Fresh Grape Leaves

Dolma (Ottoman Turkish: طوٓلمه‎) is a family of stuffed dishes common in Mediterranean cuisine and surrounding regions including the Balkans, the South Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Stuffed with lamb and rice grape leaves is one of the version. I was never impressed by what is sold or served as dolma in the U.S. Most of the time it is dry and tasteless. As a result, I never attempted to make it at home, thinking it’s not my thing. That was until some of my friends bragged about their homemade dolma with fresh grape leaves. The recipe below is my first try and I consider it very much up to my taste!

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7-Herb Green Sauce

Frankfurter Gruene Sause | Frankfotter grie Soß

I remember how difficult it was for me to recreate Grüne Sosse in Texas 6 years ago. Two herbs with fresh cucumbery aroma — borage and burnet — were impossible to find. Since they were not available at any local stores or farmers markets, and I tried to grow them, unsuccessfully. Finally, I gave up and replaced them with finely diced cucumber. Who knew a few years later I would find both of them grown by Livin’ Organics farm right here in Spicewood, available almost regularly! This season, Frankfurt-style green sauce is a delicacy I can enjoy more than once during the season.

One of my German friends says Grüne Sosse is a higher-calorie modification of Italian salsa verde. As if herbs, vinegar, and olive oil were not enough for Germans to survive in a colder climate, and they added eggs and fatty cream. Per about 5 oz of chopped herbs, a typical recipe includes 1) 3.5 oz of Schmandt (24% milk fat) and 2) 3 eggs + 3.5 oz vegetable oil + 3 tbsp white wine vinegar + 2 tsp mustard. Does the second part remind you something? Exactly! It’s mayonnaise.

It’s hot and sunny in Texas most of the year, and the ratio of herbs to the mix of sour cream and mayo is different in my recipe. I go for more herbs and less fat. I also skip making mayo and use my favorite Kewpie. In my opinion, this sauce is the best served with soft-boiled eggs and boiled Yukon Gold potatoes. If you want to add proteins, consider seafood — fried or roasted fish, smoked salmon, seared sea scallops, etc.

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Spicewood Salad with Edible Flowers

Greens Salad with Watermelon Vinaigrette, Blueberries, and Edible Flowers

I think I’ll remember my parents’ and my in-laws’ gardens forever and for many reasons. They provided us with most of the food during difficult times in the 90s. They became the source of our memories about the best tasting fruits and vegetables. They gave us the knowledge of how much hard work, patience, and passion goes into gardening.

I still see something magical in being able to walk to the garden, harvest whatever looks good at the moment, and quickly fix a meal, fresh and satisfying, and undoubtedly healthy. The next best thing for me is going to the local farmers market. The closest, Pedernales farmers market is slowly growing on me. Things changed when I started talking to farmers, asking questions, talking about ingredients, food, eating experiences. It became a pleasure to see them almost every week and to notice their ever-changing assortment of fresh vegetables. The more we talk, the more I realize how passionate they are about their lifestyle. I have to mention two farmers and farms that became special for me — April @LivinOrganics and Neal @food_forest_tx — my major organic vegetables, greens, and herbs suppliers for the last month. These farms are the reason my family eats much more plant-based food recently, and not so much for health reasons, but mostly for the pleasure of true, real, natural flavors of food as we remember it from the past.

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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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Chard Rolls with Carrot and Cheddar Béchamel

Steamed Chard Rolls with Carrot and Cheddar Béchamel

I dreamed of making something special with the treasures I got at the LivinOrganics farm for a few days. The idea of steamed chard rolls came to me when two other legendary recipes crossed my mind almost at the same time — capuns and vertical lasagna with morels. Gently steamed broad chard leaves seemed a good candidate to sub the sfoglia. And then there were April’s amazingly sweet young carrots I could use to flavor bechamel, along with garlic and cheddar.

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Easy Dough for Ravioli/Pierogi Makers | Greens and Feta Dumplings

Greens and Feta Dumplings

I equally enjoy eating and making dumplings. It’s one of those foods that gives me an opportunity to let my fingers work on something fine and elaborate. That’s why I haven’t given a try to my ravioli maker for years until now. But even a passionate cook who tends to make meals from scratch feels lazy from time to time and I unpacked it.

I had an idea about what kind of dough will be best to use for the maker, and the first try was successful. There were only three convenient ingredients. The dough was easy to make and easy to use. It didn’t need more than 15 minutes to rest and nicely rolled very thin. The dumplings were cooked in about 2 minutes.

I tried it for a few times with different stuffings and now happy to share the recipe! It is perfect for dumplings with the stuffing that benefits from quick cooking — raw herbs, berries, fresh cheese, etc. Enjoy!

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