Gratin Dauphinois | Potato Gratin

Potato gratin, a classic gratin dauphinois, or scalloped potatoes

I love this side dish for being so simple to make, yet extremely attractive. Similar to lasagna or moussaka, potato gratin should be cooked in advance, refrigerated to set, removed from the pan, sliced to portions while cold, and reheated before serving. If all steps are done in that order, a humble potato makes an eye-catching side dish, a beautiful element of any plated dinner.

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Vegetable Moussaka

Vegetable Moussaka

This casserole is a celebration of vegetables! Look at the list of ingredients. Their variety is stunning! That’s why the complexity of this dish flavors conquers the taste buds of vegetarians and carnivores alike. Just like any other layered dish, benefits from being cooked in advance, set in a refrigerator for a few hours and reheated portioned right before serving. It helps to develop flavors and keep colorful layers presentable.

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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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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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Salsa de Pina y Mango | Fresh Pineapple and Mango Salsa

Pineapple and Mango Salsa

This salsa is one of my favorite. I like seafood, and it’s perfect with many seafood dishes as a side. It’s beautiful! Bright, sunny colors of fresh tropical fruit. It tastes like vacation in Hawaii, if, of course, you come across excellent ripe golden pineapples and Ataulfo mango. This salsa is easy to make — all its ingredients are raw, but you have to know smart ways to cut, slice, and dice pineapple and mango to enjoy the process of making it. When you do, you can make this salsa quickly and impress your guests with a presentation.

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Khashlama

Khashlama

I prefer slowly cooked beef shanks for plain khashlama and leg of lamb for festive version. A slow cooker/crock pot is the most convenient device to make this dish. Otherwise, assemble vegetables and meat layers in an iron pot, start on the stove to bring water to boiling and finish in the 300F oven by slowly cooking for another 3-4 hours. There is also a version when meat is cooked first; then it is layered with vegetables in small ceramic or clay pots and cooked in the oven to serve khashlama individually portioned. In this case, it only takes 1-1.5 hours in the oven — just to cook vegetables.

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Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla soup is one of the most popular Mexican soups. Google it, and you can easily get tons of “classic” recipes and even more variations. The base is always the same — dry red chili peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, tortilla chips, cilantro, and lime. In some recipes tortilla chips are used to thicken the soup, in other, they are the topping. In central Mexico, this soup flavor is defined by pungent and tangy thin fleshed pasilla, in Michoacan region it’s a fruity and mild ancho, in Puebla a smokey chipotle takes the place. There are also a variety of additional toppings from cooked meat and poultry to avocado, cheese, and cream. Every local chef or home cook features the best regional ingredients in this soup. I often joke comparing tortilla soup in Mexican cuisine to borsch in Ukrainian.

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