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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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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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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Cachucha Peppers Stuffed with Green Mexican Chorizo

Cachucha Peppers Stuffed with Green  Chorizo

To compare cachucha peppers to other green chili peppers I know, I’d say they are close to Spanish padron or Japanese shishito peppers in terms of texture. They are not meaty and slightly crunchy when cooked. To my taste, cachucha peppers are very flavorful and complex with clean and fresh grassy note. There is no heat in them at all. Thus their other name is sweet chili, Ají dulce, though there is no sweetness in them at all, at least when they are green.

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Preserving Ramps: Frozen

Ramps Cowboy Butter

Freezing herbs is the easiest and fastest way to preserve them. When added at the end of cooking or right before serving, frozen herbs work almost the same as fresh. You can freeze whole, chopped, or pureed herbs. Freeze them in water to make flavored ice cubes for drinks and cocktails. Or freeze them mixed with vegetable oil, butter, or animal fat to use for cooking savory dishes. Frozen herbs retain their taste, smell, and nutritional benefits for up to one year. Since ramps season is so short, freezing is a great way to make this unique ingredient available for longer than a few weeks.

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Preserving Ramps: Dry

Ramps Cheese Roll

Allium tricoccum — commonly known as ramp, ramps, spring onion, ramson, wild leek, wood leek, and wild garlic — is a North American species of wild onion widespread across eastern Canada and the eastern United States. It is similar to better known in Texas chives, but with more delicate and intriguing flavor profile. I often use ramps as a flavoring ingredient for my tasting events and catering. French omelets with ramps are admired and remembered by everybody who tasted them. Green ramps paste adorns fresh pasta, risotto, soups, beans — they become unforgettable. Ramps compound butter is another hit, as well as pickled ramps served with roasted or grilled meats and poultry.

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