Posts tagged summer
Friday, July 2, 2010

buttermilk granita with strawberries in balsamic

buttermilk granita with macerated balsamic strawberries

I got my air conditioning bill the other day, raised eye brows and all, and make no mistake – summer is upon us. At the rate this summer’s going, best to prepare myself for some higher cooling costs, despite my great desire to reduce my carbon footprint. I’ve resorted to some creative solutions too: ice cold water, fans continuously on, shades drawn in the apartment. But sometimes you have no other choice, and you push that “on” a/c button. Otherwise, you walk around in a hot and sleepy stupor, dented by the heat and humidity, your environmental altruism causing you serious suffering.


But, I think I have found yet another creative alternative to air conditioning and I wanted to share it with you. Friends, I’d like to meet a new buddy of mine. Its name is buttermilk granita and it’s here to stay for the summer. I think you might just become good pals with it too. It’s cold, tangy, refreshing, and requires only a dish and a whisk. That’s right, a shallow dish and a whisk only. No ice cream machine needed here. Nothing to plug in and chill for hours. Just periodic stirring with the whisk – that is all that’s required. So if you have a tiny kitchen, or don’t own an ice cream machine, but want to make a cold dessert while the summer heat is abound, this dessert here is for you. Think you can handle it?

buttermilk, sugarready, set, pour

The granita stands on its own and has a taste reminiscent of homemade frozen yogurt, but it’s lighter and tastes more like sorbet than anything else. Here, however, it’s paired with some lush strawberries that have been steeping in its own juices, a little sugar and some balsamic vinegar. Strawberries and balsamic are nothing new, of course, but when they’re paired with the buttermilk granita, it’s a whole new game. These are complementary flavors, working together to elevate one another’s notes even higher. Buttermilk tastes tangier, strawberries – sweeter. And while dessert is generally viewed as an enemy to an expanding waistline, this here little concoction is quite healthy, in fact, and tastes lighter than air – a welcome relief from some heavier desserts this long weekend will undoubtedly bring.* And you can even feel good about that carbon footprint reduction because this dessert is all over it.

macerated strawberries

Simple. Refreshing. Calming, even. And environmentally-friendly to boot. We could all use a friend like that. Don’t you think?

*[Not that I’d ever turn down pie. Ever.]

Continue reading buttermilk granita with strawberries in balsamic.

Friday, June 18, 2010

asian-inspired slaw with mango

asian slaw with mango

All right, my dears. I don’t have much time, so I’ll be brief. And I’m sorry to be so hasty and short. This salad right here – please make it. It’s going to help you get through the hot and sticky days of summer. The crunch of the cabbage, the sweetness of mango, the bite of the chili pepper, the cool, sweet burst of corn. This salad here – a keeper. And transports well for things like picnics and backyard barbecues. And I hope that you plan on going to a lot of those this season.

asian slaw with mango

There are many a joke made about Russians and their love of cabbage. We are a people that loves our cabbage pickled, stuffed, stewed, in soups and in pies. Cabbage, in Russian cooking, will be the main event, not an accessory. Perhaps, outside of the potato, it is the most loved vegetable in Russia. We, Russians, take our cabbage seriously. And here, I took the beloved Russian vegetable and put an Thai-ish spin on it. I should’ve thrown some peanuts in, but I didn’t have any on hand.

asian slaw with mango

The slaw is quite a deviation from a traditional slaws that involve mayonnaise. I’m not one to knock mayo, especially if it’s homemade, but sometimes, when the summer days grow sweltering and muggy, it is not exactly a condiment you dream of. Or maybe that’s just me. On the other hand, things like lime juice and a little spice are always welcome in my kitchen, especially when it’s warm outside.

asian slaw with mango

You might think to yourself, cilantro and mint together – an herb overkill, perhaps? I thought so before, until I accidentally combined them in a similar salad once and I haven’t looked back since. Somehow, oddly, they are complementary to one another and both are summery and crisp.

asian slaw with mango

I notice that around this time of year, I want more salad on my plate and less meat. And I know we’re entering grilling season, but still, my heart (and stomach) crave vegetables. Last night, at book club, one of the girls served a lovely goat cheese and spinach tart (oh how the wheels in my head are turning), a simple cucumber salad with parsley and creme fraiche, and some rocket with a simple vinaigrette. It was simple, it was crisp and it was perfect.

And in thinking this morning about the salad here, I realized that in the summer, what we want is to feel as light and breezy as the summer breeze itself. A cinch to put together, easy take along, wonderfully uplifting. What could be a better way to greet the summer season?

Continue reading asian-inspired slaw with mango.

Friday, August 31, 2007

sorrel soup

simply sorrell

So really, how many childhood-memories-in-a-recipe can I recall before even the most congenial person rolls his or her eyes and groans “What is it with your perfect childhood? Why can’t you just live in the present?” And really I do, I promise you. It’s just that for so long I wanted to eat everything, but the cuisine I grew up with. And reading a piece in this week’s New Yorker magazine’s annual food issue by Gary Shteyngart, with whom I share many an immigrant experience, I paused to examine my teenage aversion to the cuisine of my childhood and my obsession with all things American-cuisine related, including those golden arches, I now so revile.

I don’t know what caused me to start craving my “ethnic” food so to speak. I put ethnic in quotations, because for as long as I lived in Russia, I was constantly reminded of not belonging. Being Jewish in Russia, had little to do with your religion (which my parents didn’t practice in the slightest), and everything to do with your “race” or “ethnicity” because that’s what it was and continues to be considered. So the Russian food I grew up with, mixed with the Jewish food of my family, was all mixed together, but I was always conscious of Russian culture as that to which I didn’t belong. It was only in America that my Jewishness became associated with my religions leanings, and where I came from, namely Russia, became my defining cultural adjective. When people ask me about my background, I tell them I’m Russian.

In any case, there was a long, long period, when I refused to go out to Russian restaurants and willingly eat and cook Russian food. I chastised my mother, I wanted to change, to adapt, and I was tired of eating the same kotlety and borscht I grew up with during my childhood. But something changed after I moved to New York. It wasn’t that I suddenly found myself surrounded by Russian friends, it wasn’t so much the presence of Russian cuisine in my beloved Brooklyn, where I first made my home in New York. It was something else, a feeling of loneliness perhaps, that made me crave the food again. Far away from my family, without a single friend in the city, working long hours in an environment that was harsh and pitiless, I would come home from work, throw a dozen of frozen pelmeni into the pot of boiling water and in ten minutes, I would have hot and hearty dinner waiting for me. A dollop of sour cream, a splash of white vinegar and I would sink into the couch with my bowl of meaty dumplings closing my eyes at each swallow – blissfully forgetting my misery if only for the few minutes it would take me to consume my dinner. I think it was then that I realized that you can leave home, if only temporarily, only to long for it again. I envied my Russian friends with families around them, I wanted that security as well. But I chose this lot for myself and had to stick it out.

schav according to an old family recipe

When KS and I met, I was delighted to learn that he had an appetite and a food curiosity that rivaled mine and while it took me awhile to cook for him, I definitely tried a few Russian dishes on him – and he loved each and every one of them. Stuffed cabbage, pelmeni, the Russian potato salad otherwise known as olyvie, borscht, mushroom soup, herring – KS ate everything and always went back for seconds.

And so when I begged him to get a sorrel plant for our rooftop garden and he acquiesced, I told him of this wonderful schav my mom would make for us in Russia where sour grass, its other name, would be abundant and cheap. We brought the little plant home and gave it a nice pot. But it never grew to anything big and I postponed the soup each time.


That is until last Saturday, when I found myself staring at bags of sorrel at our local green market. I was so excited that I grabbed the bag as fast as I could as if the other dozens of bags were suddenly going to disappear. I brought the bag home and proudly proclaimed, “Oh, I am making us some schav, baby!!”

To which KS replied, “Yeah, so um how do you make it?”

And this is where I drew up a blank. Sure, I’ve eaten this soup more times than I could recall, but I had no idea how to make it. Of course, mom, only a phone call away, patiently explained to me how to make this super simple soup. And when I say super simple, people, I mean, this is the pits. It’s as easy and fool proof as it gets. No wonder we made this all the time in the summer. And the little shrimpy me with no appetite whatsoever, would eat two full bowls of this every time.

This recipe is different than other schav recipes I’ve seen out there. I’m not sure why my family makes it differently, but I can honestly say I prefer my mom’s recipe to the other ones I’ve had. For one thing it’s more clean-tasting, and secondly, it’s clear and pretty. But like all childhood-favorite foods, we always think our version is better than everyone else’s.

We’re visiting my parents this weekend and my mother’s making borscht. I’m sure there will be other Russian goodies present. And I can’t wait.

Continue reading sorrel soup.

Friday, July 20, 2007

zucchini stuffed with feta, pinenuts, and dill

one of those perfect summer meals

Oh man, sometimes I get into the mode when I want to write about a recipe and words just flow, you know. And sometimes, I make a dish and it is heavenly. And I can’t wait to share it with all of you. And then – my mind goes all fragment-y and vacant. I write a few pieces and nothing quite flows and I scrap the whole thing and begin all over again. And this recipe is one of them.

And yet I cannot figure out why – because if anything this dish is so amazing, easy, delicious and healthy that I should have no problem singing it praises. I should just feel so inspired by the fact that there is nothing about this dish not worth noting, but instead I look at the pictures, salivate a bit and go back to the blank sheet to type something, anything that might induce a bit of sex-appeal for the dish. You know, every dish wants to be sexy in some way or another. It needs to have its edge, its je ne sais quoi, its mojo!


But here’s the rub – if say gossip magazines were loaded with nothing but positive and wonderful news of celebrities, the gossip magazine industry as we know it would cease to exist. Or sell a lot fewer magazines. Because people like to read stories with a little bit of hair on them. No one wants to read a happy-go-lucky story. We eat up negative tabloid news like nothing else – and someone’s making a mint on this! Some actress falling off the wagon and the next day a picture of her passed out in her car is front pages news; an innocent looking heartthrob getting caught with a hooker in an alley; a cherubic, stunning model videotaped doing cocaine. This is the stuff that really propels the sales into the stratosphere. I guess because this dish is the equivalent of a Meryl Streep celebrity-type, there’s little edge that it has. Talented, elegant, appealing, but not in the least bit scandalous or mysterious – when was the last time you read about Meryl in People, US Weekly, or OK?

I guess the missive is this – unless you dislike any of the ingredients listed, you need to make this dish. Soon. And if you dislike, pine nuts for example, just take them out and make the dish without them. I suppose if you don’t like zucchini, then you’re pretty much out of luck as the rest of the dish goes out the window, but few people I know dislike zucchini. In fact, no one I know, dislikes it.


So, it’s quite simple, you see. Make the dish. Taste for yourself. And let me know if you don’t love it – because I’ve yet to make this and have leftovers the next day. And there you have it, short, sweet, to the point. Nothing controversial about stuffed zucchini (unless you want to make a juvenile crack about me saying “stuffed”) – but I tried to come up with something zany for you, and it amounted to nothing. I suppose this would make me a failure at a tabloid magazine – I like happy stories both in print and on my plate!

Continue reading zucchini stuffed with feta, pinenuts, and dill.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

watermelon sorbet

watermelon sorbet

When I get an idea in my head, I might as well drop everything and just get it out of my system, or else. If I am craving mango, suddenly a dozen mango-centric recipes pop in my head. If I’m sugar-deprived, I think of making cookies, and it makes the work day unbearable, because as much as I love what I do, I would much rather hide in the kitchen measuring out flour and softening butter. In fact, I often find myself midday, thinking of what I want to cook and strangely, it motivates me to get all my work done on time, so that I could rush home and make that meal.

Last week, I’ve found myself watermelon-obsessed, and while, it’s not the fruit that is in season in June, I don’t care, because I find that when it is in season, either the weather has cooled off considerably, or I’ve gotten used to the heat. Besides, being on a David Lebovitz kick, armed with a dangerous book that is being held responsible for expanding waistlines and wide grins across the globe, I found a recipe for watermelon sorbet and it was pretty much all I could talk about it until I made it.

so good - even without chocolate pieces

And afterwards, it was still pretty much all I could talk about. Only this time I was talking about how delicious it was. Incredibly enough, it tasted so much like fresh watermelon (imagine that!), but it had a bit more sweetness and was colder! I know, it sounds crazy to be amazed that when you make food from scratch, it actually tastes like the food you used to make it. I guess it’s sad how we’ve arrived to this point in our consumption – when we think it a luxury to find something that’s a derivative, resembling its underlying ingredient!

In any case, I made a few slight changes with David’s recipe. I confess being a bit too lazy and lacking ample time, so I didn’t bother with picking out the seeds. I also omitted the chocolate because, while the aesthetic of it pleased and intrigued me, I didn’t want to taste chocolate with my watermelon. I guess it was the purist in me, but I wanted the sheer simplicity of the fruit – nothing else. Finally, I didn’t do much straining and in the end, am glad to have done so. I liked tasting the little watermelon fibers with each bite – it made me think of the actual fruit that much more.

I loved the taste of it. LOVED it. But of course, in my doubting fashion, wondered if it should be tarter. KS, who generously volunteered to consume the great majority of the batch, said that it was perfect. So perfect, in fact, that I should feel free to make more. Soon.

I suppose I should feel better about myself having made a fat-free frozen treat. With minimal sugar, this was almost like biting into the watermelon itself. I wonder how long I’ll last before I start dipping into the French custards – that’s really the only problem with David’s book – I cannot decide which ice cream to make next, and equipped only with once ice cream maker at home, this might be a difficult conundrum facing me in the next few days. Oh decisions, decisions!

Continue reading watermelon sorbet.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

heirloom tomato salad with pickled onions


Summer and fall months are unusually good to tomatoes letting them ripen until the fruit is so full of sugar, it requires no background on which to rest it. To me, often, salad greens upstage the tomato itself, often the main star of the dish. I’ve been known to bite into a tomato or two and eat them straight up, as one would an apple.

Or at times, I’ve sprinkle a little Maldon sea salt onto it, and relish every bite. The sweet and the salty in one taste.

However, most people think me funny for allowing my summer tomatoes to be divas all on their own. Sometimes, I would be asked if I had run out of mixed greens. I’d say no and then find myself greeted by a confused look. Why just the tomatoes?

Well, for those who cannot imagine the tomato without its leafy friends, this simple salad should do the trick. Mixed greens, tomatoes, and red onions soaked in a solution of apple cider vinegar and sugar. All tossed together with the best balsamic and extra virgin olive oil you can find, and sprinkled with crushed, black pepper.

For those of us who are missing the summer produce – this is the salad to get us through the cold wintry months.

Continue reading heirloom tomato salad with pickled onions.