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Deviled Eggs with Mushrooms and Olives

Thursday, June 30, 2011

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A direct translation of the Russian equivalent of deviled eggs is "stuffed eggs." The the eggs were stuffed with what could be found in the fridge or pantry, like chopped scallion or canned mushrooms. This idea was the basis for this recipe: the eggs are stuffed with goodness. And with the onset of summer, this recipe makes a great cold appetizer dish or a picnic snack. They are made with sour cream instead of mayonnaise, and there aren't any hot spices, simply because I wanted a gentler flavor. Nevertheless the pimento olives lend the eggs their piquant quality and make this appetizer very tasty.

Deviled Eggs with Mushrooms and Olives
(Makes 8 egg halves)

You will need:
4 large eggs
2 tbsp canned button mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tbsp green pimento olives, finely chopped
1 tsp parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp scallion, finely chopped
1 tbsp sour cream
Salt, pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Carefully place the eggs in the water and boil for 15 minutes for a hard boil. Drain and let cool, then peel off the shells.

2. Cut each egg in half, length-wise. With a teaspoon, spoon out the egg yolks into a mixing bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork to a paste. Add mushrooms, olives, parsley and scallion. Mix together with sour cream and season with salt and pepper. Divide the yolk mixture evenly between the egg-white halves. Arrange the stuffed egg-white halves on a serving platter. Keep refrigerated until serving. Serve chilled.

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Salad Olivier

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This recipe is for another traditional Russian potato-based salad. This is not a potato salad per se, although it is probably the closest American approximation. It is one of the many salads that would typically be served before the main course during a holiday meal, or a salad that could serve as lunch in and of itself.

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There are many versions of this salad, all slightly different from one another. There is no one correct way to make this salad, as every family typically has its own recipe for this and other Russian dishes. I had been responsible for making this salad for the holidays since I was a child, and as a result I modified it to my taste over the years. The traditional dressing for the salad is mayonnaise, but I always use sour cream. I believe the salad tastes better with sour cream, instead of the fatty sweetness of mayo. Another common ingredient that is missing from this recipe is chopped apple, as I always thought it was strange to have it in this salad.

This salad calls for meat or ham, and in our family it has usually been good-quality bologna (not the pre-sliced packaged one in the supermarket, go to the deli section and ask for e.g. German bologna). But you can also use left over steak, ham, or chopped chicken breast.

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One more note: the salad is usually made in a large batch, to have plenty of leftovers. The salad will keep much better without any dressing or seasoning, so my mom and I would spoon out as much as was needed to serve at dinner into a serving bowl, and dress and season only that portion. The rest of the salad would be kept in the refrigerator, until ready to be served again.

Salad Olivier
(Serves 6-8)

You will need:
3-4 medium gold potatoes, unpeeled
3 medium carrots, unpeeled
2 eggs
2 small half-sour pickles, or kosher dills
2 Kirby cucumbers or 1 medium cucumber
1/2 lb of bologna (you can also use leftover steak, chicken breast, or ham)
1/2 cup canned green peas
1 tbsp freshly chopped dill
Sour cream, to taste (for the entire salad amount, use about 4 tbsp)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Place carrots and potatoes, whole and with skin on, in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil on medium heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook covered, until the vegetables are done, about 20 minutes (test with a pairing knife - they are done when you feel no resistance). Pour off the water and rinse the vegetables with cold water. Place vegetables on a plate and let stand until cool enough to handle. With a pairing knife carefully peel off the skins (the skins should peel off easily; make sure not to peel the flesh of the vegetables; do not use a peeler).

2. While the vegetables are cooking, place the eggs in a separate pot filled with water and bring a boil, simmer for 15 minutes until hard boiled. Remove the eggs from heat and rinse with cold water; let stand to cool. Once cooled, remove shells.

3. Chop carrots, potatoes, eggs, pickles and cucumber into 1/4 inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Slice bologna or meat into 1/4 inch pieces and add to the bowl. Add peas and dill and mix. Add sour cream and season with salt and pepper. Serve chilled.

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Friday Happy Hour: Mojito Recipe

Friday, June 10, 2011

For our first Friday Happy Hour, we are posting our very own mojito recipe. Whether you like yours sweet, sour, minty, or without alcohol, you can always adjust the ingredients to suit your own taste.

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Mojitos
(Serves 2)

You will need:
2 tbsp sugar
1 lime, cut into wedges
1/4 cup mint leaves, torn
3 oz white rum (omit for non-alcohol version)
12 oz club soda
Crushed ice
Straws
2 tall straight glasses

Directions:
1. Place 1 tbsp sugar, 1/2 of lime wedges, and 1/8 cup mint leaves into each glass. Muddle with a wooden pestle or the back of a wooden spoon. Mix in 1.5 oz rum into each glass. Fill each glass with 6 oz club soda, add crushed ice and stir. Decorate with lime wedge, insert straw, and serve. Enjoy responsibly.

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Tomatillo Salsa Verde (Green Salsa)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Salsa verde, or green salsa, can be deceptive, as the color green is not always associated with something hot.

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One time on vacation in Mexico, we were at a late buffet lunch with other tourists after an arduous four hour bus ride and wandering around in the heat among Mayan ruins. The male half of a retired couple from Washington State saw a green sauce with white seeds, not unlike the one pictured above, and perhaps thought it was a salad dressing. So he generously helped himself to two large spoonfuls on top of his lettuce leaves. Then he sat next to us and attempted at conversation. A few moments later he found out, to his taste-buds' great misfortune, the salsa was made with habaneros. Red all over, he peeped out a weak "excuse me," and flew out of his seat.

Although it can be made mouth-searing, as our friend above had found out, green salsa does not have to be painfully hot. You can adjust the spiciness yourself by adding more or less peppers. The recipe below calls for two unseeded serrano peppers, which by my palate (which is accustomed to spicy foods) is medium hot. Serrano peppers are green and slightly smaller but hotter than jalapenos. You can de-seed the peppers, removing the white membrane, which when broken releases the spicy chemical, thereby disarming the peppers for the most part while still retaining the flavor.

Green salsa may be served as a dip with tortilla chips, or as a sauce with meat or fish (such as the red snapper).

Tomatillo Salsa Verde
(makes about 1 1/2 cups)

You will need
1 lb fresh tomatillos, husks removed
1/2 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 serrano peppers, stem ends removed, halved
1/3 cup cilantro sprigs
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place tomatillos, onion and serrano peppers onto a foiled baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 10-12 minutes until tomatillos are browned and softened. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

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2. Place the roasted tomatillos, onion and serranos in a food processor or blender. Add fresh cilantro, lime juice and salt. Process until pureed. Place salsa into the serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Serve cold.

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Okra Ragout

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

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A ragout (pronounced rah-goo) is a slow cooked stew-type dish which can be made with vegetables or meat or both. A vegetable ragout cooked by my mom was my favorite dish as a child. It can be made with a variety of different vegetables.

This okra ragout is a nice complement to the red snapper recipe posted yesterday. It may, of course, be enjoyed by itself as a vegan, gluten-free, healthy (and a very tasty) meal.

Okra Ragout
(Serves 4)

You will need:
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb fresh okra, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch sized pieces
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 tbsp)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Place okra in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let soak for about 30 minutes, to remove the gumminess. Drain.

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2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add okra, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and zucchini. Stir in lime juice and cilantro, and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook the ragout, covered, stirring occasionally until okra is soft, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

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Baked Red Snapper

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ever since the visit to the Asian market for the durian purchase, I could not get an image of fresh red snapper that I spotted in the seafood section out of my mind. I knew I that I wanted to have it and that I wanted to cook it whole. I was throwing around French-themed recipes in my mind. Tony on the other hand, after having a taste of a salsa verde that I made recently, insisted that I somehow incorporate it with the fish. So I decided to go with a Cuban theme instead. Also a perfect excuse for mojitos.

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For this Cuban-themed meal, the fish was marinated with lime juice, stuffed with onions and cilantro, and then baked whole. I made an okra ragout, also drizzled with lime juice and sprinkled with fresh cilantro. Red snapper is sort of a blank canvas fish that takes well to a variety of seasonings, including spicy seasonings. As a result, a very spicy, serrano-infused, salsa verde was served on the side as a sauce to accompany the fish. And, of course, mojitos. The lime was the common ingredient in every recipe.

In addition, this week we are trying something slightly different with the recipes. Each recipe posted this week will be part of the complete dinner meal, so that at the end of the week you will have a main course, a side dish, a salsa, and a drink. Today we are posting the recipe for the baked red snapper. Come back tomorrow for the okra ragout (pictured above with the fish). On Thursday there will be a recipe for salsa verde, and on Friday, a mojito recipe.

Baked Red Snapper
(Serves 2)

You will need:
2 small red snapper (1 lb or less), gutted and cleaned
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 cup cilantro sprigs
1/2 cup red onion, julienned
2 tbsp olive oil

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F, positioning the rack in the middle of the oven.

2. Rinse each fish under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Carefully pour the lime juice over each fish, getting the juice all over, inside and out. Then rub the fish with sea salt and black pepper, inside and out. Make three incisions on the side of each fish, deep enough to reach the bone. Stuff the inside of each fish with sliced onion and cilantro sprigs.

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3. On a shallow baking pan, place two sheets of aluminum foil large enough to wrap each fish. Use 1 tbsp of olive oil to grease the top of each sheet. Place the fish onto the greased side of individual foil sheets, and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Wrap each fish in the foil, somewhat snugly, leaving a small opening for ventilation. Bake the fish for 15-20 minutes, until no longer pink and flakes easily. Remove from foil and serve immediately.

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Red Cabbage Salad

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I generally try to employ as many senses as possible in cooking. I always trust my nose when it gives me even the faintest indication that something might be off (there is no debate or second-guessing, the food goes directly in the trash, unless dealing with something that ought to smell putrid). I try to arrange food on a plate in a visually pleasing manner. And I'm suspicious of any cook that does not try his or her own food before serving it. However, rarely does one get to explore the sense of touch (and rarer still, the sense of hearing unless at issue is something akin to crackling candy that performs fireworks on one's tongue).

I find that there is something deeply satisfying about preparing food with your hands. Like sinking your hands into dough, feeling the slippery texture of a raw egg slide between your fingers as you mix it into the velvety powder of the flour. Ripping apart lettuce leaves with your fingers for a salad. Sprinkling coarse salt with your fingertips as you season a soup, instead of dumping it all at once with a measuring spoon.

The following is a recipe for a red cabbage salad which involves crushing raw shredded cabbage with your hands which I learned from watching my mom. Raw cabbage can be quite firm and difficult to masticate, and it therefore helps to tenderize it with salt or acidity of vinegar or lemon juice. Crushing the cabbage together with salt helps expedite the process, as you work the cabbage to absorb the salt more quickly. The amount of salt in the recipe may seem like a lot, and if you taste the cabbage with the salt still on the surface of the leaves, it might taste a bit over-seasoned. However as you let the salad stand, the cabbage will absorb the salt while it tenderizes, and the saltiness will diminish. You can always readjust the seasoning to your taste.

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Red Cabbage Salad
(Serves 4)

You will need:
1/2 head of red cabbage
1/4 medium red onion, very thinly sliced lengthwise
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1 tsp olive oil

Directions:
1. Rinse the cabbage head, removing any wilted top leaves. Remove the core. Shred the cabbage with a knife into thin, long slices.

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2. Place half of the the shredded cabbage into a bowl. Take half of the salt and add it to the bowl. With a swift movement, mix the cabbage and salt together with your hand, squeezing it as you hear a satisfying crunch sound, not unlike the sound of the snow crushing under your feet in the winter. Add the remaining cabbage and salt and repeat until the salt is well mixed, the cabbage is moist with juices, and the dark magenta color becomes more vivid.

3. Mix the red onion, parsley and dill into the cabbage. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil and mix well. Let the salad marinade, refrigerated, for at least half an hour to one hour. Serve chilled, giving it one final toss before serving.
 

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