Jul 312014
 

WPFanothersquarebig

I remember the first time I tasted a fresh fig. I was four that summer, on vacation in Montenegro, with my younger sister and our parents. I remember the feel of hot pebbles and cool Adriatic caressing my chubby feet. I remember Father brought a paper cone filled with warm figs from the market and spilled them on top of our oversized striped beach towel. I watched the weird-looking fruit with suspicion, doubting its real identity, invoking the images of Christmas Eves and amber-colored, chewy, and wrinkled pillows filled with sweet seeds that adorned the table along with nuts and raisins

Father bit into a slightly soft, light brown fig to reveal fleshy pulp the color of my tongue, and when his eyes closed in delight I trusted him without a question. I reached for one tentatively; my sister followed, and pretty soon we were running to the sea to wash off the sticky, pink rivulets that laced our tanned limbs, as we crunched the small seeds between our molars, trying to extract the last traces of the exotic honey taste that enchanted us.

Figs

For years, the only time I enjoyed figs was on the beaches of the Adriatic, and I almost forgot my initial infatuation. But now we live in Southern California and even though figs are everywhere, in grocery stores, at farmers’ markets, on neighborhood trees, I behave as if I still had not received the memo and grab a box greedily every time I see one. The fruit disappears as fast, sneaky long fingers plucking them one by one, until only their plastic containers remain.

It should not be a surprise then that I felt as if I won the lottery a couple of weeks ago when I came home balancing two huge boxes of warm, California figs in each arm. I spent an afternoon at my friend Erika’s house for the second installment of the Figology Fest, featuring fresh figs from California Fig Commission. There are some enormously talented individuals among my food blogger friends, but Judy and Erika quickly rose to the top as I sampled dozens of starters, main dishes, drinks, and desserts, each creatively elevating the sweet, honey flavor of several different varieties of figs.

Fig and Port Milkshake from bibberche.com

Fig and Port Milkshake

Bleu Cheese Stuffed Figs from bibberche.cvom

Figs Stuffed with Bleu Cheese and Topped with Almonds

Parmesan Crisp with Fig and Mascarpone Cheese

Parmesan Crisp with Fig and Mascarpone Cheese

Pork with Figs from bibberche.com

Pork with Figs

Rashmi's daughter Simone offering a platter with a smile

Rashmi’s daughter Simone offering latter with a smile

Rockfish Fig Tacos from bibberche.com

Rockfish Fig Fennel Tacos

Lemon Fig Tart

Lemon Tart with Fresh Figs

I love spending time surrounded by like-minded people, sipping good wine, catching up with old friends and making new friendships happen. I could not get enough of the morsels making their way out of Erika’s beautiful kitchen: each creatively arranged bite-size dish was flavorful  and assertive, allowing the fig to shine as the main ingredient, or to carry on as the sidekick.

Kim and I

Kim of Ninja Baking and I

And we did not leave empty-handed – those boxes of figs that I had hard time balancing were a parting gift from the California Fig Commission. When I finally managed to plop them on my counter, I was in heaven. The summers of my childhood suddenly came alive as I started biting into the warm, supple fruit, its juice staining my cheeks and making my fingers sticky.

But even with the help of my girls I could not eat everything I brought home. I used a bunch to make jam, some to make a delightful salad, several of them ended up on top of a pizza, and I reserved a handful for a special dessert. While it was cooking, the aroma from the kitchen sent me back and forth between the continent, and a smile stayed forever on my lips.

Figs Poached in Red Wine from bibberche.com

 

FIGS POACHED IN RED WINE

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 12 ripe figs (cut the stems off and make a cross at the top) (I used Mission figs, but any variety will do)
  • vanilla ice cream

Directions:

  1. Pour sugar and water into a small, heavy sauce pan.
  2. Cook on medium-low heat to caramelize, swirling the pot to brown evenly.
  3. When it reaches a deep amber color, take off the heat and add wine, vanilla bean, cinnamon, and rosemary.
  4. Cook until it boils.
  5. Carefully add figs and simmer for 10-15 minutes, depending on how firm the figs are.
  6. Take the figs out and continue to cook the sauce for another 10-15 minutes, until it reduces by half.
  7. Strain and let cool at room temperature.
  8. When ready to serve, spoon ice cream into a dish and top with figs and wine sauce.

Figology  Fest Part One happened some time in March and I was in awe of all the creative recipes Erika and Judy prepared using dried figs. Please visit Judy’s site Two Broads Abroad to read all about it).

Jul 172014
 
Everyday Thai Cooking 001

Photo by Melissa’s Produce

My father spent two weeks in Thailand a decade or so ago, as a participant of an international ObGyn conference. My sister and her husband explored several Thai resorts looking for the ultimate scuba-diving adventure. Many of my friends from Europe and the U.S. have been posting their photos from visiting Siam to their Facebook pages in recent years.

I listen to and read many of their stories, longingly touch the souvenirs they bring back, and admire the images that accompany each one of their tales. I live vicariously through their memories, happy for their experiences, but at the same time completely consumed with the insatiable “reisefieber”.

Everyday Thai Cooking

California Greek Girl Mary Papoulias-Platis and I,, enjoying young coconut water – Photo by Melissa’s

I occasionally try to satisfy the hunger for traveling by roaming the aisles of my neighborhood Asian stores. I bury my face in a bunch of purple-tinted Thai basil and scratch-and-sniff stiff stalks of lemongrass in a vain desire to be transported to the land that has been calling my name for years.

I know the food can take me there instantaneously, but I have been hesitant to delve in and try to replicate all those fragrant dishes I enjoyed in Berkeley and San Francisco. Even though I live in Los Angeles, where I can find all the exotic ingredients necessary to prepare a Thai meal, I was intimidated by the thought. But no more.

A few days ago my fears were thoroughly dispersed when I joined a group of food writers and bloggers at Melissa’s Produce in Vernon to celebrate Katie Chin’s newest cookbook, Everyday Thai Cooking – Quick and Easy Family Style Recipes.

Everyday Thai Cooking

Melissa’s Kitchen – photo by Melissa’s

I met Katie just a few weeks ago at Camp Blogaway.   Her life story really touched my heart. Katie’s mother opened one of the first Chinese restaurants in Minneapolis and taught her how to cook from an early age. But when Katie moved to California and started working in the entertainment industry, her hectic life pulled her away from cooking. She ate out most days and soon she felt that she had forgotten how to prepare a meal on her own. She called for help and her mother joined her, determined to stand by her side and guide her to reconnect with the art she almost lost. In no time, Katie quit her job and started a catering company with her mother. She didn’t only regain her knowledge of cooking – she quickly became a culinary expert, appearing on cooking shows by herself and along with her mother, authoring cookbooks, teaching cooking classes, and demonstrating recipes for various TV stations.

Melissa’s chefs prepared several recipes from Katie’s book. Everything we tasted was full of flavor, fresh, colorful, and bold.

Every Day Thai Cooking from bibberche.com

Chiang Mai Chicken in Lettuce Cups, Vegan Tofu Salad, Thai Steak Salad

Every Day Thai Cooking from bibberche.com

Stir-Fried Vegetables with Chili-Tamarind Sauce, Phuket Chicken with Lemongrass Curry, Shrimp with Thai Basil and Lemongrass

Every Day Thai Cooking from bibberche.com

Beautiful Fruit from Melissa’s Produce, Coconut Cupcakes with Mango Sauce

After lunch Katie entertained us while showing us her effortless way of preparing Thai food – in this case Chiang-Mai Chicken in Lettuce Cups and Pineapple Fried Rice. Both of these dishes combined the elements of flavor that are always present in Thai cooking: sweet, salty, sour, and hot. Katie is warm, personable, vivacious, and funny. Her passion for cooking and love of all Asian food was apparent throughout the demonstration.  We learned that we can freeze grated ginger and break away the pieces as needed. She taught us how to use lemongrass and offered suggestions for serving these dishes (like this pineapple bowl).

Everyday Thai Cooking

Photo by Melissa’s

As a mother of twin toddlers, she is aware of time constraints of working families. There are more than 100 recipes in her book and almost all of them are quick and easy. She de-mystified the art of cooking Thai, providing basic recipes for delicious staple dishes that include both homemade and store-bought options. The dishes are organized by courses and each step-by step recipe lists prep times and substitutions for more elusive ingredients. Did I mention that the book is gorgeous? The photography is amazing and just looking at all those beautiful colors and glossy pages makes me want to cook.

Every Day Thai Cooking

Photo by Valentina from Cooking on the Weekends

 

Everyday Thai Cooking is a compilation of simple recipes that embody the essence of Thai cuisine. The book is published by Tuttle Publishing (thank you for my own copy!) and you can purchase it from Amazon. As far as I am concerned, I am not stuffing it on my shelf to collect dust – this beauty is going to become a favorite, a well-used friend who will help me master the art of Siamese food.

 

Jun 182014
 

The Great Pepper Cookbook by Melissa's from bibberche.com

The creative and knowledgeable people at Melissa’s Produce have managed to bring forth another beautifully photographed, informative, and immensely useful book: The Great Pepper Cookbook – The Ultimate Guide to Choosing and Cooking With Peppers. This one is very close to my heart as I cannot imagine my life as a Serb without the formidable influence of the humble peppers.

Ever since I arrived to the shores of the U.S., many of my friends found themselves smitten by the number of dishes the Serbs can make with peppers. Used only to an occasional pepper ring in their salad, they were easily seduced by roasted peppers sprinkled with garlic and dressed with a vinaigrette; ajvar, the roasted red pepper spread that takes hours to make, but worth every second of hard work; hot yellow bell peppers filled with unpasteurized milk and left to ferment until the milk becomes creamy, spicy, and tangy; banana peppers blanched in water, oil, vinegar and spices, and marinated with parsley and garlic; and stuffed colorful bell peppers.

Grilled Steak and Potato Salad from bibberche.com

I opened the book expecting to pat myself on the back as a proven pepper connoisseur, but in mere minutes I found myself immersed in facts that were never a part of my vast trivia knowledge. I pored over the first several pages devoted to various types of fresh and dried chiles, their descriptions, photos, and the place on the Scoville scale. I discovered that the hot peppers of my childhood and youth are considered pretty mild compared to their fiery Latin or Asian cousins, and immediately thought of the ways to bring some seeds to my relatives and friends who enjoy the spicy heat.

The rest of the book consists of recipes divided in chapters according to the course: there are Appetizers, Snacks and Drinks, Breakfast and Brunch, Soups and Salads, Sandwiches, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, and Desserts. Each recipes shows the photos of the peppers used, the index of heat, and tips on toning it down, heating it up, or making it ahead.

Grilled Steak nd Potato Salad from bibberche.com

I started placing post-it notes to the recipes I was eager to try, but after most of the pages were marked, I had to give up. I am never without fresh peppers in my fridge and now I have a few bags of different dry peppers, thanks to the generous folks at Melissa’s Produce. I have already tried a few recipes which were greeted with accolades. The book sits on my coffee table, pretty enough to be a conversation topic, but incredibly useful and informative as a guide. I know I will reach for it any time I am short on inspiration and I am positive that it will not disappoint me.

The first dish I tried was Grilled Steak and Potato Salad (p.111), which asked for both dried Chile de Arbol and Pasilla Negro. It was simple to prepare, with several layers of flavor, and served at room temperature, a perfect meal for a long, hot California evening.

The next was Spicy Pork Stir-Fry (p.175) with yakisoba noodles and Napa cabbage, which called for both dry and fresh peppers. It was a zesty, slightly spicy dish, with a great balance of crunchy and soft.

Stir-Fry with Peppers from bibberche.com

And then there was Beef Barbacoa (p. 171), a rich, comforting dish that filled my home with a heady aroma while it simmered for several hours. I used dried Hatch chiles, poblanos, and multicolored bell peppers.

I urge you to go get the book if you want to learn everything there is about fresh and dry peppers. You can find it at your local bookstore, Amazon, or at Melissa’s Produce website. It made me look at the world of peppers in a completely different way and now I can walk in any grocery store or farmers’ market with real confidence to choose the perfect variety for my meal.

May 192014
 

Chicken Tortilla Soup from bibberche.com

Last Thursday morning, my friend Cipriano boarded a flight from Tijuana to Oaxaca  to reunite with his wife, children, and fourteen grandchildren that he had not seen in more than four years. A few days ago, a co-worker took him to a salon where he had his salt-and-pepper hair died a ridiculously artificial black to hide the fact that he has aged. He spent all his free time this week at Target and Walmart, buying presents for his eagerly awaiting family.

We have worked together for almost two years and I will miss his small, hunched up form scurrying around, pushing the crates of glasses, and bringing the piles of green, yellow, and maroon Fiesta plates from his immaculately clean dish washing area. He appeared every morning at least half an hour early, greeting everybody with a wide smile that made his mustache shift upwards. He worked without complaining, endured the incessant teasing of the Mexican cooks and waiters, accepting their jokes with giggles, and trying to reciprocate the best he could. He claimed to be fifty two, but the wrinkles on his face revealed a more advanced age.

The only words in English el viejito has learned to pronounce are “thank you”, “hello”, and “break”. When I met him, my Spanish consisted of Adios, Hola! and una cerveza mas fina. I could sing a few lines from Besame Mucho and Un Año De Amor from Pedro Almodovar’s movie High Heels, but we really could not communicate. Using my Italian to try to break the language barrier, I asked Cipriano if he would teach me Spanish. He agreed enthusiastically, and from that moment on, my days at work were filled with phrases and sentences that he would pronounce in his toothless Spanish, gesticulating and using charades to make me comprehend their meaning. I would come home and pore through books or consult the Internet to get the grammatically correct forms, and go back to work to put to use what he had taught me.

With a forlorn look in his dark beady eyes, he told me of his village nestled in the hills a few hours outside of Oaxaca. He told me of his wife who tends to their goats, pigs, cows, and chickens. He told me how he missed the burro that he rode every day to and from the village center, as they did not own a horse, nor a car. He smiled every time when he remembered his wife’s homemade comidita, the small corn tortillas filled with roasted pork, some frijoles and arroz served with a Coronita or two. Talking about the people he loved and the land he left behind, he resorted to diminutives, making everything closer, more endearing, and childlike.

Cipriano

He walked home up the hill after his shift, just to change his uniform and walk down the hill to his night time job. More dishes to wash, more tables to clean, more cooks and waiters to tease him about missing his wife. He greeted every day with a glint in his eyes, grateful for any small thing that made his day better, perennially happy and eager to joke and accept jokes, no matter how cruel. He worked six and seven days a week for more than four years, day and night, walking along the paved sidewalks of Southern California and dreaming of a distant village somewhere in Mexico where calves are born, and chickens are slaughtered, and cows are milked, and his wife is making small, sweet corn tortillas and maybe thinking of him.

On his last day at work, I brought my camera and I took pictures of Cipriano with all the employees: waiters and cooks, managers and busboys, hostesses and prep guys. In each photo, he stood erect, trying to appear taller, his face sporting his usual wide smile even though a cook couldn’t resist the juvenile antic of holding his fingers behind Cipriano’s head like donkey ears. I printed the pictures and gave them to him to take home, to have at least a few faces by which to remember the four arduous years he spent in the US, trying to make as much money as he could so that he can help his family.

He made me promise to visit him and his wife if I ever make it to Oaxaca, and I agreed. I wrote down the name of his village and all the families related to him that would know where to find him. I showed him the piece of paper with names in Spanish and he averted his eyes, smiling, saying bien, bien. In that instant I knew that mi amigo viejito did not know how to read nor write, and my heart ached for him. If I had known, I could have taught him a little every day, just like he taught me Spanish.

The last time I saw him, he came to pick up his paycheck wearing a freshly ironed plaid shirt and a baseball hat. I gave him all the tips I made that day and told him to buy something nice for his wife and a lot of chocolates for his fourteen nietos. He gave me a hug and we both fought tears as we made our usual jokes. I left, waving to him, saying Vaya con Dios, mi amigo Cipriano!  I wish you good winds… And just like that, there was one less smile in my world. But I smiled wider because there would be so many more smiles in his than he had known in too many years.

I hope that he has arrived safely. I imagine the whole village of San Bartolo Salinas has gathered to listen to his high tales while he is sipping mezcal and munching salsita. I wish that he finds his peace in the green hills of Oaxaca he missed so much, riding his loyal burro to the center of the village, sitting straight and smiling. And I hope that, at least once or twice, he thinks of his friends on the other side of the border that will remember him for a long time, hoping his smile is even wider for being home.

I was thinking of a recipe that would transport me to Cipriano’s Oaxaca and I knew I had a winner when I started collecting the ingredients for chicken tortilla soup. This is a perfect dish to mark a reunion of husband and wife. It is rich and flavorful, carrying many layers and bringing forth just enough spice to make your heart skip a beat. I don’t know what dish his mujer made to welcome him home, but I fancied that she served him a bowl of this wonderful soup and that his smile was as wide as mine at the thought that my friend is home.

Chicken Tortilla Soup from bibberche.com

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Recipe Type: Soups
Cuisine: Latin-American
Author: :Lana Watkins
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Turning leftovers into completely different, but equally interesting and delicious fares is one of my favorite challenges. This is hearty soup is light on fat and carbohydrates, but packed with flavor. It comes together quickly and arrives at the dinner table in about 45 minutes. It is a versatile dish and accommodates exchanges and substitutions.
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper (or ½ sweet red pepper), chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo, chopped (optional, if you don’t like spicy food)
  • 1 28-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, including liquid
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 can beans, rinsed and drained (I use whatever beans I have in the pantry)
  • 1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 3 tomatillos, chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup shredded or diced leftover roasted or baked chicken*
  • juice of two small limes
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2-3 corn tortillas
  • oil for frying
  • *If you don’t want to use leftover chicken, you can start from scratch, which will add
  • 7-8 minutes to your cooking time. Season one boneless chicken breast (or two boneless thighs) with salt, pepper, chili powder, and ground cumin, and sauté it
  • before you sauté the onions. When browned on both sides, remove from the pan
  • and let it cool off. Continue with the recipe.
  • Optional for Serving:
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • handful cilantro, chopped
  • queso fresco (if unavailable, use mild feta or jack cheese)
  • lime wedges
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot on medium heat.
  2. Add onions and pepper, and sauté until translucent.
  3. Add garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, chili powder and oregano.
  4. Stir and saute until fragrant, about one minute.
  5. Add stock, chipotles, tomatoes, water and beans.
  6. Simmer ten minutes to allow the flavors to come together.
  7. Add corn, tomatillos, chicken and lime juice; simmer an additional 15 minutes.
  8. In the meantime, heat 1 inch of oil in a small pot on medium-high heat.
  9. Cut tortillas into thin strips and fry until crispy.
  10. Place onto a plate layered with paper
  11. towels to drain.
  12. Stir in cilantro and taste.
  13. Go light on the salt, since the tortillas will be salty.
  14. Slice avocado and divide between bowls, saving a little for garnish.
  15. Ladle soup
  16. into four bowls and top with cilantro, avocado, tortilla strips, crumbled queso
  17. fresco and lime wedges.

 

Apr 172014
 

Naturally Colored Easter Eggs from bibberche.com

The days approaching Easter were filled with excitement and anticipation for us while we were growing up in Yugoslavia. As soon as we noticed the envelopes of different dyes and cartons of eggs waiting in the pantry, we became antsy, barely able to wait for “Veliki Cetvrtak” or Big Thursday, to join in the ritual of coloring Easter eggs. The galley kitchen in our old house was too narrow to accommodate Mother’s slender figure joined by Njanja’s much more corpulent presence. When the three of us ran around, weaving through skirts and legs, the small space became like an anthill, teeming with small creatures.

Mother would empty an envelope in the water, add a tablespoon of vinegar to help set the color, and heat it until it boiled. She would place the eggs one by one carefully into the bubbling liquid, and let them move around and absorb the color for fifteen or twenty minutes. The moment when the eggs were to emerge from the murky swirls was greeted by wide open eyes. Upon resting our glances on a perfectly colored oval resting in the spoon glistening in Carmine Red, Prussian Green, Cadmium Yellow, Permanent Violet, or Cobalt Blue, the smiles of relief would appear, and the egg would be placed gingerly onto a plate to cool off.

Easter 2005

Easter egg and Anya, nine years ago.

We breathed in the astringent smell of vinegar waiting eagerly for our cue to affix the clingy decorative labels depicting adorable chickens and cute bunnies onto the eggs. After straightening the folds of the filmy material, making it become one with the surface, Mother would rub the eggs with bacon, making them shiny and beautiful, resplendent in their primary colors.

The first red egg was sequestered into the credenza to await the next year’s Big Thursday, replacing the old one that sat triumphantly on the shelf for a year. This egg was called “Cuvarkuca”, its purpose: to take care of the house and its inhabitants and protect them from the evil spirits. They say that this first red egg never rots, but I was never brave enough to test this hypothesis.

At the conclusion of this endeavor, there were baskets of colorful eggs adorning every flat surface of the house. We would approach them surreptitiously and caress their smooth surfaces, trying to pick the sturdiest specimens for the upcoming egg battle on Sunday morning. We called forth images of Father choosing a ripe watermelon, thumping and probing, and shook the eggs, knocked on them, and rolled them around. We pulled the ones we decorated on top, and marked the possible winners with a marker. Every day the position of the eggs in the baskets changed, as we attempted to be sly and sneaky, looking forward to the challenge.

Easter 2005

Nine years ago, Zoe and her egg.

Veliki Petak (Great Friday, as opposed to Good Friday) was one of the few days during the course of the year that we observed the Eastern Orthodox Lent rules: no red meat, no dairy, no eggs. I am convinced that I mastered the art of delayed gratification ogling those beautiful eggs for three days, without being able to get to them.

Our Lenten dinner was not a humble affair. There was always a lot of pan-fried fish (trout or fresh-water bass), accompanied by crusty bread,  potato salad with red onions and a vinaigrette, baked Serbian beans, black radish relish, and several desserts, including baklava. But those forbidden eggs taunting us with their vibrant splendor were the center of our attention.

The Easter Sunday table was covered with a crisp, white, starched tablecloth that awaited us early in the morning when we sauntered in with our freshly scrubbed faces and squeaky-clean teeth. We wore our best clothes that Mother picked the night before and laid for us on the living room couch. We would solemnly sit at the table, appraising its offerings:  magenta slivers of fresh radishes, crisp spears of green onions, white cubes of farmers’ cheese, a bowl of pale yellow kajmak, a platter exhibiting one of Mother’s baking masterpieces, and in the center: the basket of eggs, flanked by a wooden salt and pepper dispenser.

We would wait patiently while the adults took their places at the table, ready to grab the egg we had chosen days ago to be the contender. When everybody’s cups were filled with milk or yogurt, the egg battle could commence. The only rule that was imposed was the proper positioning of the egg in the hand. We went around, knocking egg against egg, sharper side to sharper side, obtuse to obtuse, until one egg was the absolute winner, having at least one of the sides intact. The other eggs became pure fodder for the masses, dunked in salt and eaten together with crunchy scallions. The winner went back to the basket, its owner jealously guarding it during any upcoming meal. These battles were not to be taken frivolously and everybody coveted the winning egg. But we all enjoyed the rest of the Easter breakfast, laughing, arguing the merits of each carefully chosen egg, and enjoying the wonderful food greeting us on the table.

I was not raised in a religious household, and neither are my girls. But when Easter approaches, their eyes become sparkly, and they start talking eggs. I indulge them and offer the cups of food coloring diluted in hot water. They draw with crayons before they color the eggs. They put sprinkles and rhinestones on eggs, they write messages and names, they try their best in topping the previous year’s lovelies.

Easter Eggs from bibberche.com

I do not buy the envelopes of powder dye, even though I still have dreams of those eggs posing on the dining room table. I collect onion skins and color my eggs naturally, decorating them with a leaf, a petal, a frond. It is  a method widely used in Serbia, and I just love the hues that I get from different exposure times and differently colored eggs.

I carefully lay the basket of colored eggs on my Easter Sunday table, accompanied by magenta-hued radishes, crispy scallions, and freshly baked bread. The girls come out of their room scrubbed and clean, wearing their best clothes. Looking at their eyes darting around, appraising the situation, picking the best egg for the battle, I try to stifle a smile. I know for certain that they are going to pick the eggs they decorated, thinking they just might win this time!

ONION SKIN COLORED EGGS

Ingredients:

  • 2 dozen eggs (buy them several days in advance and let them rest in the fridge)
  • Onion skins (yellow onions and red onions are the best) – I start collecting mine a couple of months before
  • 1-2 Tbsp vinegar
  • leaves, fronds, petals – anything you think might make a good impression on the egg
  • old stockings
  • twist ties or rubber bands

Directions:

Wet a spot on the egg and affix the leaf, a petal, or a frond onto the egg. Wrap tightly in the stocking and twist off with a twist tie or a rubber band.

Fill a big Dutch oven or a stainless steal pot with onion skins, add water, and nestle the wrapped eggs inside. Heat until boiling, and then turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer for twenty to thirty minutes (depending on the desired shade, the eggs can simmer for up to one hour.) Pull the eggs out and allow to cool. Cut the wrapping around the eggs and remove the greenery. Rub the eggs with a piece of bacon to seal the pores.

VARIATIONS:

I have colored my eggs successfully using turmeric and coffee. I love all the different hues I get with the method. I also use garlic skins to achieve marble effect, rubber bands, the adhesive “dots” that are left after punching holes in paper, and textured plastic bags that hold my garlic bulbs or potatoes.

Naturally Colored Easter Eggs from bibberche.com

Eggs colored with coffee, turmeric, and onion skins

Apr 012014
 

Ojai Pixie Cake from bibberche.com

I am standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. A coffee maker is gurgling behind me, and to the right the onions and potatoes sizzle in the skillet on the stove. My 70s kitchen could have easily been duplicated from an Updike’s Rabbit novel, but all the smells that surround me scream comfort and warmth. The tree branches in front of my balcony sway in the rhythm with the wind that blows from the west, bringing along a hint of the  ocean through the open door.

Yes, life is hectic and I still need at least five or six extra hours a day to accomplish everything. But even with the constant adrenaline rush I manage to take in all the beauty and serenity around me and acknowledge how grateful I am that my girls and I are finally settled in our own apartment. I still smile every time I unlock the door and glimpse a stairway leading up to the bedrooms, pinching myself just in case I were dreaming. Every day is like a present, unexpected, but eagerly awaited and greatly appreciated.

Ojai PixieTangerines from bibberche.com

I want to finally anchor myself to one place even though I still feel like a tourist who has decided to make this Southern California vacation last longer, and every Saturday chants “one more week, one more week.” I walk around with my mouth open, greedily soaking up every detail of beauty that surrounds me. I crane my neck through the car window, hoping to see the mountains covered with snow in the distance. I eagerly await the green light on the way to our local Persian store just to see the undulating hills of the valley hugging the horizon while the car plummets down the steep, curvy road.

I still get excited when I see a plump palm tree in a neighbor’s yard. I point and clap every time I spy a citrus tree, and sometimes even plan the elaborate nightly raids on the unsuspecting fruit hanging off the easily reached branches in the street that leads to my daughter’s school. I feel as if I were here on borrowed time, and any minute a cold hand will snatch me and whisk me away back to Ohio. And just in case I wake up freezing in some driveway west of Cleveland, I would like to have my pockets stuffed with tangerines, lemons, and oranges to keep me warm.

Ojai Pixie Tangerines from bibberche.com

A few days ago the mailman delivered a box full of Ojai pixie tangerines from Melissa’s Produce to my door. As I brought them up to my face and inhaled their fresh, citrus smell, I could not stop smiling. I do not have to sneak through the neighborhood and make the chihuahuas restless while I try to pick someone else’s fruit. I am not going anywhere and I do not have to arm myself with California sunshine to battle the invisible forces trying to plunge me into the land of eternal snow. I loved Cleveland, but right now I am starting to make firmer and more self-confident steps on the California sand.

I felt as if I were living a California dream as the sweet, sticky liquid ran down my fingers and the smell of fresh citrus enveloped me. It made me tremendously happy to be alive right now, in this beautiful part of the world that I can finally call home.

Ojai Pixie Caramel Cake from bibberche.com

Ojai pixie tangerines are incredibly sweet and fragrant. Their season is short and can be easily missed. We ate most of the loot, but several ended up in this cake which pretty much describes my life right now: fulfilling, satisfying, light, fresh, and at times surprising (as the caramel hardened on top of the tangerines, it added a delightful, albeit unexpected crunch).

Ojai Pixie Cake with Caramel Sauce
Recipe Type: Dessert
Cuisine: International
Author: Lana
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
This cake is easy to make and versatile. You can substitute fruit of your choice and play with the flavor combinations.
Ingredients
  • 6 Ojai pixie tangerines (zested, peeled and separated into segments; reserve 1 tsp of zest for the recipe, save the rest in freezer)
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Caramel Sauce:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup Ojai pixie tangerine juice (about 4 tangerines)
Instructions
  1. Cake:
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan.
  4. Combine the butter and sugar and mix on medium speed until fluffy using an electric mixer.
  5. While the mixer is running, add eggs one at a time.
  6. Add the grated orange zest.
  7. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  8. Add the flour mixture to the batter and mix until it is incorporated.
  9. Pour the batter into the pan.
  10. Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the cake is an even golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  12. Take the cake out of the pan.
  13. Arrange the orange slices in one layer on top of the cake.
  14. Caramel Orange Sauce:
  15. Combine sugar, water, and tangerine juice in a heavy pan.
  16. Heat on moderate-high temperature until sugar is melted.
  17. Turn the heat down to low and cook until the color turns light amber, stirring occasionally.
  18. Pour the caramel on top of the cake and tangerine slices.
  19. Let it cool and serve.

Thanks Melissa’s Produce for the gift of citrusy sunshine.

Mar 122014
 

Wilfreds Picks_Spring_2014

If you know me at all, in real life or via Facebook, you know that I have a long-lasting friendly relationship with wine. It started when I was a teenager in Serbia, where beer and wine are conveniently considered to be more like food items, than alcoholic beverages.

I did not like the taste of wine when Father would pour a few sips into a goblet placed just to the right of my plate, and it took years of perseverance and many long nights for the two of us to get on friendly terms.

Our friendship is still full of mysteries and secrets, as I do not presume that I know much about wine. I know that I thoroughly enjoy its company, that it makes me laugh, and allows me to push aside the ugly of the world for a few hours.

I do not foresee us splitting ways any day soon and I am convinced that we are to spend numerous hours together getting to know each other much better. I am willing to learn, and even make sacrifices, such as  braving the 91 eastbound at rush hour on my way to Riverside for the opening of the newest BevMo! store.

Riverside BevMo!

Riverside BevMo!, photo by Valerie Mitchell

I arrived with my knees wobbly and my knuckles white, my head filled with the highway screeches and honks. It would be an understatement to say that I welcomed with a sigh of relief a proffered glass of 2012 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc and a saucer of nibbles.

I am always eager to hear new advice on how to pair wine and food, especially when the teacher is Wilfred Wong, the Cellar Master for BevMo! for the last nineteen years. This man has a dream job: he travels all over the world, tastes the wines, rates them, and chooses which ones are going on BevMo! shelves.

Wilfred Wong

Wilfred Wong, photo by Valerie Mitchell

So what should you do to be able to taste wine like a pro? Follow the four Ss:

  • SEE the color of the wine; as the white wine ages, the color gets darker and as the red wine ages, the color gets lighter; the color can also give a hint as to what type of grape was used to make the wine; color can help determine how light or heavy the wine will taste or feel – the lighter the color, the lighter the wine should feel in your mouth.
  • SWIRL: Coat the side of the glass to help wine open up and release the aromas for the next step.
  • SMELL: Sniff three times and come up with three words to describe the wine.
  • SIP: You will taste sweet, sour, salty and bitter.

When pairing wines with food think of the elements of the food that will affect the wine. Is the food salty or sweet? Does it have acid or is it fatty? (Use the acid in the wine to either complement the food, or cut through fatty types of food.)

Some of these tips will definitely help you pick the right wine for your next dinner party, but the most important lesson is that you should really imbibe the wines you personally like. Wine drinking and tasting is highly subjective and therefore, there is no right and wrong answer.

Wine tasting

Wine Tasting at Riverside BevMo!, photo by Valerie Mitchell

And the best way to learn what you like is to taste as many varieties of wine as you can. This made me clap my hands in anticipation, eager to start making new acquaintances.

To make it even more irresistible, BevMo! 5 Cent Wine Sale just started. And in case you have no clue what I am talking about, here is the deal: if you buy one bottle for retail value, you get another one for only a nickel. Or buy one case of wine at the regular price, and the second case is just 60 cents. Here is the chance to experiment and stock up without buyer’s remorse, as there are over 200 different wines offered in this deal.

 Wilfred Wong’s Top 10 picks for 5 Cent Wine Sale:

1.     Main & Geary Pinot Grigio ’12 (92 points) Suggested Pairing: linguine, clams in a light cream sauce

 2.    Ray’s Creek Sauvignon Blanc (89 points) Suggested Pairing: raw oysters on the half shell

 3.     Dolce Vita Prosecco (89 points) Suggested Pairing: tuna sashimi, with sorrel and lemon

 4.     Beringer Carneros Chardonnay ’12 (92 points) Suggested Pairing: sauteed, pounded chicken breast in a light crème sauce

 5.     Ray’s Creek Chardonnay (91 points) Suggested Pairing: lightly grilled shrimp, with a white wine reduction sauce

 6.     Kenwood Jack London Merlot ’10 (92 points) Suggested Pairing: baked pork tenderloin, with savory spices

 7.     Zolo Gaucho Select Malbec ’11 (91 points) Suggested Pairing: grilled beef or goat, light red wine reduction sauce

 8.     Donovan-Parke Pinot Noir ’12 (91 PTS) Suggested Pairing: grilled salmon, fresh, savory herbs

 9.     Unruly Red Table Wine ’11 (92 points) Suggested Pairing: grilled beef or lamb, with a light touch of savory herbs

 10.  Crooked Path Zinfandel ’11 (93 points) Suggested Pairing: Greek style lamb kebobs, with rosemary and lemon zest

Be sure to check out Wilfred’s Top 10 Picks here each week and stop by your local neighborhood BevMo!, where the local beverage experts can help you make your 5 Cent Wine Sale picks.

BevMo Riverside

I have been compensated to write this post. But everything you read is straight from my heart. Yes, twist my arm and point me to a glorious wine store…

Mar 042014
 

Colcannon from bibberche.com

I was in the U.S. only for about six months when I first encountered St.Patrick’s Day celebration. I was working in a restaurant that served green beer on March 17th and featured enormous shamrocks all over its walls. The customers shouted botched Gallic to one another and inhaled the bowls filled with corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes.

My husband picked me up and took me to an Irish pub, where we met his friends and family, all brandishing the bottles of Irish brew and shots of Jameson’s whiskey, sparkly shamrocks plastered on their cheeks. I married into an Irish family that still clung to its roots, which date all the way to the Mayflower. Were there any Irish on board the Mayflower? I’d say no.

Dutch Baby Potatoes

My ex-husband’s ancestors have the lineage better than the Vanderbilts. Peregrine White was the first English baby born in the new land, while the ship was anchored at Cape Cod. There is a thick, leather-bound genealogy book that lists hundreds of names which came after him.  I heard that at some point in history the White family was pretty affluent. My ex-husband’s great-ancestor must have been the ubiquitous black sheep part of the tribe, prone to gambling and drinking, destined to squander the inheritance. Which he did, leaving the legacy of laissez-faire hedonism to his posterity.

Did the great-grandpa meet a ginger-haired Irish lass who took him dancing, when he was supposed to pray? Did he surrender his prudish upbringing to the altar of unlimited  joie de vivre? I don’t assume we will ever find out, but this wing of the family was defiantly Irish, slightly catholic (relative to the relative), and very much steeped in every aspect of hedonism.

Leeks from bibberche.com

There are some historians trying to connect ancient Celts with the ancient southern Slavs, especially the Serbs, claiming that originally they were all one big tribe. Something prompted one part of the group to separate and settle on the Emerald Isles.

I don’t know if I buy into this theory, but I have some very fond memories of this Irish-American family, their self-deprecating humor, gregariousness, refusal to grow up, and great attraction to sin. I chose to leave and therefore I am only connected to them through my oldest daughter, who is the keeper of the family tree; but each St. Patrick’s Day I remember them decked in bright green with silly hats on, loud and ebullient, raising foaming mugs of beer and toasting one another, “Sláinte!”

Kale sprouts from bibberche.com

Baby Kale Sprouts from Melissa’s Produce

Colcannon
Recipe Type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Irish
Author: Lana
This is a versatile and very satisfying dish, a great accompaniment to roasts or sausages.
Ingredients
  • 1 lb potatoes (I used baby potatoes from Melissa’s Produce)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp bacon grease or butter
  • 1 bunch kale or Swiss chard, rinsed and cut into pieces (1/4 head of cabbage or Savoy cabbage) – I used baby kale sprouts from Melissa’s Produce
  • 1 leek, white and pale green parts only, halved and cut into semi-circles
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Place the unpeeled potatoes in a heavy pot.
  2. Cover with cold water.
  3. Add salt.
  4. Heat until it starts to boil.
  5. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until fork-tender, about 15 minutes.
  6. Remove potatoes from the pot.
  7. Add butter or bacon grease to the pot and heat on medium temperature.
  8. Add the greens and saute until slightly softened, 3-4 minutes.
  9. Add the leeks and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
  10. Add the potatoes and smash them with a fork so that there are no big lumps.
  11. Add the milk and place the pot back on the stove.
  12. Stir for another minute or two until creamy and combined.
  13. Add salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Thank you, Melissa’s Produce for a magnificent box of goodies!

Some fun facts about St. Patrick’s Day:

1. St. Patrick was not Irish. He was born in Rome, kidnapped as a child by Irish pirates, and brought to Ireland where he herded sheep before managing to escape.

2. St. Patrick was depicted wearing blue, rather than green.

3. Symbol of Ireland is not the shamrock, but the harp.

4. There are more Irish living in the U.S. than in Ireland (especially if we include eveyone who boasts Irish ancestry).

5. Until 1970, St. Patrick’s Day was a religious holiday and all the pubs were closed. Beer started flowing freely only when it was converted into a national holiday.

6. Your chances of finding a four-leaf clover are 1 in 10,000.

If you’d like to learn to pronounce sláinte (which means “health” in Gaellic), click here.

Feb 122014
 

Passion Fruit Mini Cheesecakes from bibberche.com

February is not one of my favorite months. It’s too short, too whimsical, too unpredictable, and it comes just before my birthday month of March. I am a bit vain and it is not surprising that I cannot wait for February to move over and allow the bright yellow forsythia flowers to break the winter grays. A harbinger of spring I am, having arrived on Earth at the last day of winter, just to bid it goodbye.

When I was younger, I had several winter “breaks” a year to look forward to; days spent skiing, nights spent playing games, drinking, and laughing with good friends – more than enough to speed February along and disperse the last remnants of seemingly endless sub-zero temperatures.

Passion Fruit from bibberche.com

One year, we were cooped up in our cabin for days, unable to see above the snowdrifts. The boys worked on shoveling a tunnel to the wood shed; the girls made sure there is plenty of hearty food; together, we systematically worked through our vast alcohol stockpile, until the only bottles left were gin and maracuja syrup. We hoped it would stop snowing and we’d be able to get to a store and procure more desirable beverages. Alas, the preferans tournament lasted well into the witching hours and the stress of playing and kibitzing demanded fortification. Sweet, tropical, citrusy and exotic taste of maracuja drowned the harsh aftertaste of gin and the night was saved.

These days I don’t have to battle snow and freezing rains of February. My girls look forward to the winter breaks and long lazy weekends much more than I do, even though we had to redefine winter according to southern California.

Passion Fruit from bibberche.com

Last year at this time my life was entangled in a pretty messy Gordian knot, and Alexander the Great was nowhere in sight. Valentine’s Day found me hurt, exhausted, wounded, and frantic. I was doing my best to keep my head above the murky waters, and each breath I took, lead me upwards and forward. I lived every day breath by breath.

A year later, I find myself in a different world. Every single time I turn the knob and enter my apartment, I smile. I cannot help it. I am giddy with the overwhelming sense of freedom. My place! My life! My future! This February can linger as long as it wants – I have finished with being impatient. And I welcome each day as an enormous gift, grateful for everything that makes my life so wonderful and fulfilling.

Even though I still have a small jar of Seville orange marmalade I made last year, there is nothing bitter in my life on this Valentine’s Day. I still take a plunge once in a while and emerge gasping for air, my mouth filled with murky water; but each time  my head pops up, I smile, my gaze fixed beyond the horizon line.

Melissa's Raspberry Sauce from bibberche.com

When the box from Melissa’s Produce appeared at my door, I spent hours trying to figure out what I can make to celebrate the Lovers’ Day. I decided to make mini passion fruit cheesecakes, knowing that my daughters would be squealing with joy. When I cut through the tough, purple skin and separated the halves of the fruit, its aroma hit me like a hammer; in a second, I was back in the snowed-in cabin, holding cards in one hand and gin-and-maracuja* cocktail in another.

I was floating on the cloud of nostalgia, hearing the laughter, feeling almost enchanted by a vision of a wonderful life that we all experienced in those days. We were invincible and we could conquer the world. It was simple, and invigorating, and full of hope for the future. Just like my life a few decades later. Even though there is still no one out there holding a card and a box of chocolates with my  name on it.

*Maracuja is a Brazilian name for passion fruit; do not attempt this “cocktail” at home; it tastes palatable only when you are in your early twenties, cooped-up in a cabin with nowhere to go, with snow drifts towering above the roof. It is a cocktail of desperation:)

Passion Fruit Mini Cheesecakes from bibberche.com

Mini Passion Fruit Cheesecakes
Recipe Type: Dessert
Cuisine: International
Author: Lana
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
These are delightful, versatile, easy-to-make little bites.
Ingredients
  • CRUST:
  • 20 graham cookies
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • FILLING:
  • 16oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 passion fruits (reserve one for the topping)
  • Raspberry Sauce (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Line a muffin pan with paper inserts.
  3. Prepare the crust:
  4. Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor (or mini chopper) until crumbled.
  5. Pour in the melted butter and stir to combine.
  6. Place about 1 Tbsp of cookie mixture into each muffin cup and press down.
  7. Bake for 5 minutes.
  8. Let it cool down while making the filling.
  9. Whip the cream cheese until creamy.
  10. Add sour cream and sugar and whip until combined.
  11. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
  12. Stir in the passion fruit pulp and vanilla.
  13. Pour on top of the graham cracker crust.
  14. Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm at the edges and still wiggly in the middle.
  15. Let it cool.
  16. Refrigerate or serve at room temperature, dotted with Raspberry Sauce (optional)

Thanks, Robert and Melissa’s Produce for another box filled with gorgeous products!

Jan 302014
 

Serbian-Chinese Cream of Chicken Soup from bibberche.com

When he was in Medical School, Father had a Chinese roommate. This was back in the 50s, and Tzu-Ke-Lee attended the University of Belgrade on a Chinese scholarship studying Serbian language and culture. Even now, in his old age, Father can charm a linguist without being proficient in any language except Serbian, and in his twenties he could communicate with extraterrestrials successfully. That they were both young men was obviously plenty for a friendship to be born.

Tzu-Ke-Lee introduced Father to the tradition of drinking real tea while still piping hot, and in turn got initiated into some unavoidable Serbian rituals: drinking slivovitz (plum brandy) along with Turkish coffee, and devouring various smoked porcine products. The gentle Chinese youth spent every holiday with Father and his parents, getting an in-depth experience of family life in Yugoslavia, which for the most part consisted of Njanja trying her best to fatten up her emaciated guest and Father playing practical jokes, fully taking advantage of the cultural gap.

Asian Vegetables from Melissa's Produce from bibberche.c0m

Tzu was serious and committed, but Father managed to drag him away from his books occasionally and take him out on the town. He went along without missing a smile, and spent hours with Father’s friends, downing shots of slivovitz, learning to jitterbug, and flirting with beautiful girls dressed in sleeveless shirts tied just above their belly buttons. But come morning, when all the rest of the bunch moaned in pain unable to face the morning sun, Tzu was already hitting the books, his porcelain teapot gurgling with steaming hot tea and several cups ready to be filled.

He graduated in record time and started to prepare for his return to China. He spent his last weekend in Yugoslavia with Father and his family in our home town of Čačak where everyone knew him and treated him like a member of the family. The women cried, the men patted him on the shoulders, trying not to show the sparkle of tears in their eyes. Back in Belgrade the farewell party was somewhat solemn. There was still slivovitz and the jitterbug, and flirty pretty girls showed up in droves. Promises were made, addresses exchanged, but everyone knew that China was on the other end of the world, as attainable as the Moon. It was a real goodbye and no one expected to hear from Tzu-Ke-Lee again.

Father continued his studies, intermittently interrupted by wild drunken bashes in which he invariably found himself entwined with another pretty girl with sparkly eyes. On many mornings after, he longed for a cup of strong steaming tea and the gentle smile of his departed roommate and wondered if Tzu thought about his days at the University of Belgrade and the friends he had to leave behind.

Daikon and Carrots Pickle from bibberche.com

And somewhere in Beijing, Tzu-Ke-Lee kept on studying, stealing moments to reminisce about the time he spent in Serbia. A letter from China traveled for months before it reached my grandparents’ house in Čačak. The whole neighborhood gathered at the house while Njanja read the lines aloud. For the moment the gentle Chinese was back among them, smiling and bowing, and everyone felt touched by his kind words.

Throughout the years he kept on writing. Father told us stories about their escapades, vowing every time that he would write back, complaining that he is not good with pen and paper (and that was not just an excuse; the postcards that he sent sounded the same no matter if he wrote to his best friend or Mother, exactly the same when he wrote from his trip to Paris, as from a neighboring town). But he never wrote back.

Back in the 70s, Tzu-Ke-Lee accompanied a Chinese delegation as an official interpreter. He called Father from Belgrade, and in a few hours he was in Čačak, embracing his old roommate and meeting his young family. I don’t remember much of that day, but I cannot forget that weird looking, but smiling face and gentle eyes hiding behind dark-rimmed glasses. A few letters and a few years later, Tzu started working for Radio Beijing. Father still promised to write back, but never did.

Tzu-Keli letter from bibberche.com

I was already on my final year of college when he told me that, a while back, Tzu-Ke-Lee had invited me to be a guest at their family home in Beijing. The meticulous Chinese planned every detail of my stay there. I would travel to Russia and take the Trans-Siberian railroad from Moscow to Vladivostok, and on to Ulan-Bator in Mongolia and Beijing. He knew that I had a passion for languages and promised me a place at the University to study Chinese for two years. But by the time I found out, my life was taking a different turn. I spent a summer in the U.S. and my heart remained imprisoned in the wilderness of the Colorado Rockies. If I had known about the offer when the letter first arrived, I would have jumped up and down to make it happen. But after several years it became an empty dream never to be fulfilled.

Father has never written back to Tzu-Ke-Lee. But I am on very friendly terms with the pen and paper and today I wrote an e-mail to the editor of Radio Beijing. I know that it is a shot in the dark. I do not even know if I spelled Tzu’s name properly. But I am hoping that someone in that big town knows this man who was like a member of my family back when Father was just a young punk. I would like him to know that a lot of people still remember him and tell stories with a teary eye.

I sent greetings to Tzu-Ke-Lee and his family, wishing them health, prosperity, and happiness in the Lunar New Year. I told my girls all the stories I remembered about this gentle, kind man and recruited their help in preparing a Chinese meal. I am sure that there are a few teenagers somewhere in Beijing who listen wide-eyed about their Grandfather’s adventures. And you know what? China is not that far away any more.

In celebration of the upcoming Lunar New Year, I am presenting you with two recipes that are all about Serbian-Chinese friendship. Our cultures are not that are apart when it comes to food stuff.

Thank you, Melissa’s Produce, for all the amazing Asian vegetables that arrived one day in front of my door.

Pickled Daikon and Carrots from bibberche.com

 

Daikon and Carrots Pickle
Recipe Type: Canning
Cuisine: Serbian – Chinese
Author: Lana
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-6
It seems that Serbian and Chinese food cultures are very similar, as the recipes differ in really tiny details.
Ingredients
  • 1 Daikon radish, scrubbed, peeled and cut in pieces 3 inches long and 1/4 inch thick
  • 5-6 carrots, scrubbed, peeled and cut the same way as the radish
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 6-7 black peppercorns
  • Water
Instructions
  1. Place Daikon and carrots in two quart-size jars.
  2. Make it look pretty.
  3. Pour vinegar, salt, sugar and peppercorns on top. Pour in water to fill almost to the top (leave a bit of space under the lip of the jar.
  4. Firmly close the jars.
  5. Place a kitchen towel on the bottom of a tall pot.
  6. Fill the pot with water.
  7. Place the jars in the pot on top of the kitchen towel so that they are completely submerged.
  8. Heat the water until it boils.
  9. Turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes.
  10. Take the jars out of the pot.
  11. Turn them upside down, wrap them in towels and place them in a warm spot until they cool off.
  12. They should be ready to use within days.

Serbian-Chinese Cream of Chicken Soup from bibberche.com

SERBIAN-CHINESE CREAM OF CHICKEN SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp sunflower oil
  • ½ cup diced onion
  •  ½ cup diced carrots
  • ½ cup diced red bell pepper
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 cup leftover roasted chicken cut up in small cubes
  • 1 bunch bok choy, trimmed, rinsed and cut in smaller piece
  • Tbsp farina (cream of wheat)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk or yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Heat the oil in a heavy pot on medium temperature.

Sautee Onions, carrots, and bell peppers until soft and transparent, 5-8 minutes.

Add chicken stock and cut-up chicken and cook for 15 minutes.

Add bok choy and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add farina.

Beat the egg with a fork and mix in buttermilk or yogurt.

Pour 1 ladle full of soup into the egg mixture to temper.

Pour the egg mixture into the pot and stir.

Turn the heat off and serve.