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
5.0 from 2 reviews

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Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: International
Author:
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
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Caramel Sauce:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ⅔ 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
5.0 from 2 reviews

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Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Irish
Author:
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
  • ¼ 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
5.0 from 2 reviews

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Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: International
Author:
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
5.0 from 1 reviews

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Recipe type: Canning
Cuisine: Serbian – Chinese
Author:
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 ¼ inch thick
  • 5-6 carrots, scrubbed, peeled and cut the same way as the radish
  • ½ 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.

 

Dec 102013
 


Komibrot from bibberche.com

I made Eggs Benedict for my family a few days ago and had leftover egg whites. I usually freeze my egg whites (I keep them in a plastic bag and I just change the number as I add more), but this time I decided to make Komisbrot instead.

This is one of the lightest and tastiest desserts that I know, as well as unbelievably simple and fast to make. It was not a sweet that Mother would deem special enough for for guests, but rather a spur-of-the moment kids-need-an-after-school-snack thing. It is light, with very little fat, studded with dried fruit and nuts, very similar to angel food cake as it uses only egg whites. In Serbia, we call it Komisbrot, the name I am certain originated somewhere in the German-speaking part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

I was taught by Njanja and Mother both how to properly flour and grease a baking pan to avoid unsightly cakes and sticky messes. They were pedantic and fastidious, and I learned the hard way not to challenge the wisdom of the experience: my short-cuts inevitably resulted in the batter stubbornly adhering to the walls of the pan, while I saw in my mind the smirking faces of my two culinary mentors.

These days I am the fastidious one as I teach my girls the basics of baking. But instead of swirling flour to cover evenly the buttered walls of the baking pan, I now use the baking oil spray. They are not all created equal, and I had some misgivings about using them, until I tried Pompeian Grapeseed Oil spray.

Its light flavor does not interfere with the flavor of food, it has a high smoke point, it’s rich in antioxidants and vitamin E, and it’s packaged in a pretty-looking, eco-friendly can which contains no propellants because of the newly designed pouch system, that also protects the oil from damaging light.

 

Pompeian Grapeseed Oil Spray

There is always a moment of trepidation when I lead the knife around the edges of the cake to loosen them. Will the batter Gods be merciful or will I be forced to use every ounce of creativity to salvage my baking disaster? I have to say that my “komisbrot” plopped beautifully on my hand after I turned the bread pan upside down. I patted my shoulder congratulating myself and seeing in my mind the admiring and approving  faces of  my mother and Njanja.

Komisbrot from bibberche.com

Komisbrot, a Serbian Angel Food Cake: Pompeian Grapeseed Oil Spray
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Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: European
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-6
The recipe does not ask for specific number of egg whites, as they are measured by volume, along with the other ingredients. I happened to have 6 egg whites, which amounted to about 1 cup.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup chilled egg whites
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup various dried fruit and nuts, chopped (I used cranberries, white raisins, pecans, and walnuts)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • Pompeian Grapeseed Oil Spray
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Lightly spray a bread pan with Pompeian Grapeseed Oil Spray.
  3. Beat your egg whites with salt on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  4. Add the sugar and mix to combine.
  5. Stir in the flour, fruit, nuts, and lemon zest.
  6. Pour into the prepared pan and flatten the surface.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes (if the knife pierced through the middle comes out clean, it is done).
  8. Let it cool in pan for 10 minutes and turn over to the bakers rack to cool completely.
  9. Cut into slices and serve.

To learn more about the benefits of Pompeian Grapeseed Oil, visit the Pompeian site.  Take a few seconds to answer a couple of questions for a chance to win $200, and continue on to get the $1.00 off coupon for Pompeian Grapeseed Oil. And  for the latest news and promotions, like Pompeian on Facebook.

Disclosure: Thanks to Smiley360 and Pompeian for providing me with Pompeian Grapeseed Oil Spray for the purpose of my review.  This is not a paid post and the  opinions are my own.

Oct 292013
 

Bosnian Poached Apples, Tufahije from bibberche.com

I was born in the town of Novi Pazar in southwestern Serbia, very close to the border with today’s Montenegro and Herzegovina. My parents were newlyweds when they moved there, Father a young doctor, Mother the high school German and Art teacher. Their apartment was on the second floor of a building overlooking the main street that became the promenade at night, filled with young men and women walking in a lazy, elongated circle, casting surreptitious glances at their secret crushes, shy and apprehensive, with many awkward giggles hidden behind a hand.

The town was a mix of Christians and Muslims with early 10th century solid rock churches on the outskirts looking over the slender minarets in the center. Four centuries of Turkish Ottoman rule left a significant imprint on the area changing forever the religious and cultural milieu of the land. The Turks rode back east in the late nineteenth century, but a big part of their culture stayed behind.

Green Dragon Apples from bibberche.com

Green Dragon Apples from Melissa’s Produce were perfect choice for this dessert

We moved to central Serbia when I was a baby, and went back to Novi Pazar only occasionally to visit relatives and friends. I was always fascinated by this town which reminded me of 1001 Nights with its mosques, narrow cobble-stoned streets, small shops selling hand-made copper dishes and filigree gold, the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans, the high brick and mortar walls with gates facing the street, men in red fezes smoking unfiltered cigarettes and drinking tea for hours, the busy markets crowded with haggling shoppers, and people with strange sounding names.

We looked forward to these weekend two-hour trips by car, feeling as if we were going not only away in space, but back in time. The language had a different rhythm, the pace was slower, the sounds exotic, and the smells coming out of the kitchens unusual and romantic. The breads were flatter, the meat was definitely lamb, and thick yogurt accompanied many restaurant dishes.

Bosnian Poached Apples, Tufahije, from bibberche.com

Around noon, housewives would leave their chores at home and venture out into the streets, the yards of silk undulating around their legs, long, curly locks hidden behind a colorful scarf. They would visit each other, spending a leisurely hour drinking freshly ground and brewed Turkish coffee and spreading the neighborhood news whispered in confidence over the walls separating the houses.

Turkish coffee is strong, and wise women knew many tricks to prepare the gullet for enjoying it. Sometimes there were only sugar cubes to dunk into a small fildzan of hot, dark liquid. Sometimes there was rose or bergamot flavored rahat-lokum* on a saucer with an accompanying glass of water served as a refreshment before the coffee. Sometimes the hostess would offer her latest homemade fruit preserves, watching with hawk-like attention for her friends’ reactions.

Bosnian Poached Apples Tufahije from bibberche.com

And sometimes there would be desserts cut into small squares and drowned in sweet, lemony syrup. As kids, we learned quickly which houses promised the best feast and ran behind mothers, aunts, friends, and neighbors, eagerly anticipating the flavorful, exotic sugar rush.

Every time I go back to Serbia, I try to go to Novi Pazar to visit my relatives. The town has joined the 21st century with power lines swooping overhead and cell phones at every other ear, but if you squint, you can imagine yourself embraced by a sleepy, romantic air of bygone days, filled with smells and sounds reminiscent of the East.  To bring that feeling to my family in America, I try to introduce all my friends to the wonderful ritual of drinking Turkish coffee. I offer sugar cubes, rahat-lokum, and home-made fruit preserves. And sometimes I even make the sweet, simple desserts, covered in lemony syrup.

Tufahije, Bosnian Poached Apples from bibberche.com

Tufahiye/Tufahije
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Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Turkish-Influenced Balkan Cuisine
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Crispy apples poached in a lemony, sweet syrup, filled with ground nuts and topped with fresh whipped cream
Ingredients
  • 6 medium-sized apples (choose firmer apples that do not fall apart under heat)
  • 400ml (1 ½ cups) water
  • 400gr (15 oz) granulated sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 150gr (5 oz) ground walnuts
  • 250ml (1cup) heavy whipping cream
  • 1-2 Tbsp sugar
Instructions
  1. Peel and core the apples (make the hole 1 inch in diameter) and lay them in a pot.
  2. Cover with water, sugar, and lemon juice, and cook for 15-20 minutes until softened, but still holding their shape.
  3. Take the apples out of the liquid and place them in a serving dish with walls at least 2 inches high.
  4. Continue simmering the liquid until it slightly thickens, another 10-15 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, fill the holes in cooked apples with ground walnuts.
  6. Pour the hot liquid over the apples and nuts.
  7. Add more nuts if necessary.
  8. Chill in the refrigerator.
  9. Whip the heavy whipping cream until the soft peaks form, add the sugar, and serve on top of the apples.

*rahat-lokum is known in English as Turkish Delight, a candy made of powdered sugar, starch, and aromatics, often containing nuts.

 

Oct 232013
 

Buckwheat Rolls from bibberche.com

Ever since I received my new kitchen toy from Grain Mill Wagon, I have been preoccupied with thoughts of grinding. My eyes search different grains every time I enter a grocery store and I have accumulated quite a selection of prospects. My newest acquisition was toasted buckwheat, a plant that has more in common with sorrel and rhubarb than wheat, contrary to its deceiving name.

I have never eaten buckwheat while growing up in Serbia, even though Eastern Europe is the main producer, along with China. But, we did not eat oats, either, and I learned to love a steaming bowl of steel-cut oats with a touch of brown sugar and some dried fruit. I am curious by nature and a hedonist by choice, so experiments with culinary ingredients make me happy.

Buckwheat Rolls from bibberche.com

Once in a while I feel guilty that my children do not come home from school to a plate full of freshly baked pastries, as I remember how comforted and loved I felt when Mother offered a plump, warm yeast roll as a cure-all for any kind of teen angst. Those gnawing moments are mercifully rare and intermittent – I have finally accepted the fact that I will never be like Mother and that there are different ways to comfort and love, some of them not dependent on finicky yeast doughs and hours of proofing.

Yet, one of those moments caught me recently pondering what to make for my newest project. So naturally I decided to make rolls even though I did not know what to expect from substituting some of the wheat flour with freshly ground buckwheat flour. I have lost my fear of baking breads and pastries and kneading a soft dough is one of the most enjoyable tasks I can think of. But I am far from an expert and I was just a bit apprehensive of adding a variable.

Buckwheat Rolls from bibberche.com

The aroma of roasted buckwheat flour was robust and nutty, and texture grainy. It colored the dough taupe and its skin added a few chestnut  speckles throughout. But it rose beautifully and I encountered no problems while shaping the rolls.

I had a baggie of nigella seeds I bought at an Indian store a while back and thought that their exotic taste would complement the bold notes of roasted buckwheat. I sprinkled them on top of the rolls along with sesame seeds and I was smitten by the aroma wafting from my oven while the rolls were baking.

I loved these rolls. My neighbors loved them. My octogenarian friend who grew up in Oklahoma loved them. Even if you are not adventurous and daring, I promise you that buckwheat will charm you. As for my girls, I can assure you they felt loved and comforted, and just a little special, when they found a plate of these rolls on the kitchen counter just waiting for them.

Buckwheat Rolls from bibberche.com

Buckwheat Rolls
Print

Recipe type: Bread/Rolls
Cuisine: International
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
Buckwheat flour adds a rustic, nutty flavor to these rolls. They could be made smaller and filled with various ingredients.
Ingredients
  • DOUGH
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 envelope instant yeast
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp coarse salt
  • 6 Tbsp very soft butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups warm water (110F)
  • FILLING
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (or crumbled feta)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Topping:
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • sesame seeds, nigella seeds, caraway seeds (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place both flours in a large bowl.
  2. Add dry yeast, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix thoroughly.
  3. Make a well in the middle and add butter and oil.
  4. Mix a little and start adding water, little by little (you might not need all of it).
  5. The dough should be soft, but not sticky.
  6. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest for 1 hour at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap.
  7. Mix cheese, eggs, sour cream, and salt.
  8. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll them into balls.
  9. Flatten each ball into an oval approximately 8×5 inches.
  10. Place a few small heaps of cheese mixture in the middle, fold the longer sides over it and start rolling from one short side.
  11. Place the roll seam-side down on a cookie sheet.
  12. Continue until all the balls are shaped, filled and rolled.
  13. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with seeds, as desired.
  14. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  15. Let the rolls rest while the oven is heating.
  16. Bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven, until golden brown.
  17. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and allow the rolls to cool slightly before placing them to a baker’s rack to cool completely.

I am a part of October Unprocessed, an event started by Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules in 2009. If you still have not heard of it, visit his blog and read all about it.

October Unprocessed 2013

Oct 192013
 

Dominique's Kitchen from bibberche.com

I traveled to France only vicariously, first through my parents, then through my sister and my friends, and most recently through my oldest daughter, Nina. They all brought me presents from the land of Gaul: little crystal bottles of perfume, a roll of green silk that became my eighth grade graduation dance dress; gloriously stinky cheeses; tiny pewter Eiffel towers; reprints of Toulouse-Lautrec’s art; minuscule ornate boxes hiding three perfect truffles; an airplane-size bottle of Veuve-Clicquot.

I embraced their stories and pored through the photos, trying to absorb the magic by osmosis, imagining my own feet hitting the streets of all those places that became so familiar while I spent hours reading the French classics. One of these days I’ll visit France in person and I am convinced it will be one of those marvelous “deja vu” experiences that would prevent me from feeling like a tourist.

Dominique's Kitchen from bibberche.com

In the meantime, I’ll continue my France-by-proxy existence by frequenting one of my favorite South Bay restaurants, Dominique’s Kitchen, which is celebrating its first anniversary this weekend. I hate to lament the passage of time again and again, but it truly feels like a fleeting instant from the first time I noticed the bright yellow board with the restaurant’s name hovering above the PCH. Since then, I stopped by a few times on their Ménage à Trois Mondays happy hour, and each time I felt as if I were coming home.

French restaurants have a reputation in America of being too expensive, too fancy, and too intimidating. The owners Dominique and Liza are trying to break the stereotype and change that widely accepted, but wrong opinion. They came up with a concept of a casual restaurant that would offer classic French dishes at affordable prices in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. They yearn to demystify some of the more exotic fares and invite everyone to feel at home at their cozy, warm place.

Dominique's Kitchen from bibberche.com

Dominique and Liza, the owners

Throughout the celebratory weekend, chef Dominique will be preparing dishes that feature snails, as an adventurous and fun ingredient very much underused in American culinary traditions. They were pleasantly surprised by a positive response from their customers who genuinely loved their classic escargot served during Mondays’ happy hour, that they felt confident in offering the public many other ways to prepare this ubiquitous French food.

Fried Kale with Parmiggiano from bibberche.com

Fried Kale is offered at happy hour

Chef Dominique Theval grew up in the outskirts of Paris and his mother made the escargot maybe once a month. The snails from Burgundy came already detached from their shells, and after they were sauteed in garlic and butter, they were placed back into the shells and smothered by the insanely rich, flavorful, and yet so simple sauce that just begged for a heel of crusty, French bread.

Country Pate from bibberche.com

Country Pâté with Cornichons is one of my favorite happy hour dishes

This classic approach to snails is hard to beat and I am glad I get to enjoy it every time I show up for their happy hour. But in the weeks to come, there will be many different dishes featuring escargot aimed at broadening the culinary horizons of the loyal patrons.

A few days ago I had a chance to try some of those dishes with several other media people and food bloggers. We really did not know one another, but as we sampled chef Dominique’s creations and sipped wine, it felt as if we were in a casual, street restaurant somewhere in France, surrounded by friends, relaxed after another day at work.  Yes, the snails were the main attraction, and as a bunch, we were not the connoisseurs; but we were curious and adventurous. And we definitely enjoyed many incarnations presented to us.

Dominique's Kitchen from bibberche.com

Organic Greens Soup with Escargot

Dominique's Kitchen from bibberche.com

Mache Salad with Escargots and Portobello Mushrooms in a Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing

Dominique's Kitchen from bibberche.com

Crust of Escargots with Brie Cheese – an ultimate grilled cheese sandwich!

DOminique's Kitchen from bibberche.com

Home Style Roasted Escargots and Fingerling Potatoes

Dominique's Kitchen

Sauteed Escargots with Garlic Cream

If you are in the area, stop by the restaurant for a complimentary glass of champagne, a chance to win a prize, or just to hang out and nosh on some of the most delicious and affordable French cuisine in southern California. I know I will be there on Monday, and many Mondays to come!

Oct 082013
 

Carpaccio from bibberche.com

First time I tasted carpaccio was at an upscale Italian restaurant in one of the western suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, our home town for more than a decade. It was presented on a big, narrow, cream-colored oval plate, and it looked stunning; thin, red pieces of beef tenderloin, perky dark green arugula, curlicues of shaved parmigiano, yellow-green comas of extra virgin olive oil, and dark-brown droplets of balsamico painted a picture that reminded me of Caravaggio and his beautiful contrasts.

I was seduced by its clean, simple taste from the first slender bite. Of course, those were the days of promises, when the tears were easily hidden in a glass of good Sicilian Primitivo and the future always overrode the present. But the flavor of carpaccio was not emphasized by euphoria and hope; it was truly good and memorable.

Contrary to what some members of my family may think, I am a geek, and I started researching carpaccio, wondering if I could make it at home, satisfying my inner hedonist as well as my inner frugal self. What I found out did not surprise me: the most important thing is ensuring the superb quality of each ingredient.

From that day on, I stopped ordering carpaccio in restaurants. I mastered the technique of preparing it myself, and it became my favorite starter for a dinner party, providing my guests were not of a squeamish and non-adventurous sort that eye everything not burned and charred as inedible.

Olives from bibberche.com

I buy my beef tenderloin at a local Persian store where the young Mexican butcher knows me well. I talk to him in my rudimentary Spanish, trying to practice as much as I can, even though he speaks perfect English. I tip him a dollar or two every time I buy something from his counter and he always brings me the best and the freshest cuts from the back of the store.

I splurged a long while ago on a bottle of thick, fragrant balsamic vinegar and I use it extremely sparingly for special occasions, treating it with more reverence than a bottle of VSOP Courvoisier. I purchase only the authentic, aged Parmigiano Reggiano which resides wrapped in luxurious layers of thick paper towels neatly enclosed in a ziploc bag.

When it comes to olive oil, I usually fall back to the old and familiar and anything that was produced in the Mediterranean will be more than sufficient to meet the standards (my standards have to do more with memories of sweet, hot nights spent under the olive tree branches in Croatia, Montenegro, and Italy, than with the intricate process of extracting the best olive oil).

This time, though, I abandoned my tried and true and used Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the first one in its category to receive the USDA Quality Monitored seal, which verifies the quality and purity of olive oil through rigorous government testing and reviews of production processes. It’s low in acid due to first pressing of great quality olives, fragrant and beautifully colored.

A big platter of cold beef sprinkled with briny cheese and bitter arugula, and dotted with sweet vinegar and robust olive oil made for a perfect repast on a day when the Santa Ana winds brought the heat back to southern California. I don’t have an ancient olive tree in my yard, but the smell of the ocean at twilight when the sun is dipping bellow the horizon is enough to send me back to those sultry Adriatic nights that will forever keep on bringing a smile to my face.

CARPACCIO

Ingredients:

  • Beef tenderloin
  • Aged parmigiano reggiano
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp good quality balsamic vinegar
  • arugula and/or other dark greens

Directions:

1. Wrap the meat in plastic and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

2. Unwrap and slice thinly against the grain with a sharp knife.

3. Place the pieces between two layer of plastic wrap and beat with a meat mallet until paper thin.

4. Layer the pieces of thin meat on a platter.

5. Scatter the greens on top.

6. Dot with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

7. Shave the cheese on top evenly.

8. Serve with a glass of hearty, Italian red wine (not necessarily Sicilian Primitivo)

Carpaccio from bibberche.com

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Thank you Smiley360 for a complimentary bottle of Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil.