Apr 052013
 

Kale Sprouts with New Potatoes from bibberche.com

A long time ago I read that baby animals are cute on purpose, to make us like them and protect them. I can’t say that I loved our several cats and dogs any less when they became fully grown, but I definitely lamented the passage of time that rid them of their round, fluffy faces, innocent playfullness and adorable tininess.

As a child I wished for a potion that would stop the kittens from becoming cats and puppies for becoming dogs. At the same time, I could not wait until my next birthday and rejoiced at every centimeter that added to my height. I envisioned my teenage self at seventh grade, yet I brought home countless animal orphans I encountered on my meandering way back from school, all of them very young, very neglected, and always abandoned. Alas, Mother would not allow me to nurture these pathetic specimens until adulthood and as soon as they gathered strength, I had to release them into the world, shedding uncontrolable tears and saying long, melodramatic goodbyes.

Kale Sprouts from bibberche.com

I did not stop driving my Mother crazy with my penchant for all things miniscule even when I became an adult. I had to fend off her exasperated looks when I gulitily placed on the kitchen table the tiniest new potatoes I could find at the farmers’ market, the slimmest carrots, cornichon-sized cucumbers and ripe, locally grown tomatoes slightly bigger than golf balls. My onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers destined for the ubiquitous Serbian summer salad were daintily cut in half-inch pieces, and I vehemently defended my approach as I wanted the flavors to meld and each spoonful to have some of all the vegetables present.

To this day I have not changed. I secretly yearn to adopt a teacup chihuahua or two and keep them in my purse. I wish I could bring home the whole litter of kittens found abandoned in a neighborhood church’s cellar. I still cut the food on my plate in the tiniest bites and pick the smallest specimens at the farmers’ market. I look at my leggy teenage girls and see the round-faced babies they used to be, perfectly fitting in the crook of my arm as I rocked them to sleep with one of my Serbian lullabies.

The world of miniatures enchants me and it takes a big dose of reality to make me resist the pull of speckled quails’ eggs beckoning from the shelves of our local Persian market. And when I opened a box from Melissa’s Produce that arrived a few weeks back, I whirled around whispering terms of endearment looking at the cuteness in front of me embodied in boxes of delicate baby kiwis and colorful kale sprouts.

Kale Sprouts from bibberche.com

Baby kiwis looked just like regular kiwis that experienced a shot of Rick Moranis’ special ammunition and shrunk, except that they were hairless and soft-skinned. Kale sprouts, on the other hand, resembled no plant I have seen so far. I examined them thoroughly from all sides, admiring vivid purple that marbled deep green in the perky leaves. They looked like something Liliputians would plant to fool Gulliver, a doll-house variety of  Brussels sprout that had a menage-a-trois with cabbage and kale.

Mesmerized as I was, I knew that I had to prepare them in a way that would preserve their resplendent coloring and keep their texture from going too soft. There is a dish served at the Adriatic to accompany grilled fish that is made with cubed potatoes, Swiss chard and garlic. It is simple and unassuming, but flavorful and satisfying at the same time. I thought that these purple and green bundles would be a perfect fit for such a dish, especially if I paired them with sweet new potatoes.

Kale Sprouts from bibberche.com

The final result did not look, nor taste like the original, just like the kale sprouts did not look like anything familiar when I fist examined them. Yet, what I ended up with was a dish that celebrates spring, its freshness and color. Slight bitterness of kale sprouts was mellowed by sweetness of new potatoes, and garlic, while not assertive, brought a distinctive fresh note to the mix.

Even though I was convinced from the beginning that odd little sprouts would not disappoint, I felt victorious. I did not do the chosing this time, Mother, but the miniatures worked for me again!

Kale Sprouts with New Potatoes from bibberche.com

The Magic of Miniatures: Sauteed Kale Sprouts with New Potatoes and Garlic
5.0 from 1 reviews

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Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: International
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Kale sprouts are a hybrid of Russian red kale and Brussels sprouts, looser that the sporuts, but more compact than kale. They should not be cooked too long lest they lose they crispiness and color.
Ingredients
  • 6-7 new potatoes, halved
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 packages kale sprouts, halved
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water.
  2. Add the salt and cook until the water boils on high temperature.
  3. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover the pot and cook for another 10 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.
  4. Drain the water.
  5. Heat the oil at medium-low heat and add garlic.
  6. Sautee until it softens a bit, for about 30 seconds.
  7. Add kale sprouts and stir to coat them with the garlicky oil.
  8. After 30-60 seconds, add stock and scrape the bottom of the pan.
  9. When the liquid boils, add the potatoes, salt, and pepper and continue cooking until most of the stock has evaporated, 3-5 minutes.

I was not the only one that experimented with kale sprouts. Some of my friends came up with a few fabulous recipes that showcase them in all their glory:

Shockingly Delicious - Introducing Kale Sprouts

Cooking on the Weekend - Roasted Kale Sprout Salad with Pickled Beets, Mandarins and Spicy Pecans

A Communal Table - Pan Roasted Kale Sprouts with Farro

Jolly Tomato - Kale Sprouts with Pistachios

Mama Likes to Cook - Kale Sprouts and Scrambled Eggs

I have not been compensated for this post, but I received a box full of gorgeous baby vegetables and fruits from Melissa’s Produce. I hope you don ‘t doubt for a second that the opinions expressed in my writing are all my own:)

Mar 092013
 

Savoy Cabbage with Quinoa from bibberche.com

My parents traveled a lot when we were growing up and I cannot even begin to describe the excitement we felt each time when we sneaked out of our room well after midnight, after Njanja was sound asleep and snoring in her bed; we were eagerly awaiting their return on the living room couch. We learned very fast that Mother spent her free time wisely, looking for unusual gifts for us, and could not wait until the morning to watch her unpack and hand out carefully picked toys, crafts and books.

We were the first kids in school to make watercolors using more than twelve shades and the only ones in the neighborhood who had a set of beautifully crafted and detailed medieval army, complete with horses, their riders, and infantry. We spent hours playing with miniature traffic signs aligned along the imaginary streets, learning the rules without even trying. We loaned our friends thick coloring books and could not even imagine going to a sleepover without toting the game of “Life”.

After these trips our pantry and refrigerator would fill out with stinky cheeses, shiny olives, mysterious patés, delectable chocolates, and unusual liqueurs. They mostly shared their spoils with their friends, but we had the first dibs, and in time our curiosity won and we started to enjoy these exotic products still unknown in our town. New and unusual food products stopped to scare us and we embraced the unfamiliar tastes and learned how to appreciate the foods that were not ordinary and common.

When we traveled together as the family, the meals were almost always something we looked forward to. Eager to sample the best an area had to offer, we all usually ordeded different dishes in order to share and experience as much as we could. We never picked the wiener schnitzel and pommes frites (aka french fries), a staple that can be found in any European restaurant, just like we never stayed in Holliday Inn-type hotels. We wanted adventure and yearned for challenges, leaving comforting, standard and known to less intrepid travelers.

It is only natural that my girls never found children’s menu exciting. I chuckled when my ex-husband complained about Nina’s love and appreciation of more choicy types of seafood when she visited him in Florida as a first grader. I was feeling all warm and fuzzy when Zoe wanted mussels for her fifth birthday party, even though I had to intervene and convince her that her friends might prefer pizza. And when I ask for dinner suggestions, one of the first things Anya would shout is Chicken Livers!

50 Best Plants on the Planet from bibberche.com

Plenty more recipes to come!

When I received a copy of 50 Best Plants on the Planet from Melissa’s Produce, written by Cathy Thomas and photographed by Angie Cao, my mind went into the adventure-seeking mode and I chose to make recipes that went against my comfort zone. I don’t know anyone in my home town who ate Savoy cabbage besides my family, thanks to Mother, who incorporated her Central-European culinary influences into our daily lives. Her dish paired this unusual cruciferous vegetable with pork, celery leaves, potatoes and garlic, making a soup/stew kind of dish, very satisfying and warm, perfect for chilly nights that we have been experiencing lately.

But Cathy Thomas offered a drastically different approach and I knew instantly that we would accept the challenge and enjoy the outcome. Mother would be proud that I tackled Savoy cabbage in a new way, testing my girls’ palates and pushing them towards culinary adventures. As I have bookmarked almost every page, we are in for a great culinary trip.

This gorgeous book is available for purchase at some selective grocery store chains (Bristol Farms and Lazy Acres) and online on melissas.com. The hard cover edition will be distributed to most bookstores throughout the nation in April.

Savoy Cabbage with Quinoa from bibberche.com

SAUTÉED PEPPERS WITH SAVOY, RAISINS AND QUINOA

Recipe courtesy of 50 Best Plants on the Planet by Cathy Thomas (Chronichle Books, San Francisco); reprinted with permission.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry red quinoa
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch strips
  • 2 yellow red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch strips
  • ½ cup golden raisins, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped Savoycabbage
  • 1 ½  teaspoons balsamic vinegar

 Directions:

1. Combine the quinoa with 2 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil on high heat. Cover and decrease the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the quinoa is tender and the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Gently stir and set it off heat, covered.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add the peppers and toss to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the raisins and fennel seeds and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the peppers are softened, about 4 minutes. Add the cabbage and vinegar. Stir to combine and cook until the cabbage is limp, about 4 minutes.

3. Divide the quinoa between eight small bowls. Taste the pepper mixture and adjust the seasoning with vinegar, salt, and/or pepper. Spoon the cabbage mixture over the quinoa. If desired, top each serving with some feta cheese. Serve.

Red Quinoa from bibberche.com

Thanks, Robert Schueller and Melissa’s Produce for your beautiful, fresh edibles!

 

Mar 012013
 

 

Fresh California Orange Juice from bibberche.com

I am standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. A coffee maker is gurgling just to the right, and a few feet behind me there is a skillet with onions and potatoes cut in small cubes, destined to become a diner-worthy accompaniment to the eggs and toast. It’s cold in our small 70s kitchen that could have easily come from an Updike Rabbit novel, but all the smells that surround me scream comfort and warmth. The grass in the front yard sways in the rhythm with the wind that blows from the west, bringing along the briny smell of the ocean that manages to break in through the open door.

We don’t have a dishwasher and I should feel dismayed and frustrated as this is the first time that I have to do without that luxury since I arrived on the American soil more than twenty years ago; but I don’t feel burdened: there is a beautiful rose bud that opened this morning monopolizing my view and competing with an idyllic scene featuring several small boys milling around, chasing one another along the sidewalk.

My dad soaking some California sunshine underneath the orange tree

We might be experiencing the record-low temperatures for Southern California for the first time, but my nose being cold on most mornings is the small price to pay for the eternal and uninterrupted blue that greets me when I open my eyes and inevitably makes me smile. A jasmine bush hugs one side of the garage door and its sweet fragrance reaches me through my bedroom window as I try to silence the alarm clock.

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 living on this particular street, in this bungallow decorated by many wooden artifacts from Papua New Guinea, Thailand, and Japan, with this wonderful woman who is old enough to be my mother, but young enough to be my soul sister, a confidante and a friend. I cannot wait to tuck my girls in their bunk beds, pour myself a glass of wine and sit on the edge of her bed for our regular nightly chit-chat.

As I wave to the neighbors and greet the mailman, I feel as if I truly belonged to this street with its undulating tall palm trees, luscious yards, and red-tiled roofs. Every day is like a present, unexpected, but eagerly awaited and greatly appreciated.

California sunset from bibberche.com

There are several large plastic bowls resting on the brown-and-yellow-tiled kitchen floor filled to the capacity with oranges my dad picked from the tree in the back yard. Freshly squeezed orange juice is on the menu this morning; and many mornings to come. I feel as if I were living a dream as the sweet, sticky liquid runs down my fingers and the smell of fresh citrus envelops me. It might not sound grand or imposing, but a glass filled with the juice that came from the fruit in our back yard makes me tremendously happy to be alive right now, in this beautiful part of the world that I can finally call home.

Fresh California Orange Juice from bibberche.com

Jan 192013
 

Bacon-Flavored Chicken Wings from bibberche.com

We did not have Super Bowl in Serbia and the phenomenon of preparing special foods for that day was a novel one. But eager to socialize with people who loved to cook and eat, I frequently joined my friends with excitement, even though I still did not understand the rules of American football and have not watched one single game in its entirety.

The major games in soccer, the ones that decide the winner of the national league or the world champion are watched sitting on the edge of the couch, falling down on your knees, jumping, pulling your hair, stomping your feet, howling, screaming, and eating your nails, oblivious to any victuals surrounding you. I delighted in preparing a menu for a day of sports, comforted in the thought that there will be others like me, there for friends, fun, and nibbles, rather than to feverishly follow the mystical dance by men in helmets.

Chicken Wings from bibberche.com

No one counted calories at Super Bowl parties and the tables were piled high with cheesy dips, spreads, and dressings, potato skins and stuffed jalapeños, chips and crackers, fried mozzarella sticks, crispy Nachos and tight spring rolls. And at every party the pièce de résistance was a platter of gloriously glistening chicken wings, an homage to the meat gods in the shape of finger food.

I have not eaten my share of chicken wings when I was a child, as my preferred piece was white meat. No one else staked a claim on chicken breast and it made me infinitely happy not to have to share with my siblings. Only in my adult years did I understand that everyone else in the family enjoyed much more flavorful morsels all those years, while I gloated over a big chunk of bland and dry food.

Bacon-Flavored Chicken Wings from bibberche.com

My parents fought over the chicken wings and I never understood the attraction. But when I arrived to the U.S. and tried Buffalo wings for the first time, I had to reconsider. I am not a gnawer and prefer a cut I could get to using utensils, but I discovered how good it feels to sink my teeth between the bones and suck the tiny fibers of muscle covered with spicy Red Hot Sauce and butter. Almost overnight I became a convert, not only in my love of chicken wings, but blue cheese as well.

Over the years I tried many incarnations of the ubiquitous bar food and I love them all. I have even introduced my Serbian relatives and friends to them and watched in glee as they savored the piquant Buffalo or smoky and sweet BBQ wings, their fingers sticky, their cheeks speckled with sauce.

But this year I am going back to my Serbian roots with my mother’s recipe which delighted my children and was a favorite when I was growing up. It is simple, prepared with only a few ingredients, and it can take me home faster than a Concorde. I cannot promise that we will even turn the TV on when the big game starts on Super Bowl Sunday, but you can bet there will be a few indulgent dips scattered around the living room, and a platter of sticky and crunchy Serbian chicken wings. Let the games begin!

Bacon-Flavored Chicken Wings from bibberche.com

BACON-FLAVORED CHICKEN WINGS

Ingredients:

  • Chicken wings (my last package contained 8 whole wings, which makes sixteen servings)
  • 2 TBSP bacon fat or home-rendered lard
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

Cut the little protruding piece from each wing and then cut through the joint to half them. Lay them out on the cutting board skin side up, and sprinkle salt and pepper on top.

Meanwhile, heat a heavy skillet on medium-high temperature. Add bacon fat or lard and heat until it sizzles. Place the chicken wings seasoned side down and sprinkle the other side with salt and pepper.

Brown the chicken wings for 4-5 minutes, turn and brown the other side, for another 2-3 minutes. When the delicious brown pieces appear at the bottom of the skillet, turn the heat down to low, pour the water in (carefully, as the steam will rise up) and cover with a tightly fitting lid.

Cook for 15-20 minutes, until done. Take the lid off, turn the heat back to medium-high and simmer until the liquid evaporates and the wings become sticky. Scrape them off into a bowl and serve immediately.

(The remnants in the skillet are precious and Mother would soak them up for us with a few slices of crusty bread. But they would be perfect the next morning, turned into chicken gravy to serve with biscuits.)

Nov 142012
 

Seared Duck Breast with Korean Pear from bibberche.com

My mother grew up in Vojvodina, the part of the country that was under the Austro-Hungarian rule until the end of WWI. When she married my father and joined him in central Serbia, she brought with her many culinary traditions which were not very familiar to the natives. Some of them were immediately accepted by her new friends and family; some needed a longer time and more cunning approaches to become a staple at dinner time; and some just never survived the challenges of the impenetrable barrier of the palates unaccustomed to weird, different, and foreign influences.

While we ate plenty of chickens along with  pheasants and quails Father brought from his intermittent hunting expeditions, only when we went to Vojvodina did we have a chance to taste a duck or a goose. We were entranced by these white birds that seem to frolic in every yard, splashing in the ponds and squawking, the shape of their bright-orange beaks the only notable difference between the species: sharp, pointy beaks belong to geese, the flatter and rounded ones to ducks.

And while the holidays in our home town always involved roasted piglets or spring lambs, in Vojvodina we were treated to roasted ducks and geese. As if the mere taste of the water fowl was not enough to separate the two geographical regions deeper than the river Danube that marked the border, the fruit sauce that accompanied them made us feel as if we were visiting another country, with the benefit of still speaking the same language. Depending on the season, we had cherry, apple, pear, or quince sauces, only slightly sweetened, chunky and surprisingly delightful along the stronger tasting meat of the water fowl.

Korean Pears from bibberche.com

Back at home, we never mixed sweet and savory, even though Father was an adventurous eater. And I have never seen a duck or a goose at the Farmers’ Market (forget the grocery stores, as we do not buy our meets there) in my home town.

But then I decided to make my new home all the way across the Atlantic Ocean and my first Thanksgiving meal was turkey served with cranberry sauce from the can and many other side dishes and desserts, most of which originated in a can or a box. I have never tasted cranberries before and I immediately fell in love with their tart and assertive taste so capable of pairing with the gaminess of turkey. It took years to fight my way over to the real food and side dishes made from scratch, but I am now happy to know that my daughters will remember my slowly simmered cranberry sauce, candied sweet potatoes, and giblet gravy as the part of their holiday tradition.

And more than that, I carried over my mother’s culinary ways, including fruit sauces with roasts, always leaning on seasonal produce. That’s why I though of pairing beautiful duck breasts I bought at Lazy Acres Market with crunchy and juicy Korean pears simmered in apple cider (they worked so well in Kale Salad I made last week). My ancestors might be rolling their eyes, but the combination worked beautifully. The pears were firm and kept their texture without becoming mushy, while adding a fragrant note to the sauce slightly enriched by the spiciness of the cider. A pat of butter was enough to add a smidgen of richness without competing with the complex taste of the seared duck breasts.

My family has dwindled in size in a few last years, and a whole turkey at Thanksgiving looks very intimidating. But a pair of flavorful, seared duck breasts with a tart cranberry sauce, some cornbread dressing, and gravy might be just right for an elegant and intimate family affair.

My mother passed away last July. She might have raised an eyebrow if I served her this dish and she might have given me an advice on how to make it better, but I know that she would have approved of my creativity after a few hours of grumbling. She might have been silent at dinner table, but I am pretty sure that she would have smiled comforted in the thought that her culinary traditions are making their way across the meridians and across the generations.

Seared Duck Breast with Korean Pear Sauce From bibberche.com

SEARED DUCK BREAST WITH KOREAN PEAR SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 2 duck breasts
  • a pinch of salt
  • some freshly ground pepper

Korean pear sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp rendered duck fat
  • 1 Korean pear, cored and diced
  • 1 cup of apple cider

Directions:

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat (you can use a stainless steel skillet, too). Score the duck skin in a criss-cross manner, making sure not to cut into the meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the duck skin down in the skillet for 6 minutes, allowing the fat to render and the skin to turn brown. Turn the breasts and cook or another 4 minutes for medium-rare, up to 8 minutes for well done.

Place on a plate and let them rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting into thin slices.

Sauce:

Pour all but 1 Tbsp of duck fat into a separate bowl and save for frying potatoes (or anything else). Add butter and heat a 10-inch skillet on medium heat. Add diced pears and saute for a minute, until they start to brown and sizzle. Add apple cider, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Take the cover off and simmer for another 15 minutes, reducing the sauce until it’s thick and chunky.

Serve atop of sliced duck breast.

Korean pears are in season from November through March. Check out what some of my friends did with them – you will be amazed!

Thank you Melissa’s Produce for the sample of glorious Korean pears! They are truly magnificent and versatile.

 I received a sample of Korean pears from Melissa’s Produce. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. The opinions are mine and only mine:)

Nov 092012
 

Korean Pear and Kale Salad from bibberche.com

As the Fall firmly takes a hold even in southern California where we bundle up and don gloves and hats as soon as the temperatures drop bellow 60F, the last brave specimens of the late summer fruit slowly retreat and surrender the coveted shelf space to bright orange persimmons, dark red pomegranates, apples colored every hue from green to yellow to red, Weeble-shaped fragrant and sun-kissed pears, and ubiquitous pumpkins who reign not only because of their heft, but also because of their colorful kitschy appeal.

And as if we did not have enough drama in the produce department of any given grocery store, enters Korean pear, the prima donna of fruit, the spoiled Asian heiress grown to be the juiciest, the freshest, the lightest fruit in the aisles. Its delicate brownish-yellow skin is thin, unblemished, and perfect, as the fruit is wrapped while it grows for protection from the elements and parasites that threaten to mar its smooth surface. The flesh is white and crunchy. It does not turn brown or wrinkly when exposed to air. You can imagine it in a floppy hat and big sunglasses, sipping a mint julep at the races, looking all fabulous and haughty.

Korean Pears from bibberche.com

When I opened the box from Melissa’s Produce, a dozen Korean pears were nestled comfortably in soft indented trays, wrapped in delicate netting, not touching each other. I gingerly picked one out of its nest, unwrapped it, and barely resisted the temptation to start chanting a line from one of my favorite Loony Toones, “I will love him, and pet him, and squeeze him, and call him George.”* But I remembered in time that it was, after all, only a piece of fruit. I dropped the silliness and started thinking of the ways to use them in my kitchen. They are like Kobe beef of produce, coddled, nurtured, loved, but destined to satisfy the gourmands of the world in search of the best culinary experience.

Just to get an idea how pampered these pears are, watch this video:

http://www.melissas.com/Recipes/Videos/Melissas-Korean-Pears.aspx

My daughters ask for them at every meal and they make a perfect addition to their school lunches. They are crunchy like an apple, extremely juicy and refreshing, and sweet without being overbearing. For their size (and they are pretty hefty at about 10 ounces or 275 grams a piece), they pack surprisingly few calories, only 115, and less than 30 grams of carbs. They are available November through March, which means that they will start appearing at your local grocery stores soon. If you are not sure what stores carry them, contact Melissa’s Produce, the largest U.S. distributor of Korean pears, for the information.

Korean Pear

We could have easily eaten them all just like that, fresh from the box, crispy and firm and juicy. But I knew that I could pair them with a few other seasonal ingredients that would allow them to shine, all sophisticated and special. I picked up some gorgeous, dark green Tuscan kale at Torrance farmers’ market and decided to tame it with these juicy pears, plump dried cranberries, crunchy pecans, sweet matchstick-cut carrots, and roasted chicken breast. The salad came together with a light dressing of lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper. A pinch of lemon zest on top added just enough citrus fragrance to make it Californian.

I was happy. I shared it with a friend and she was happy. Looking at the small chunks of Korean pears glistening from the dressing, pristine and white in the sea of bold colors, made me confident that they were happy, too,

*You do know which cartoon I am talking about? It features Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the Yeti. If you have not seen it, find it on YouTube; it’s hilarious.

Korean Pear Salad from bibberche.com

TUSCAN KALE AND KOREAN PEAR SALAD WITH THE WORKS

Ingredients:

  • A bunch of Tuscan (Lacinato) kale, rinsed, trimmed of tough stems, and cut into thin strips
  • 1 Korean pear, cored, cut in wedges and then in smaller chunks (I prefer mine smaller, as I like to get a bit of everything on my fork, but this is up to you)
  • 1 handful of dried cranberries (dried cherries or even raisins would work, too)
  • ½ cup of chopped pecans (or walnuts)
  • 1 medium carrot cut into matchsticks or grated
  • 4 oz roasted chicken (I used ½ of roasted chicken breast) cut into cubes

Dressing:

  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ½ tsp coarse salt
  • a twist or two of freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Toss all the salad ingredients together in a big bowl.

Place the dressing ingredients in a small recycled glass jar, twist the lid on tightly and shake vigorously for 30 seconds to combine. Pour over the salad and toss well. If you want kale to soften a bit, let the salad sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

For more recipes using Korean pears check some of my favorite blogs:

 I received a sample of Korean pears from Melissa’s Produce. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. The opinions are mine and only mine:)

Nov 072012
 
Candied Southern Sweet Potatoes from bibberche.com

Photo credit: Dorothy of Shockingly Delicious

I encountered sweet potatoes at my first Thanksgiving, a few months after I moved to the U.S. I watched from the sidelines as my ex-husband, his sister and her boyfriend woke up with the first rays of sun to start the vigorous and detailed preparation for this, for me an unknown holiday. Roasted turkey and mashed potatoes were the only two dishes made from scratch. The rest arrived to the table straight from the can or a box. For years I participated only as a menial laborer – stirring, dicing, mixing, and washing dishes, fearful not to upset the feelings of a traditional holiday meal.

And for years I did not see the appeal of gorging on processed and semi-processed food three times a day, only to collapse on a couch and watch an interminably long game that held absolutely no interest for me. My ex-husband’s ancestors arrived to this country on the Mayflower and I bowed to the traditions as a newest family member. I wanted to feel the goosebumps and excitement of sharing the familial table, experiencing the closeness, support, and love, but there was no pay-off to the hours of hard work, as everyone scarfed the food down in minutes and migrated to the living room, whining and patting their engorged bellies.

I am an adventurous eater, not afraid to try new and unknown dishes, but grayish spears of green beans baked with a can of cream of mushroom soup and mealy sweet potatoes poured into a pan from a huge can and roasted with marshmallows on top left me uninspired and disappointed. I was not a food snob, but I was raised on dishes prepared from scratch, fresh produce, and meat raised humanely and ethically. I accepted the fact that creativity was not welcome at this holiday, and went along with family traditions presented to me.

FBLA Thanksgiving table from bibberche.com

Judy’s pumpkins stuffed with stuffing – the epitome of the season

After my divorce, I sent my daughter and my mother to my ex-husband’s family for Thanksgiving and I enjoyed the holiday on my own, watching movies, drinking wine and eating crackers and cheese. I really liked my new holiday tradition and did not miss the gloopy jellied cranberry sauce plopped on a platter, still bearing the markings of the can that housed it, nor the gravy mixed hastily from an envelope.

My second husband hailed from the south and even though he pined for green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and jellied cranberry sauce, he introduced a few innovative and to me appealing dishes: southern dressing and giblet gravy. I embraced both, appreciating the efforts that went into preparing them, relishing the idea that there were no cans or boxes necessary for preparing them. All of a sudden, Thanksgiving started to shape into a different kind of holiday, a day that I would look forward to, a family event that made us all excited. It might have had something to do with a fact that my second husband could care less about sports of any kind, and enjoyed sitting at the table for hours, talking and sipping wine, surrounded by piles of dirty dishes and platters still filled with food.

There was no sister-in-law nor mother-in-law to reign over the kitchen and impose the habits that I would have to accept unconditionally. My husband craved certain tastes that brought him close to his childhood and I obliged him with every dish I prepared for Thanksgiving, but I refused to build my children’s traditions on cans and boxes. From our first holiday, everything I prepared was from scratch.

FBLA Thanksgiving table

And this was not all…

Our Thanksgiving table’s theme is mostly southern. Turkey is roasted unstuffed, with cornbread dressing baked on the side and hearty giblet gravy to spoon on top. My cranberry sauce is chunky and simple, dinner rolls soft and buttery, green beans blanched and tossed with diced tomatoes and garlic. There is always a pecan pie, rich and boozy, decadent and oh-so-satisfying.

But one dish that is all mine and that fits beautifully in my adopted southern Thanksgiving tradition is candied southern sweet potatoes. This simple dish allows the taste of mashed sweet potatoes to come forward, accentuating their soft texture and elevating them to a higher level with a crunchy topping of melted butter, chopped pecans, brown sugar, and a hint of nutmeg. When I feel inspired, I stir in a glug of bourbon just to cement it firmly south of the Mason-Dixon line.

This November marks a third anniversary of our Food Bloggers LA group that ideally meets once a month. On Sunday, more than twenty of us showed up in Santa Monica at Andrew Wilder‘s place, bringing our favorite Thanksgiving dish. I am happy to say that my southern sweet potatoes disappeared and I brought an empty dish home. The best compliment came from my friend Christina from Christina’s Cucina, who brought this insanely good Pumpkin Cheesecake and Chocolate Mousse Cake with Ganache topping. She does not like sweet potatoes, but said that done my way, they can grace her family table any time.

Pineapple Cake

Leslie baked this pretty Pineapple Cake for the third anniversary of our FBLA group

I hope you all have a great holiday with family and friends. I know that I have only a few more years to train my daughters’ sensitive palates and develop culinary traditions that will bring them home once they fly away and make their own nests. And I hope these sweet potatoes are going to be a part of their family celebration.

CANDIED SOUTHERN SWEET POTATOES 

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of sweet potatoes (2 big ones)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp Bourbon (optional – but why not? It’s the holidays!)

Praline Topping:

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

 Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400F. Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork in a few places to make sure they bake evenly. Place in the heated oven and bake for 45-60 minutes. If the knife goes in easily, the potatoes are done.

Turn the heat down to 350F.

Cool the potatoes, peel an place into a large bowl. Add brown sugar, egg yolk, butter and bourbon if using and mash with a hand=held mixer for a few minutes until fluffy and combined.

Melt the butter fir the topping and combine it with the rest of the topping ingredients. Spoon on top of mashed sweet potatoes.

Pour into an oven proof dish and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

 


Oct 182012
 

Tiramisu from bibberche.com

I did not taste Tiramisù when I majored in Italian and went religiously to every Italian restaurant in our capital city of Belgrade; I did not ask about it when I spent a month in Italy, traveling from Rome to Abruzzo and then back to Rome with my friend Stefania, staying with her family and eating many meals in their hotel a few miles off the coast of the Adriatic;  and I certainly did not find it at the first fine dining restaurant whose doors opened to me when I embarked on the American soil, even though the owner/chef was an Italian by origin.

The first time I tasted this simple, but elegant Italian dessert was when my sister visited from Germany. My youngest daughter was only two months old, all round-faced, ginger-haired, and as demanding as if she were the first-born, and I was trying to find my zen while carrying her clasped to my breast, feeding her one-year-old sister secured firmly in her high chair, and helping my second-grader with her homework.

My sister waltzed in flaunting her sleek, European chic even while wearing black yoga pants and a tee shirt, no make-up, no pretense. I felt utterly exhausted on every level, but having some adult company and being able to converse in more than one-syllable words made me forget all about interrupted sleep, colic, and interminable hours spent putting my babies to sleep.

She was born efficient and organized, and the years she spent as a nurse in an ICU unit in Frankfurt, Germany, made her hone those traits to perfection. She commandeered the house with the authority of a seasoned ship’s captain and brought back the harmony that Shiva-like forces of my hectic life inevitably disrupted. It did not surprise me that my girls obeyed her every command uttered with a smile, but firmly, without objecting, whining, and dramatic scenes.

She took away lime-green sippy cup from my hand and replaced it with a glass of chilled French rosé. She set up a mini spa and did my nails that have not seen the salon in months, while I laid on the couch, a gloopy mask covering my face, two cucumber slices placed over my eyes. She colored my hair, picked my outfit, and kicked me out of the door so we could go shopping.

And then one afternoon she made a tiramisù which seduced me with creaminess, a subtle nudge of coffee and just a hint of alcohol. All I wanted was to inhale it, spend my days with it eating it very slowly, bite by tiny bite, making it last. But it did not last. It appears that even the smallest members of my household loved the adult flavors of this dessert and I had to share.

My sister has come and gone many times since then. Every time I feel like locking her in, keeping her in my home like a hostage, grabbing on to her black leather jacket and making her stay. But I just take her to the airport, stand in the crowd until she disappears in the winding TSA line and wave to her, not even bothering to hide my tears. I know she will be back. But I also know that I will miss her every single day.

We did not make tiramisù when she was here in September, back from her scuba-diving trip to Tahiti. I was grateful for that week she spent with me and the girls, happy to have her around, elated to see my house rejuvenated and spruced up once again. And I was grateful for the lazy afternoon hours we spent sipping chilled French rosé, reminiscing about our old boyfriends and listening to the 80s music, giggling like we used to back when sixteen months between us was a big deal.

But I made her tiramisù for my girls who were too small to remember its taste when she first made it. The three of us sat at the counter and ate our perfectly sliced cubes, making each bite last as long as it could before melting on our tongues, the coffee asserting itself over the softness of mascarpone, ladyfingers completely surrendered to the flowery touch of Cointreau. I miss my sister fiercely, but this was enough to bring her back here, bold, exciting, sweet, and soft at the same time, just like this Italian dessert she introduced to us so many years ago.

MY SISTER’S SIMPLE TIRAMISÙ

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 lb mascarpone cheese

The Rest of the Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of strong coffee at room temperature (espresso would be the best)
  • 3 Tbsp rum, amaretto, brandy, cognac, or Cointreau
  • a package of lady fingers (savoiardi) – I needed 30 pieces, but it all depends on the size of your dish
  • 1/3 cup cocoa for dusting (you can use chocolate shavings instead)

 Directions:

Mix the eggs and sugar with hand-held mixer or in your food processor until foamy and pale yellow. Add mascarpone cheese and mix until combined.

Stir together coffee and liqueur of your choice in a shallow bowl.

Place ladyfingers, one by one, in the coffee-booze mix, roll around for about 5 seconds and lay flat in a rectangular Pyrex dish. Continue laying the savoiardi until the bottom of the dish is covered. Place the half of the filling on top of them and spread evenly. Repeat with another layer. Spread the remaining filling on top and dust with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings.

Keep in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Tiramisu from bibberche.com

Oct 092012
 

Classic American Egg Salad from bibberche.com

This month’s Recipe Swap, started by Christianna Rheinhard of Burwell General Store, features a Russian Salad, a side dish very close to my homesick Serbian heart. When I was growing up, you did not dare invite people over for a dinner or a celebration in the Fall or Winter without offering an immense bowl filled with Russian salad (it goes without saying that a roasted suckling pig would have been the centerpiece of the table, no matter what).

Mother always made mayonnaise from scratch and enlisted our help in dicing the other ingredients, which had to be cut into the equally-sized tiny cubes. She would cook them all separately: the eggs, the carrots, the potatoes, and the chicken breast. Frozen peas were blanched for a minute or two and added in the end, along with ham and pickles. No herring, onions, or beats in the Serbian version. To this day, I welcome in every new Year with a bowl of this nostalgic condiment, and the taste reminds me of every single December I spent in my parents’ house.

I was tempted to make the Serbian-Russian salad, but for me it needs a special date, a celebration, or someone’s birthday. My College Critter is not home bound until November, when our first birthday celebrations start. As she is mildly obsessed with all things Russian, due more to her choice of a major than to her Ukrainian boyfriend, I am sure that she will insist on making the Capitol or French salad (as the Russians call our ubiquitous Russian salad) for her twenty-first birthday.

October Recipe Swap from bibberche.com

Meanwhile, prompted by a wish from my elderly neighbor, I made a simple egg salad that my girls crave, and that they will be happy to find in their brown bag school lunches.

As I pride myself on being organized (which mainly means that I dread getting up too early in the morning to prepare their lunches) I boiled the eggs in the afternoon and allowed them to cool off before peeling them. I made mayo from scratch, as I dutifully do once a week. At night I diced onions, celery, pickles, and eggs, and made the salad with an additional pinch of salt and a grind or two of black pepper. The covered bowl went into the fridge overnight to meld the flavors together.

I am the last one in the house to go to bed and the first to get up. But I am a night owl and much sharper at the wee hours of the night then early in the morning. Therefore, before I leave the kitchen for the night, I fill two small water bottles and place them in the fridge. I lay lunch paper bags on the counter, along with a Sharpie and a stapler. I pick two pieces of fruit from the fruit bowl and place them next to the bags. And if need be, I write myself a note as a reminder, just to make my mornings less stressful and more manageable.

As my Turkish coffee cools off, I try to get in step with this syncopated morning dance, moving from the stove to the counter and back, preparing the breakfast and packing the lunch, satisfied only when the bags are stapled and clearly marked (with a carb count clearly written on Zoe’s bag), and the girls are perching on the stools along the counter, ready to attack the plates laden with food in front of them.

Come December, I will make a traditional Russian salad and post a recipe for it. But for now, I offer a classic egg salad that my girls and I learned to love, a dish almost scorned and abandoned by many, just like my beloved Serbian-Russian salad.

Classic American Egg Salad from bibberche.com

This open-faced beauty was my lunch

CLASSIC AMERICAN EGG SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 5 boiled eggs, diced
  • 2 small pickles, diced
  • ½ yellow or white onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • ½ cup mayonnaise, store-bought or homemade
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Place eggs, pickles, onions, and celery into a bowl. Add mayonnaise, and stir to combine. Season to taste and serve.

Oct 072012
 

Goat Cheese Tart from bibberche.com

My sister has a hyper-sensitive nose. She makes a face when she spies a wedge of pecorino Romano and she can identify the tiniest amounts of any goat product, no matter how fresh and pristine. “It smells like a musk ox!”, she would yell and that became our war cry, a kind of a goat radar, even though no one we are even acquainted with has come in contact with a musk ox.

Father’s neighbor at the ranch above our town in Serbia has a small herd of goats that she takes for a walk along the dirt road, allowing them to enjoy the overgrown hedges and brambles that flank it, while she walks slowly behind them, her knitting needles clacking and crisscrossing, a ball of yarn clasped firmly between her arm and her ribs. When she milks the goats in the morning, she fills white, reused one-liter plastic bottles with still frothy milk, loads them in canvas bags and dispatches her children on bikes to make rounds. The milk she gets at dusk she uses to make cheese the next day.

Father is one of her regular customers when we are in Serbia and my children have learned to enjoy the exotic, grassy taste of goat products. From time to time I even manage to persuade my sister to take a bite of young, lightly salted, unripened milky-white goat cheese cut in squares and laid in neat rows in a plastic box, or a few crumbs of older, yellow and drier cheese that spent some time developing its mature aroma. But she inevitably scrunches her face after a faintest whiff of goatness, and we all cry out in unison, “It smells like a musk ox!”

Goat Cheese Tart from bibberche.comAlmost two years ago the Internet sprinkled some fairy dust and made me stumble upon Stephanie’s beautiful blog Sale e Pepe. Her photography left me breathless and inspired me to strive for better every time I pick up my camera. When she told me that she has photographed a cookbook, I was not surprised. When she asked me if I wanted to participate in a virtual potluck to promote the cookbook, Tasia’s Table, I was ecstatic.

The author of the cookbook is Tasia Malakasis, a Southern girl of Greek origin, a fellow English major who switched gears a few years back and became a cheesemonger for her native Alabama company Belle Chevre. Most of the recipes in her book feature goat cheese in its many incarnations. Her writing is evocative and soulful, and Stephanie’s images bring forth Tasia’s enchantment with food and her desire to share it with her friends and family while tossing back a glass of red wine, laughing, and leaving all pretense behind.

My kind of cheese, my kind of girl, my kind of entertaining! The only bad thing about this endeavor was that I could not stop browsing the recipes. I wanted to make so many of them that my notebook became useless. I stopped only when I realized that I can make all these recipes in the future whenever I want. For the virtual potluck I chose an easy to prepare dish that would appeal to my girls, with ingredients that I usually have in stock: Tapenade-Olive Tart with Goat Cheese.

The puff pastry rose beautifully and the crust was rustic and imperfect in the best way possible, even though I tried really hard to make the edges even. Creamy, soft goat cheese cut the abrasive notes of capers and complemented the  flowery taste of roughly chopped green Manzanilla olives in my tapenade*, while toasted nuts tossed with fresh thyme added another subtle undertone.

Tasia, you are right: this is a simple, but lovely dish to serve on a weekday with a spring greens salad, but also perfectly suited to grace a table at an informal party, or when guests appear unexpectedly. And my sister was probably dreaming about us nine hours ahead in Germany, as we chimed, as if on cue, “It smells like a musk ox!”

*I made my own tapenade as I joined October Unprocessed started by Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules.

You can order a copy of Tasia’s Table on Tasia Malakasis’s site.

 TAPENADE-WALNUT TART WITH GOAT CHEESE

from Tasia’s Table

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 roll of store-bought puff pastry
  • 4 tablespoons prepared olive tapenade
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • ½ cup walnuts, crushed and toasted

Directions:

Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle about 8 x 12 inches.

Roll up the sides slightly and prick the bottom with a fork.

Cook for 10 minutes at 400 degrees on a nonstick baking sheet.

Remove from oven and cool.

Spread the tapenade on the cooked pastry.

Sprinkle with thyme and walnuts, and cover evenly with goat cheese.

Bake for 15–20 minutes at 400 degrees, until the cheese has melted and started to brown on top.

Goat Cheese Tart from bibberche.com

Tasia is offering a free signed copy of her book to one lucky winner. Simply leave a comment below and feel free to tweet out this contest using the handle @Bibberche and @BelleChevre, and the hashtag #tasiastable. I will leave this giveaway open until Saturday, October 13th, to give Tasia some time to pick a winner.

Several other bloggers are participating in this virtual potluck. I listed their blogs so you can visit them as well and enter again. Each of these bloggers will pick one response and send it to Tasia. She will then choose the winner and send them an autographed copy of Tasia’s Table. Good Luck!

The comments are the official entry, there is no purchase necessary, void where prohibited. US mailing addresses only. One (1) winner will be chosen randomly. Prize will be shipped by Belle Chevre. The contest ends Sunday, October 14th, 2012 at 11:59 pm Eastern time. The winner will be announced on Monday, October 15th, via email and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. Disclaimer: I received a signed copy of Tasia’s Table and no other compensation. Opinions and photography are my own.