Sunday, July 31, 2011

Phyllo Tart with Salmon--It's All About Dill

I love all the herbs, but I have a particular sentiment for dill. When I was a child one of my favorite summer snacks was a sandwich made from rye bread, spread with butter and generously topped with chopped dill and coarse salt on it.

Dill is so popular in Poland that, next to marjoram, I would call it our national herb. Any Polish who owns even a tiny garden may not have much there but I bet will grow some dill. Many traditional Polish recipes call for dill. Our beet dishes need dill. It is added to cabbage salads, soups and sauces. And it is a must have ingredient in pickled and salted cucumbers. If you have ever eaten in Poland, especially in the summer, and you happen to be not a great fan of dill, you surely found yourself in trouble.

Because of our national love for dill, whenever I find a recipe calling for it, I always cannot wait to try it.

Today's tart was inspired by a recipe from a very old British magazine, which turned out to be worth trying. Of course, I added twice as much dill as the recipe indicated. I also bought a piece of wild salmon fillet for this dish, which made enormous difference in taste. Importantly, there was no fishy aroma whatsoever during its preparation. This tart has been recently one of my favorite dishes, and with all the dill in it, it brought back the memories of Polish summers.

Phyllo Salmon Tart
(Serves 6 as a starter and 4 as a main dish)

9 sheets phyllo pastry,
2 tbsp butter, plus extra 2 tbsp melted,
1/2 lb wild salmon fillet,
3 eggs,
1 and 1/2 cup milk,
1/4 cup all purpose flour,
1 bay leaf,
2 tbsp chopped dill (or three if you really love it),
2 tbsp chopped chives,
1/2 cup Gruyère or Cheddar cheese, grated.

1. Pour milk in a medium pot with bay leaf and one tsp of salt and bring it to boil. Add salmon fillet and let it simmer for about 8 minutes. Drain the salmon, discard the bay leaf, and reserve the milk.
2. In a medium pot, melt 2 tbsp butter, add flour, and mix it over a medium heat. Add slowly milk reserved from cooking salmon, whisking constantly. Let the sauce boil for a moment and take off the heat. Beat in egg yolks, herbs, pepper, and cheese.
3. Whisk whites until stiff. Fold them into the sauce. At the end, add salmon crumbled into small pieces.

Now that your filling is ready, put it aside while preparing the bottom of the tart.

4. Preheat oven to 400F.
5. Spread a bottom of a 10-inch form with butter. Put first three sheets of Phyllo pastry so it hangs over the walls of the pan. Spread it gently with butter. Put another three sheets the same way on top, and repeat until all are used. Brush the last layer with butter and pour over the salmon filling. Cover edges with overhanging phyllo sheets.

6. Bake for about 30-35 minutes until the pastry and the top of the tart are gold.

Serve with green salads.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Frozen Meringues and Berries Dessert

It is hard to let go this recipe as it belongs among my top three desserts--easy, impossibly indulging, and elegant. Probably, it is a dessert that I make most often, particularly as a finale to summer dinner parties. Also, it is a recipe for which my guests most often ask. I love it myself not only because I like meringues and can it them just dry, but also because it is a beautifully looking dessert and, even more importantly, because it can be made a long time ahead and stored for a month or so.

Although it is so simple, it is not easy to guess what is made from, and no one has ever got it one hundred percent right.

The idea for a meringue dessert came to me accidentally one summer, when after a dinner party I was left with some Pavlova reminds. Everyone knows that is not so good on the second day when meringues become soft, and even less attractive in presentation. So I decided to freeze it. The result was not bad but it gave me an idea how to improve it.

I started to experiment with it until one day I decided "that is it". It was perfect. To describe it, I would say that it is a fusion of Pavlova and Vacherin, but frozen. And if you like either, you will be loving this one too. This dessert is sweet but also refreshing because of the fresh fruits and the fruit sauce. Meringues are not overwhelmingly sweet as I add yogurt to cream, and I add no sugar at all, to the cream, just honey which when frozen turns into a delicate caramel-like brittle.

Sometimes to make it even more fancy I add a spoon of liqueur, like Grand Marnier, to it. If I am too lazy to make home-made meringues I buy them at a store; those from Trader Joe's are my favorite. As I mentioned, this dessert can be stored frozen for several weeks, but it needs to be placed in a tightly closed container, as it may catch some freezer aromas. I am having friends over for a grill dinner this weekend and guess what dessert I am going to serve? Of course, frozen meringues, which have been waiting in my freezer since last week.

Frozen Meringues and Berries Dessert
(Serves six)

2 cups vanilla meringues,
1 cup Greek yogurt,
1 cup heavy whipping cream,
1/2 cup running honey,
1 tbsp Grand Marnier,
1 cup raspberries,
1/2 cup fresh blackberries,
1 tbsp sugar.

1. Crush meringues into smaller pieces.

2. Whip the heavy whipping cream until stiff.
3. Put yogurt into a large bowl, add the whipped cream and liqueur, if used, and mix gently.
4. Fold gently the meringues into the yogurt-cream mixture.
5. Drizzle everything with honey and fold it gently in--honey should be mixed cream but still visible, so do not mix it too hard.

6. Transfer everything to a medium-sized plastic container, preferably a big round one or six small ones and freeze for a minimum of 4 hours.
7. To make raspberry coulis, mix half a cup of raspberries with a tbsp of sugar and purée them with a hand blender.

Take the dessert from a freezer 15 minutes before serving. Take it out of the container on a serving plate (if it does not come out easily, dunk the bottom of the container in a hot water for a few seconds), pour the coulis all over it, and decorate with blackberries and raspberries. Cut like a cake and serve.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Eggplant Rolls--If You Don't Like Eggplants

Eggplants belong to my favorite vegetables. For the first time I ate them years ago when one of my Italian friends made a traditional Melanzane alla Parmigiana. It was absolutely delicious and the most tasty way to be introduced to this vegetables. From all different cuisines the way Italians serve them--with mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, as whole dish in itself or in pastas, is still my favorite. But I also met some surprisingly many people who do not like eggplants at all, as too bland and mushy in texture. Even my Afghan friend, who shared her family eggplant recipe, admitted that herself she did not like them too much.

Some time ago, at a dinner party, I served an eggplants dish. One of my guests, a Scandinavian friend, confessed that unfortunately he did not like them. Although there was choice of many other dishes, being a very sweet guest, he decided to try them. I am not sure why (probably out of courtesy) he took a second helping and said that they were really good and not at all what he remembered. I think it must have been really a traumatic culinary experience of his life, because when we met almost a year later at the other party he announced "You will be forever in my life a woman who convinced me to eat eggplants." So if you belong to that part of the mankind that does not appreciate this vegetable yet, maybe I will be able to get you to try them.

This dish comes from the Italian tradition as it use tomatoes and basil, but because it calls only for the ricotta cheese it is much lighter than other eggplant dishes.

Eggplant Rolls
(Serves four)

4 medium eggplants, try to chose the long ones,
1 15-oz ricotta cheese, preferably fresh,
4 garlic cloves,
1 medium onion,
1 16-oz can of tomato sauce,
a bunch of fresh basil,
salt and pepper,
olive oil for frying.

1. Wash eggplants and dry them. Cut out green ends. Cut each vegetable alongside into a 1/4 inch-thick slices. Salt the slices and set aside for 20 minutes.
2.Clean up the brownish water that appears on the eggplant with paper towel.
3. Heat oil in a large frying pan (the largest you have) and fry each slice on both sides until slightly brown. Recently, instead of frying them I have been grilling eggplant slices brushed with oil until they are brown; grilled ones absorb less oil than when they are fried.

4. Preheat oven to 400F.
5. In a small pot heat one tbsp of olive oil, add chopped onion, and fry it for about 5 minutes, until it becomes transparent. Pour over tomatoes juice and simmer on a small heat for about 5 minutes.Take from the heat and set aside.
6. Put the ricotta cheese into a medium bowl. Add garlic, chopped basil, salt and pepper, and mix all the ingredients.
7. Spread a tbsp of ricotta on one side of each eggplant slice. Roll each slice up.

8. Pour most of the tomato sauce at a bottom of an oven proof dish and place eggplant rolls in it tight next to each other. Drizzle the remaining couple of spoons of the sauce on top of the eggplants. Cover everything with aluminium foil and put in the hot oven. Bake for about 30 minutes (sauce at the bottom needs to boil briefly).

Serve warm with a baguette and red wine.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Corn Pancakes--A Simply Wonderful Idea

There is nothing that makes me more happy in the kitchen than a good recipe for a desert that everyone will be drooling over, just looking at it, or a vegetarian dish that makes people "wow".

Often times, I cook for people of different nationalities, religions, and of course tastes, and I find myself challenged to respect everyone's preferences. In such situations, I usually end up making a vegetarian dish.

I realize that although I am getting close to 200 posts, I have never shared any corn recipes. Since it is a corn season in America, where corn is particularly tasty, and corn is the mainstay of the American cuisine, it is time to fix what I have overlooked for such a long time.

Typically, I buy fresh corn cobs, cook them or grill them, and serve with butter for dinner as a side dish. I do it often in the summer, especially because this is a vegetable that my son never objects to, but I admit that I have not yet discovered a corn dish that would satisfy my taste. Until recently.

Sometimes I am left with corn extras and then I experiment with them and try in what food combination they would taste best. This way I came up with an idea of delicious corn salad that has been a seasonal hit over last weeks. I serve it with grilled meat and the dinner is ready in no time. I will share this recipe soon, but today I would like to post something different--corn pancakes, which I made for the first time just two days ago. It is a very simple dish, yet interesting in taste, and everyone who tried it praised it. Even my picky son gave it thumbs up and decided that they were almost as good as his favorite Polish potato pancakes.

I have had this recipe in my recipe book for years I can only regret that I have not tried it earlier. It is banally easy to make but tastes surprisingly sophisticated. It can be served as dinner dish, garnished with mayonnaise sauce or as a starter. Please try and judge yourself.

Corn Pancakes
(Makes 15-16 pancakes)

2 cups (16 oz or 1 lb) yellow corn kernels. It can be grilled or cooked, in the usual way, then cut off the cob. You can also use frozen corn, which needs to be cooked for about 5 minutes.
2 large garlic cloves,
2 eggs,
1/3 cup corn starch,
1/3 cup fresh coriander leaves roughly chopped,
1/2 jalapeno pepper,
1 inch fresh peeled ginger root,
1/2 tsp salt and fresh pepper to taste,
vegetable oil for frying (I would suggest grape seed oil or rice bran oil, which are most healthy and least aromatic when fried).

1. Put half of the corn (about one cup) in a food processor. Save the other half at this moment.
2. Add to the corn a piece of ginger, eggs, corn starch, coriander leaves, jalapeno pepper, salt and pepper.

3. Run the engine until all the ingredients turn into purée mixture.

4. Take everything out of the food processor, place in a medium bowl, and add the remaining whole corn kernels. Mix all well.
5. In a large frying pan heat 3 tbsp of oil until hot. Using a soup spoon place small portions in a pan.

6. Fry for about 3 minutes, then turn on the other side, and fry for another 2 minutes.

7. Take pancakes from the pan and place them on a plate lined with a sheet of paper towel, to absorb the unnecessary oil.

Mayonnaise sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise,
juice from half a lime,
1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves,
1/4 cup chopped spring onion,
pinch of salt.

Place mayonnaise in a small bowl. Add finely chopped coriander and spring onion, lemon juice and salt. Mix well.

Serve pancakes topped with 1/2 tsp of mayonnaise sauce and tomato salad.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vinaigrette Salad--My Old Summer Must Rediscovered

This salad (which at home we call simply Vinaigrette) comes probably from somewhere in Russia and has been on my family menu for as long as I can remember. My aunt's husband, who studied film making in Moscow, had learned it there and later introduced us to this recipe.

It was very seasonal and made from very typical for Polish cuisine ingredients, which were then available only in summer. It calls for tomatoes and fresh cucumbers, but what made it really Polish was the use of potatoes, which often were dinner leftovers, sour cucumbers (aka cucumbers in brine) and dill.

I probably would not exaggerate by saying that in the summer we made Vinaigrette almost every day. We ate it in the evening with rye bread and a slice of ham on it. Crispy and tasty, sometimes it was the whole meal in itself, especially on a hot day, when we did not feel like cooking in the heat.

I had never made this salad in he US, until about three weeks ago. Cucumbers in brine are the only special ingredient that is needed to prepare it. Either you make them yourself or, if you can buy their commercial versions at almost any food store. The best ones are those made by Manischewitz or another Jewish company (but make sure you buy the salted ones not those pickled in vinegar). They are absolutely necessary for this salad and make this salad very unique and Easter European in taste.

On the Fourth of July, I served Vinaigrette with grilled meats to Polish guests. None of them knew it, but familiar ingredients made it the most popular dish right away and a large bowl of it disappeared very fast. Next time I have my guests (especially foreigners) I will experiment again. And I am sure my German friends, known for their love of potato salads will appreciate it as well.

Vinaigrette Salad
(Serves four)

1 cup chopped sour cucumbers (about 2 medium sour Kirby cucumbers),
1 cup chopped fresh cucumbers, 2 small fresh Kirby cucumbers or 1/3 of a long English cucumber,
1/2 medium onion, chopped,
1 cup cherry tomatoes or 1 large tomato (preferably old fashion heirloom tomato, or beefsteak tomato that are not too watery), chopped,
2 cup cooked baby or finger potatoes (or 1-2 large potatoes cut in cubes),
1/4 cup fresh chopped dill,
2 tbsp olive oil,
1 tbsp of lemon juice apple cider vinegar,
1 garlic clove (optional),
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Peel off the fresh cucumber and cut it into medium size cubes (first, cut it in four alongside and later quarter-inch thick slices). Then cut the sour cucumbers the same way.
2. Cut cherry tomatoes and baby potatoes in half or a big tomato or potato in cubes of similar size as those into which you cut the cucumbers.
3. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl.
4. Chop the onion into small pieces and add it to the rest of the vegetables.
5. Chop dill and add it to the bowl.

6. Separately, in a small bowl, prepare the vinaigrette dressing by mixing salt, pepper, olive oil, minced garlic (when used) and lemon. I would say a tbs of lemon juice or vinegar is enough but the amount I would like to add would really depend on how sour your sour cucumbers are. For instance, when I make them at home, and they are already fully sour, no lemon juice is needed. But if your cucumbers are not so sour (not so salted) you may add some zest to it.
7. Pour the vinaigrette dressing over the vegetables and mix gently. Let all the ingredients absorb dressing for about 10 minutes. Serve alone or with meats.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Upside Down Apricot Cake--An Easy Version of the Old Favorite

Mid-July was the start of the season when my grandmother was making her wonderful milk and yeast cakes with fruits. Those cakes were quite labor intensive--the dough had to be kneaded and then left to rise for some time, until almost it doubled its volume. But later, when the cake was baked, its flavor filled the kitchen with the most amazing and addicting aroma that any cake can produce.

I already mentioned once before that I had never been able to attain my grandma's perfection in that matter, and I feel more comfortable making a complicated dessert than that easy cake, which is so basic in Polish cuisine.

It is said that the more skimpy this cake was on the ingredients' side(less sugar, butter, and eggs), the better it was. And my grandma's cake was tall, fluffy, and delicious. At the beginning of the season, she made it with sour cherries (I think available mostly in Europe if not only in Eastern Europe). Later she used black currants, plums, and--at the very end--apples in the fall.

As I read recently a lot about French cuisine and went through many French culinary magazines, I discovered a type of cake that I was not familiar with, but could substitute for the one that my grandma made. It also is made with yeast and only a tiny amount of milk, but it is made rather as a sponge cake than a traditional yeast cake that I know. This means that it is faster to make. I have been experimenting with many version of that idea and today's recipe is a result of that.

The cake turned out to be fantastic and disappeared in half an hour still warm. Even kids that had a play date at our place enjoyed it very much. And although from the picture this cake may seem kind of heavy it was surprisingly light and delicate. I made it with apricots, instead of making a tart of them, but I am sure it can be delicious also, for example, with plums or apples.

Upside Down Apricot Cake
(For a 9-inch baking pan)

9-10 soft apricots,
1 and 3/4 unsalted, soft butter stick,
1 packed cup of brown sugar (about 180 g) plus extra 3 tbsp,
1 and 1/3 cup all purpose flour( 150 g),
1/3 cup ground almonds (50 g),
1 tsp dried yeasts,
3 eggs,
2 tbsp milk,
a pinch of salt.

1. Grease the bottom of the baking pan with butter.
2. Cut out from wax paper a 9-inch circle (22 centimeters) and place it at the bottom of the baking pan. Sprinkle with 3 tbsp of brown sugar.
3. Cut apricots in halves, remove pits, and place them skin up on the wax paper (sprinkled with sugar).
4. Preheat oven to 300 F (150C)
5. Put soft butter in a stand-up mixer. Add sugar and run mixer for about 3 minutes, until the two ingredients turn into a smooth batter.
6. Separate the eggs. Add yolks to the butter and run mixer for about 2 minutes. Place whites with a pinch of salt in a medium bowl an beat until stiff.
7. In a medium bowl sift in flour, add almonds and dry yeasts. Add all the dried ingredients to the mixer bowl and run it until everything is incorporated. At the very end add two tbsp of milk and again mix it in well.
8. Fold in whipped whites into the batter.
9. Spread the batter over the apricots and bake in oven for 45 minutes.

10. Cool down the cake, turn it upside down on the serving plate, and gently remove the wax paper.

Cut and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche on top.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini--French Way

The French love zucchini. We all know this by now, if not from a personal culinary experience, then from the movie "Ratatouille". And zucchini is one ratatouille's main ingredients. More than that though, when I lived in Geneva I ate flans, quiches, pastas, and pizzas made with zucchini of different shapes and colors.

The most amazing zucchini dish I ever ate were stuffed zucchini flowers, which I ate in restaurant in Geneva. I would like to repeat one day, the problem is though that they were stuffed with something extremely delicate that I was not able to identify.

My second favorite zucchini dish are stuffed zucchinis themselves. My mother was making a similar dish years ago, when I was a child. She was stuffing with ground meat a gigantic squash-like vegetable, something in between a zucchini and a pumpkin, weighing about four to five pounds each. Then the whole vegetable was baked in an oven and served with a tomato salad or green lettuce with mustard dressing. This zucchini-pumpkin vegetable (which I have not found outside Poland so far) was available only during two summer months.

The other day when I was flipping through a French magazine I stumbled on a recipe for stuffed zucchini which reminded me this favorite dish from my childhood. I decided to try it, as zucchinis are definitely at their peak, not only in France but in here as well. I got some local specimens, very fresh and green, stuffed them with mixed meats, and served them with a fresh baguette.

Stuffed Zucchini
(Serves four)

8 medium zucchini (or two per person),
1/2 lb ground meat (1/4 lb beef and 1/4 lb pork or lamb)-beef itself is a little bit too dense,
2 garlic cloves, minced,
1 egg,
2 tbsp shredded Parmesan,
2 tbsp chopped parsley,
1 glass white wine,
1 cup of beef or vegetable stock,
3 tbsp tomato purée,
all purpose flour,
olive oil for frying,
1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper.

1. Cut out and discard both ends of the zucchinis. Depending on their length cut the zucchinis in two or three cylinders.
2. Using a small spoon or a grapefruit knife cut out the insides of the zucchinis leaving about a quarter of an inch of flesh inside. Save half of the flesh that you scooped out and chop it finely.

3. In a medium bowl mix both meats, chopped zucchini flesh, garlic, egg, Parmesan, one tbsp chopped parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix well until all the ingredients make a smooth stuffing.

4. Stuff zucchini cylinders, pushing meat tightly inside (it will shrink during cooking a little bit anyway).

5. Roll each piece in flour and put aside.
6. Heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a large casserole. Fry zucchinis until gold all over.
7. In a small bowl mix wine, tomato purée, and vegetable stock. Add this mix to the pan, cover the pan and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes, depending on how big your pieces are.
8. Sprinkle with remaining parsley leaves, and serve with white bread and red wine.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Frozen Halva Pie--Easy and Delicious Summer Dessert

Once in a while I crave for halva. I buy then a big box of it in my Middle Eastern grocery store imagining myself eating it whole. But those who like halva, also know that a small piece of it goes a long way. Although delicious, halva--as many Middle Easter desserts--is also so sweet that a couple of bites can quickly satisfy the most unsatisfiable craving.

I usually buy Greek or Turkish halva, which is very finely grind, and turns in mouth into a sandy paste. My favorite is the plain vanilla, sesame seeds halva. I eat it until I feel totally "sweetened". Later, when I am very full, a two-pound box rests in my refrigerator for months, or until my mother, who is a big halva lover, visits and in a couple of weeks finishes that box for me.

A few years ago I found in Gourmet magazine a recipe for a cake using halva. It sounded perfect for halva leftovers that I had in the back of my refrigerator. I experimented with that recipe and prepared for my summer dinner party. All the guests loved it and could not really guess what I served--a frozen cake or ice cream cake? So I would rather call it a dessert than a pie. The fact that I served it after an outdoors dinner on a hot and humid summer evening made it even more perfect.

I made some changes to the original recipe and replaced sugar with honey, which is healthier and gives it a more interesting taste. I also like it more textured, so I did not dissolve halva completely, and added hot milk instead of boiling milk. And the last nice thing about this dessert is that it can be made ahead and kept in a freezer for about two weeks.

Frozen Halva Pie
(For a 9-inch pie plate)

Nine graham crackers, makes 2 cups of crushed,
5 tbsp unsalted butter (about 70g),
1/3 cup honey,
2/3 cup milk,
1/2 tsp vanilla,
1 cup crumbled, vanilla halva,
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream,
1/2 cup shelled toasted pistachios.

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Using food processor grind finely crackers. If you do not have a food processor, place crackers in a large plastic zip bag and using rolling pin crush them until they resemble bread crumbs.
3. Melt butter, add to the crackers, and mix well. You can do that in the food processor and run motor for one minute or mix in a bowl, using spoon.
4. Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom and the sides of a 9-inch pie oven dish--I use a flat bottom measuring cup or a small ramekin to press the crackers mixture.
5. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the crust is darker. Cool down completely.
6. In a medium saucepan warm up milk until almost boiling. Add honey and remove from the heat and let it cool for about 5 minutes.
7. Add crumbled halva and vanilla essence to the milk. Mix until halva almost dissolves. Let the mixture cool completely.
8. In a medium bowl beat cream until stiff. Fold whipped cream into halva mixture and pour over cold crackers crust. Freeze uncovered for an hour.
9. Remove the pie from the freezer, sprinkle pistachios on top, and freeze again for 4 hours minimum.

Before serving let it stand at the room temperature for about 15 minutes, then cut and serve.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Basic White Cabbage Salad--Polish Cuisine Classic

It has been a while since I posted a cabbage recipe, so I think it is time for another one. I can only imagine the green heads that pile up at Polish farmers' markets. Now is the season when it tastes best and we serve it very often fresh as salads or slightly sautéed in butter. Cabbage is available later as well as it preserves well over the winter, but my favorite is this very first crop, when it still rather green than white, delicate and sweet. It is funny that this simple, unsophisticated vegetable also tastes best if it is prepare in the simplest way. All the cabbage salads are very basic and do not need any special ingredients. And we do not serve it with heavy mayonnaise, but mostly with light oil and lemon.

Today's recipe is probably the most popular version of cabbage salad, which is served in all Polish homes and traditional restaurants. The whole taste of this salad comes from good, in many places still organic, cabbage. It tastes great with fish--especially fried, or any fried meat balls and breaded pork chops (wiener schnitzel or cotoletta alla milanese type), and boiled baby potatoes.

In the U.S. I serve it, like a traditional coleslaw, to accompany roasted or grilled meats. This salad is not only healthy but also makes for a very light addition to any meal. Throwing an extra handful of fresh herbs makes this salad a real vitamin bomb!

Basic Cabbage Salad
(Serves 4-6)

6 cups white,tiny shredded cabbage( about half a medium head),
2 medium carrots, cut julienne or on a large whole grater,
1/2 medium onion, cut in half and then finely sliced,
1/4 cup fresh, chopped dill,
1/4 flat leaves, Italian parsley ,chopped,
2 tbsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar,
3 tbsp grape seed or rice bran oil (or any light vegetable oil),
1 tbsp sugar,
1 tsp salt,
freshly ground pepper to taste.

1. Shred the entire cabbage (except the core) and place it in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt, mix, and gently squeeze with hand, so the salt can penetrate the cabbage and soften it a bit.
2. Set aside for about 10 minutes. Cabbage, especially young, will release juice. Some drain it out but the juice contains all the vitamins so we want to preserve it in the salad.
3. After that time add sugar and lemon (or vinegar) and mix again.
4. Add grated carrot, onion, parsley and dill. At this point you need to try it--the salad should have a delicately sweet taste but it should be predominately sour.If cabbage and carrot you use are young and sweet, you may add a bit more lemon or vinegar (I always use white vinegar to preserve the light color of the cabbage).
5. When the cabbage has a desirable taste, finish it with pepper and oil. Mix, let it stand for another 10 minutes and serve.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Gazpacho--This Time the Red Version

On such hot days as we experience right now in DC, chilled soups are real hit at my home. Two of them compete for the top spot. With my kids, Polish cold beet soup chlodnik is absolutely number one--my younger son can eat daily--and Spanish gazpacho is the runner up. Ever since the heat wave struck, I have been juggling the two of them every other day.

Personally, I prefer Gazpacho, as I have already had my share of beet soup. Also, Gazpacho is really a no-hustle five-minute soup that can be made in a blender. It is light and very healthy filled with all kinds raw vegetables. Now, when the amazing tomatoes of different shapes and sizes are in full season, whenever I look at them my first thought is to serve them with mozzarella and basil, or to make a gazpacho soup.

Gazpacho has been so popular that I am sure many people have their own version of it, and there is not much to change in it. I recently watched a famous DC chef José Andrés adding sparkling water to his gazpacho, but somehow I always forget to try his suggestion. I heard that some also spice it up by adding Tabasco, but I do not think the original Spanish Gazpacho is that spicy.

I have never eaten gazpacho in Spain, but elsewhere in Europe I tried gazpacho that is sold in carton containers, like orange juice. It was unbelievably good, and although not freshly made it was still delicious. Last time i made my gallon of gazpacho and left for Paris. When I came back a week later, gazpacho was still very good--vinegar and oil preserved it perfectly. (No wonder that that gazpacho from the box can also taste so good.) So I guarantee that the version of gazpacho I make can be stored in a refrigerator for at least a week.

(Serves eight)

6 medium ripe tomatoes,
2 medium green peppers,
1 English cucumber,
1 medium red onion,
3 garlic cloves,
1/2 cup extra virgin oil,
1/2 cup white vinegar (sherry vinegar, if possible),
23 oz tomato juice (about 3 cups)
1 tsp salt,
1/2 tsp ground pepper,
celery seeds to taste.

1. Peel off cucumber and onion.
2. Remove seeds from peppers,
3. Cut all the vegetables in cubes and place in a food processor.

4. Run the machine until vegetables are almost puréed but still have some texture. I like it that way but if you prefer it smoother, you can purée them entirely.

5. Pour in the tomato juice in a large tall bowl or a pot. Add vinegar, oil, salt, pepper, celery seeds and all the puréed vegetables.
6. Mix all well with a large spoon and chill for minimum 4 hours, but I think the soup is the best on the second day when it is very chilled.

Serve with basil leaves and croutons if you like.