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Archive for May, 2012

My 1.5 year old daughter had a check-up appointment with her pediatrician last week.  Man, this girl can wail! And that’s just while the nurses are taking her measurements! It makes sense if mommy starts crying like that when she sees her weight, but her!? My children are a complete mystery to me!

So, to avoid any further unpleasant encounters with the scale, this dinner is relatively light.

Russians have a few different kinds of dumplings.  There are the small ones with ground meat, called pelmeni.  There are vareniki – they are a little larger than pelmeni, and the choices of stuffing are unlimited.  Finally, there are the huge ones, called manty.  Manty’s stuffing is often meat, but it’s chunkier than what’s used for smaller dumplings, and unlike pelmeni and vareniki – that are often boiled or friend – manty are steamed. 

Of course, my version of this dish is vegetarian.  I was craving a sweet and savory combination. So, the main ingredient is baked winter squash.  I added walnuts and mushrooms for the chunkier texture.  Mmmmmm! Gooooood!

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WINTER SQUASH MANTY

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ tsp salt

FILLING:

  • 1 winter squash, cut in half, seeds removed, cleaned
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of favorite mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of walnuts, finely chopped
  • ½ bunch of cilantro, finely chopped plus some for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the filling: preheat the oven to 400⁰F/200⁰C. Place the squash into a baking dish, cut side down.  Fill the dish with about 1 inch of water.  Bake for 40-60 minutes until the squash is done.

Meanwhile, preheat the frying pan and sauté onions until golden. Add mushrooms, and sauté until they shrink in size and most of the liquid evaporates.

Slightly crush walnuts in a mortar.

Once the squash is done, scrape the soft part from the skin and mash it.  Add remaining filling ingredients.

Prepare the dough: in a large bowl, mix all ingredients together.  Once incorporated, dump the dough on a floured surface and knead with your hands.

Make the dumplings: roll the dough into a 1 mm-thick sheet and cut out 2×4 inch rectangles. Place about 2 tbs of filling on each piece of dough.

Fold the dough in half, pinching the shorter ends of the rectangle together.

Pinch the side flaps together, sealing the openings from both sides.  Now, press the sides together, “hugging” the dumpling from each side.

Make ahead: at this point the dumplings could be frozen.  Place manty on a floured cutting board, and put them in a freezer.  After about 30 minutes remove the cutting board, and place manty into a zip-lock bag.

To cook: Boil water in the steamer pot.  Spray the steamer pan with olive oil and place dumplings on it.  Steam for about 10-15 minutes covered, until the dough is completely cooked.

Serve with butter and sour cream.  Garnish with cilantro.

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Did I mention that we have the bestest neighbors?  If the Awesomest neighbor fixes our food processors and washes our car, the other neighbor feeds us.  This guy is pretty cool even though he has guns. He makes the best nopales salad I have ever eaten!  It is heavenly! I guess it reminds me of the Russian vinegret, though the pickles are replaced with cactus, that has a somewhat salty-sour flavor; black beans are used instead of potatoes and carrots, and Mexican cheese is added for a more delicate flavor – all in all a healthier, more nutritious version.

Our first attempt at making nopales ended up in a complete disaster as we bought unprepared cactus leaves at the farmers market.  Unless you enjoy tedious tasks similar to fish filleting combined with hedgehog petting you will not appreciate dealing with these guys! 

Apparently, they sell dethorned and chopped nopales at Mexican grocery stores – easy, breezy, …easy!

My neighbor encourages to use your own imagination when coming up with ingredients and dressings (in fact I had 3 different versions of his salad and made a couple of different versions myself ).  So, turn your creative side on and enjoy!Apparently, they sell dethorned and chopped nopales at Mexican grocery stores – easy, breezy, …easy!

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NAPALES SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup of black beans, soaked overnight or for at least 8 hours
  • 1 large beet
  • 1,5 cups of chopped and de-thorned nopales
  • 1 medium onion, peeled, and chopped
  • 4 oz of queso fresco (Mexican cheese, could be substituted with feta), chopped or crumbled
  • ½ bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 4-5 radishes, chopped
  • 1 chili pepper, diced
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Wash and drain the beans, place them into a soup pot, cover with water (about 2 inches of water over the beans), and boil for about 45 minutes until soft. Drain and chill.

Peel the beet and slice it into ¼ inch-thick disks, steam for 10-15 minutes until tender. Let chill for about 10 minutes, and chop the disks into cubes.

Bring 4 cups of water to boil, add a little salt.  Dump chopped nopales into the water, and boil for about 10 minutes.  Drain and wash under cold water to remove all the goo.

Make the dressing: whisk olive oil and vinegar together, add salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all the salad ingredients and add toss them with the dressing.

Serve by itself or with chips or tortillas.

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I bet you didn’t know we have bagels in Russia! They are called bubliki and the same concept of boiled dough used in their preparation.  Furthermore, when Russian bubliki are made by me, they even look like American bagels. In real life the holes are a little bigger, and the texture is a little denser. 

The goal of this particular project was to make them healthier.  I used sprouted whole wheat flour, and the whole family was pleased with the result.  These bubliki turned out soft and airy, yet chewy – perfect!

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SPROUTED BAGELS

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 cups water, warm
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 3 cups sprouted wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • topping (optional) – poppy, sesame seeds, or other

Yields 12 bagels

DIRECTIONS:

Dissolve the yeast in the water and add the sugars. Let sit for about 10 minutes.  Mix the remaining ingredients until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, adding more flour as necessary, until smooth. Cover the dough with a damp towel, and let it rest for about 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 balls, make holes in them with your thumb and spread the holes with your fingers to make them really wide – they will shrink when cooking.

Dust a tray with cornmeal and place bagels on it.  Cover lightly with a dump towel and/or plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.  Refrigerate for about 12 hours.

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator. Let them rest at room temperature for about 45 minutes. Bing a large pot of water to a rolling boil, and preheat the oven to 450°F/230⁰C.

Boil bagels for about 1 minute on each side – two at a time.  Remove them with a spotted spoon and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with your favorite topping, if you wish to.  Bake the bagels for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown.  Remove them from the oven, and cool on racks.

If you do make some bubliki for your family, I suggest this Russian movie to go with them! На здаровье!

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