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June 29, 2010


Kharcho [kh='h' sound] is one of my favorite soups. It is served in most Russian/Ukrainian restaurants though it's really Georgian (the country, not the state). There are many ways to prepare this hearty, aromatic soup but most versions have a beef or lamb base, rice, a tomato element, lots of garlic, and fresh herbs.

*I usually cook this soup with hot sauce but recently I was introduced to Thai red curry paste so I used that instead, which was definitely a good move. I found red curry paste in an Asian food market - if you can't find it, use hot sauce.
*This recipe includes making your own beef stock. If you don't have the time/will, just use the store-bought kind and make a meatless version altogether - just use more rice.

(Yield: 6 servings)
Beef Stock:
3/4 lb brisket
1 tbsp salt
1 yellow onion, peeled
1 large carrot, whole
A handful of fresh herbs, tied together with string

3/4 c white rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp Thai red curry paste
1/2 c chopped herbs (parsley, cilantro, tarragon and/or dill)

How to make the stock: place the beef in a pot and fill with just enough water to cover it. Cover with lid and bring to boil. Spill the water out and replace with new water, about 6 cups. Bring to boil and add remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to a simmer, crack the lid and simmer for 1 hour. After the hour, discard the vegetables and remove beef from the pot.

How to make the soup: once brisket is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-size pieces and set aside.
Heat butter and oil on medium-low heat in a skillet and add the onion and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and sweat out for about 7 min. Add 3 tbsp of the stock along with the tomato and curry pastes. Stir until homogeneous and turn heat off. In the meantime, bring the stock back to boiling point and add the rice. Turn the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the sauteed mixture and meat to pot, stir and taste for seasonings. Simmer for another 10 minutes, uncovered. Then turn the heat off, cover with a lid and let sit for 15 minutes, in order for the rice to release its starch. Then stir in the herbs and serve.

P.S: If your neighbors come a knockin', don't be surprised. Kharcho will make your house smell like garlic heaven ; )

June 25, 2010

Coq au Vin: Take one

As my excitement to go to Paris is increasing by the minute (less than a month left!!!), I’m craving French food more than ever.

Coq au Vin [coke oh vaahn] is a traditional French dish of seared rooster, simmered with vegetables in chicken broth, red or white wine and herbs. Rooster is hard to find these days, unless you raise and slaughter it yourself, so for the most part Coq au Vin today is made with chicken. I read a few recipes but didn’t follow any specific one. This recipe was adapted to what I had on hand and it turned out pretty good for a first time. I’m planning to keep working on it though.

(Servings: 4)


4 slices bacon

1 lb chicken breasts, cut into chunks

½ c + 1 tbsp flour

½ tsp poultry seasoning*

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

10 oz cremini mushrooms, quartered

2 medium carrots, chopped**

¼ c cognac

¾ c chicken broth

1 c red, full-bodied wine, such as Burgundy

2 bay leaves

*Use Herbs de Provence if possible.

**I ran out of carrots so I had to omit them for this time.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon until crispy and remove from pan. In a shallow dish, combine ½ c flour with ¾ tsp salt+pepper and poultry seasoning. Toss the chicken in the flour mixture and brown in bacon grease on all sides, on medium-high heat, about 5 min. Add the vegetables and sauté for about 3 min. Remove pan from heat and add cognac. Immediately light a long match, hold it over the pot and light the fumes. The cognac will catch fire and the flame will burn out within 1 min. Turn the heat back on. (The flambéing did not work at all for me so I had to let it simmer for a few minutes to burn out the alcohol.) Stir in the broth and wine and add the bay leaves and extra flour. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, cover and cook for 40 min, stirring occasionally. Then remove cover and simmer for another 10 min to let the sauce reduce and thicken. And voila! Top with reserved bacon and serve with hunks of fresh baguette.

June 17, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

There was a a time in my life when I ate peanut butter every day and often twice a day. I ate it on bread, crackers, bananas, apples, I baked with it, I cooked with it, I took it to bed with me and ate it with a spoon...

...but those days are over and I am now rarely found gorging myself with it the way I used to, however, Tuesday morning I woke up with an intense craving for peanut butter cookies and what's a girl to do but bake them herself.

I ran a quick search on RecipeZaar and found this recipe.
The cookies turned out great but if I were to make them again I would add less sugar. Also, the recipe says to make a criss-cross pattern with a fork dipped in sugar on the cookie dough prior to baking, which doesn't really work. I found that dipping the fork in water was much more efficient.

Like a Virgin.

This past Saturday, Alen and I spent the whole day in the city, taking care of business here and there. We stopped at Lillie's for an early dinner. Lillie's is a Victorian-style bar and restaurant. It's an interesting place though I didn't have high hopes for the food. Boy, was I wrong. Look at this!
The chicken pot pie blew my mind. I must confess - this was my first time eating it. Being a Ukrainian immigrant living in Brooklyn, it is not something I come across often. I know chicken pot pie is a common, homestyle comfort food for many Americans but for us, comfort is most usually found in Borsht or pierogies.
This pie consisted of white meat chicken, potatoes and vegetables in a cream sauce, topped with crispy Phyllo dough. It was very satisfying and certainly comforting.

Stop by Lillie's for a drink and some yummies if you're in the area sometime, at 13 East 17th Street.

June 14, 2010

Buitoni Riserva Refrigerated Pasta

This is my 150th post. Woot!

About a month ago I received a coupon in the mail for one Buitoni Riserva product, courtesy of FoodBuzz (Thanks!) I haven’t gotten around to using it until a few days ago, when I went to visit Ally in New Jersey.

We picked up the Quattro Formaggi Agnolotti in the refrigerated section, which were stuffed with ricotta, fontina, Parmesan, Grano Padano and roasted garlic. We had no idea how we wanted to prepare them so we ended up strolling along the aisles for longer than was necessary trying to come up with an idea. I didn’t want to serve the pasta in a tomato or cream sauce, and it was certainly too warm to make it a baked dish. Here’s what we came up with:

(Yield: 2 servings)


1 package Buitoni Quattro Formaggi Agnolotti

About 6 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced

2 slices bacon


Cook bacon according to package directions until crispy (about 7 min) in a large pan and set aside to drain on a paper towel. In the same pan, cook mushrooms on medium heat in the bacon drippings, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for about 7 min, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook the ravioli according to package directions and reserve 2 tbsp of the cooking water before draining. When the mushrooms are ready, add bacon, ravioli and reserved pasta water to the pan and sauté together for another minute. (Cooking time is under 20 minutes!)

Served with a side salad, this is a very satisfying meal. The ravioli were tender and cheesy on the inside, the mushrooms were meaty and salty from being cooked in bacon grease and the bacon was…well, it was its usual delicious, sinful self.