Coconut Milk Kefir

 Coconut Milk Kefir

If there’s one food I’ve missed since starting my newest diet, it’s Kefir. The last time I got to enjoy it was during the summer of 2015 at Pine Mountain Lake—the same time I came to accept that the delicious dairy beverage would never touch my lips again. My stomach had been flaring up each and every time I had it, but not wanting to give it up, I practiced an instinctive out-of-sight-out-of-mind habit and pretended nothing was wrong. After being unable to eat dairy for the better part of a year, I’ve finally healed my stomach enough to tolerate cheeses and butter, but not the acidic low-fat dairy products. That doesn’t mean my desire hasn’t gone away, though; every once in awhile, I dream about the tangy homemade Kefir I still love so much.

Then, a few weeks back, an ingenious idea popped into my kefir-craving mind. Why not make the same drink with other products? The next morning, I marched into my makeshift kitchen, armed with a can of coconut milk and some live kefir grains I had gotten from a friend. I mixed the two ingredients together and carefully monitored my concoction every morning, the fear of failure constantly lingering in my mind. By the fourth day, the familiar taste I’d missed for so long had been created—and was safe for me to drink! Although it was a bit milder in flavor and slightly thicker in texture than the milk kefir I have been used to, it definitely was kefir.

And I was definitely excited. So excited that my first response was to grab my camera and photograph it so I could write up my next post. I took my fermented creation to the backyard, where the lighting was perfect to take pictures of delicious things. Once I was done capturing the true beauty of my Kefir, I went back into the kitchen—only to see the glass container, previously full of Kefir, now empty and laying sideways on the table.

Instantly, I knew who the culprit was, but all I could do was laugh as I saw Blake emerge from under the tablecloth, his nose stained white from the coconut. So if the kefir taught me one thing, it’s that you should never leave your most prized possession alone with a dog—especially if your most prized possession is edible.

 Coconut Milk Kefir

Coconut Milk Kefir

Created by Cucee Sprouts

Ingredients

Directions

  1. In a non-reactive glass dish, mix the milk kefir grains with coconut milk
  2. Cover with cloth or paper towel, secured by a ribbon or a rubber band
  3. Leave it alone for 24 hours
  4. After 24 hours, stir and taste. If it does not taste like kefir yet, leave it for another 24 hours. Repeat the stirring and tasting. My kefir tasted ready after 4 days but yours might start fermenting faster if you live in a warmer or colder climate
  5. Remove the milk kefir grains once the coconut kefir is ready. Keep the grains in a glass jar, covered in milk in a refrigerator

 Coconut Milk Kefir

Pairing

Serve Kefir with homemade granola or spoon it onto a waffle with a drizzle of honey over it

 Coconut Milk Kefir

 

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Baba Ganoush

baba ganoush

After living in our Foster City home for over 11 years, we have finally decided to remodel our kitchen! In just a few months, I’ll be stirring a pot of Swiss Chard stew atop my brand new stove. And storing Sesame Salmon Balls inside a brand new fridge. Toasting Spicy Coconut Chips inside a brand new oven. But most importantly, I won’t have to worry about any more cupboard doors falling off their hinges.

Unfortunately, during construction, my family and I have had no access to a proper kitchen—or a tidy house. Our living room is currently being occupied by a fridge, dining table, and rickety cabinet that’s nowhere near big enough to store all our non-perishables. A hideous plastic sheet stretches from the ceiling to the floor, guarding the war zone that used to be called our kitchen. The window facing the driveway is completely blocked off by pots, pans, and paper plates. Not exactly cooking (or cucee-ing) conditions.

Though our kids have never lived under such harsh conditions, this situation is painfully familiar to me. Back in 1990, when my parents and I were refugeeing from Moldova, we spent a few months in a miniscule Italian town called Passaskuro, patiently awaiting a warrant to enter the states. The three of us, along with our rescued belongings, occupied one tiny room in a communal house. There, our bedroom also served as a kitchen and storage room, and I can still remember my mother boiling turkey soup inches away from our bed.

We survived that tedious time then, and I have faith that we will survive now. Soon, all this chaos will be behind us and I’ll be standing in my shiny, squeaky-clean new kitchen, concocting new low carb creations. In the meantime, it might get a little quiet at the CuceeSprouts.com land. The recipe I’m about to share with you is likely to be my last post for a month or two. But please be patient—there will be lots of other deliciousness coming your way in the spring, fresh from my new kitchen.

Baba Ganoush is not new to me. I order it every time it is on the menu, but for some reason, I’ve never really attempted making it myself. That is, until one day, when I brought home a bag full of fresh eggplants from the farmers market.. After a bit of grilling, mashing and mixing, I produced a creation that proved I didn’t need a kitchen to cook and eat well.

baba ganoush

Baba Ganoush

Adapted from Paleo Home Cooking

I make my own tahini for this dish because it is super easy to make. However, you will also have success if you purchase high quality Tahini online or at Wholefoods.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat a grill to high heat
  2. Prick the eggplants with a fork in several places and place them directly on the grill. Cook for about 30 minutes, turning often, until the skin becomes crispy, charred, and loose and the eggplants look like deflated balloons
  3. Remove the eggplants from the heat and let them cool until they can be handled safely. Scrape the pulp with a spoon into a fine-mesh sieve and let it drain for about 5 minutes
  4. Transfer the drained pulp to the bowl and mash with a fork
  5. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with pistachios or finely chopped red onion, then drizzle with olive oil

Wine pairing

If you’d like to sip on something while indulging in this fresh Mediterranean eggplant dip, I suggest a crisp light Chateau La Tour de L’Eveque “Petale de Rose” Cotes de Provence Rosé.

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Spicy Coconut Chips

Toasted Coconut Chips

I am all for trying new recipes that are high in good fats. Because when you do not eat carbs, you need to raise your fat intake. And coconut, being so low in polyunsaturated fat and high in antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties, is really my most preferred source of that good-quality fat.

That is why I love coconut and cook with it all the time.  I use coconut oil to fry eggs, make pancakes, in desserts. I use coconut chips as salad sprinklers and in a grain-free granola. I also roast them and eat them on their own.  

Toasted, they are so are like crack! Totally addicting! Crunchy. Salty. Spicy. Sweet-tasting. And make your house smell like a bakery.

Spicy Coconut Chips

Spicy Coconut Chips

Adapted from The Whole Coconut Cookbook

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper
  2. Put the coconut flakes in a medium bowl and mix in the coconut oil and lime juice. Sprinkle over the fleur de sel and paprika and mix well. Spread the coconut on the prepared baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 6-8 minutes. Watch carefully toward the end so they don’t burn. Transfer them immediately to a plate lined with paper towels to cool completely. They will crisp up as they cool.
  3. Serve immediately, or store in an air-tight container for a few days.

Wine Pairing

My dad loves sweet wines, but unfortunately, those are really hard to pair with food. These Chips, however, go really well with my dad’s favorite Gewurztraminer. I finally found a nice food and wine pairing for him :)

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untitled-7092

Wow! My first lowcarb Chanukah celebration! Wait, isn’t that an oxymoron – a low-carb Chanukah? A holiday that is traditionally carb galore: Potato Latkes, noodle kugel, jelly donuts. Yes, there is also a brisket somewhere there as well, but it is the carbs that take the center stage. Well, this year, I was forced to come up with an alternative.

I’ve never really been a fan of the rich carby holiday table, but I embrace it the same way I embrace my Jewish heritage, which I was born into but did not grow up with. However, this year, against all the traditions, I am faced with a choice to make – celebrating the unorthodox way or not celebrating it at all. You see, earlier this summer, my doctor has put me on a very restricting dietshe basically forbid me to even look at any starchy vegetables, grains, flours, and even fruit!

But back to the Hanukkah celebration. I chose the first optioncelebrating untraditionally.

So this year, no rich carby dishes will show up next to the Menorah. It is low-carb, ketogenic, gluten- and dairy-free, and paleo Hanukkah dishes only. Cauliflower latkes will replace the potato ones. Gefilte fish will make way to the Sesame Salmon Balls. And the Jelly donuts will be replaced by the Coconut Flour ones. And why not shake things up and replace the brisket with my new favorite meat dish – Duck Gumbo.

I wish I could share with you ALL these recipes (I’ve made them beforethey are fantastic!)  but I am afraid it would take me over a month to put a post like that together. So today, I will be sharing a recipe of the Sesame Salmon Balls with Ginger Tahini Dipping Sauce from my new Paleo cookbook. The cauliflower latkes are also from the same cookbook. Just look for the Cauliflower Fritters recipe.

Giveaway

I have one Paleo Home Cooking: Flavorful Recipes for a Healthy, Gluten-Free Lifestyle to give away. To win a copy, all you have to do is

  1. Post a comment on the blog with a name of your favorite Healthy Holiday Recipe and
  2. Like this recipe post on the CuceeSprouts Facebook page

The winner will be announced on Tuesday, Dec 8th

Sesame Salmon Balls With Ginger Tahini Dipping Sauce

Sesame Salmon Balls With Ginger Tahini Dipping Sauce

Sesame Salmon Balls With Ginger Tahini Dipping Sauce + Cookbook Giveaway

Adapted from Paleo Home Cooking: Flavorful Recipes for a Healthy, Gluten-Free Lifestyle

I ground my own salmon in a food processor. The texture comes out to be smooth and pasty. Like that of the chicken nuggets.  I like it. My husband, however, prefers me to finely chop the salmon instead, as he likes his food with a bite to it. You can’t go wrong with either texture.

Ingredients

For the salmon mixture

For the dipping sauce

For the assembly

Sesame Salmon Balls With Ginger Tahini Dipping Sauce

Directions

  1. Fill your food processor with some of the salmon and grind in one-second pulses. Partially pre-freezing the fish helps the food processor blade to cut it cleanly, rather than tearing or smearing it. Empty into a large bowl and repeat with the remaining fish. Mix with the rest of the salmon mixture ingredients.
  2. Place the mixture in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours. For convenience, you can prepare it the night before.
  3. The day of cooking, prepare the dipping sauce by placing all the ingredients to a small food processor and processing until smooth and creamy. If you want a creamy runny sauce, keep it outside of the refrigerator. If you want a thick sauce, chill for a couple of hours. (I prefer a runny one.)
  4. Disperse the white and black sesame seeds on a plate.
  5. Once the salmon mixture is fully chilled, roll it or scoop it into 36 balls, roughly the size of a Ping-Pong ball, then roll them into the sesame seeds to coat. You can use your hands for this or an 1¼ inch (3.25 cm)-diameter spring-loaded ice cream scoop.
  6. Heat the cooking oil in a large heavy skillet set over medium-high heat and cook the salmon balls, turning them often, until nice and golden all around, which should take about 6 to 10 minutes total. You might have to work in 2 or 3 batches, depending on the size of your skillet.
  7. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan so that air gets to circulate freely between each ball.
  8. Allow the balls to cool slightly before serving with the dipping sauce.

Drink Pairing

The Salmon balls go impeccably well with Moscow Mule (even on those cold winter nights). However, if you are not feeling like having a vodka-based drink, you won’t go wrong with any of these three fruity Le Grand Courtage French Sparkling Wines

Sesame Salmon Balls With Ginger Tahini Dipping Sauce

Sesame Salmon Balls With Ginger Tahini Dipping Sauce

{ 4 comments }

Roasted Sesame Peas

roasted sesame peas

Out of all the seasons, my favorite would have to be fall. I love everything about it—from the first prayers of the Jewish High Holidays in September, to the last piece of turkey at Thanksgiving, with many birthday celebrations in between. Lots of entertaining, cooking, and more importantly, laughing. The days slowly shorten, shedding minutes like our dog sheds his fur and growing windier and chillier each hour. Each moment is filled with crinkly leaves, soothing spices, and lots of delicious autumn-themed food.

Every gathering at my house starts with the menu planning: a few appetizers to get the ball rolling, a good number of vegetable dishes, and one or two protein creations—a healthy variety to satisfy everyone’s taste preferences.

This year, I’ve been experimenting heavily with finger-food ideas. By now, I have collected quite a few unique recipes. I’ve shared a couple of those already—The Lightest Hummus on Earth, Brussels Sprouts chips and the Chia Cheese Crisps, to name a few.

Adding to my collection (and yours) is a recipe for the Roasted Peas, that already stole a few hearts when I last served them. These peas are not like anything you’ve tasted before: roasted with a bit of oil and seasoning, they are crackly and crunchy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside. A low-cal nutritious appetizer that carries a nutty, briny umami flavor that’s kind of addictive. (P.S. also terrific with cocktails, but more about it later.)

roasted sesame peas

Roasted Sesame Peas

Adapted from Little Bites

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or a silicone baking mat
  2. Wash and dry the peas. Whisk together the olive oil, soy sauce, honey, and ginger in a large bowl. Toss in the peas and stir until evenly coated.
  3. Spread thee peas into a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Roast until crisp, 30-45 minutes (start watching them at the 30 minute mark – they should start getting brown but not black.)

roasted sesame peas

Wine Pairing

The time I brought the peas to my friend’s house, I had a glass of ONEHOPE California Cabernet Sauvignon with them and I liked it. Just like in a song :)

roasted sesame peas

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Oil-Free Paleo Pesto Zucchini Noodles

Oil-Free Paleo Pesto Zucchini Noodles

I’m the type of girl that shies away from trends. For example, way back when every girlfriend of mine was in love with Brad Pitt, I fancied Angelina Jolie. And when everyone was getting diamond earrings for their birthdays, I was psyched about my new shiny design books.

So when the whole world went zoodle-crazy, I sighed and made myself a bowl of Quinoa Mac & Cheese™.

But sometimes, it can be impossible to avoid trends completely. The other day, I was having dinner at my friend’s house and she served a bowl of pesto zoodles, a current internet-wide craze. And what do you know? The stubborn me realized that some trends are actually worth following. They’re trends for a reason, after all.

What surprised me even more was that I liked those zoodles so much, I made them a few days later. And then again the following week, changing the nuts but keeping the noodle “authentic”. And as much as I do not want to admit it, I have finally embraced a trend!

Now on to the recipe. If you think these zoodles will taste like noodles, think again. However, this is a healthy eating blog. We don’t do noodles (well, at least not that often.) So adjust your expectations and think HEALTHY, LIGHT, VITAMIN-RICH rather than cancerogenous, gut-wrecking, waist-expending.

Prepping the zoodles is really easy. Shred the zucchini (I use this shredder because it works well and looks great in the kitchen, saute them quickly—the key word is quickly, as the more you cook them the soggier they get—drench them in the sauce and… try not to be greedy and eat the whole bowl on your own! A bit of warning though, one shredded zucchini looks like a lot but it really isn’t (45 calories only.) So unless you are serving it with a big chunk of protein on the side, you might want to shred 2-4 for the whole family.

Oil-Free Paleo Pesto Zucchini Noodles

Oil-Free Paleo Pesto Zucchini Noodles

Inspired by Everyday Detox

Ingredients

Pesto

  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1⁄2 cup pine nuts, almonds or walnuts
  • 1⁄4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt

For the rest:

Instructions

  1. Prepare the pesto: Combine all of the pesto ingredients in a food processor and blend until completely smooth. For a chunkier texture, instead use the pulse function on your blender or food processor to gently mix the ingredients together.
  2. Use a spiralizer to create “noodles” out of the zucchini. For a warm dish, melt the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the zucchini “noodles” until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add in the pesto and stir quickly, just enough to warm the sauce, about 1 minute. Serve warm, with a sprinkle of pine nuts. For a cold dish, simply toss the raw zucchini “noodles” with the prepared pesto and top with the pine nuts.

Oil-Free Paleo Pesto Zucchini Noodles

Wine Pairing

My absolute favorite wine with pesto is Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Fumé Blanc. It’s full bodied and balances the pine nut purée in the pesto impeccably.

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Vegetarian Tortilla Soup – My Way

Mexican Soup

In our house, I am defiantly the obsessive health advocate. The person who keeps her kids from spending their lives in front of a computer, with a bowl of something carby, greasy or processed. But the truth is that everyone, even those of us hell-bent on staying healthy, has at least one guilty pleasure.

Mine is … burritos!

I have to say that I’ve done a pretty decent job not indulging in burritos too often. To keep those one-thousand-calorie monsters at bay, I feed my Mexican Food Addiction with healthier authentic options, like the Mexican salad, the guac and the tortilla soup.

This Vegetarian Tortilla Soup recipe, that I share with you today, went through lots of iterations before making its way onto CuceeSprouts. Years of “hard work” and “heavy user testing” have produced a final variation that is uber flavorful, filling, yet surprisingly light (as long as you go easy on the rice and the sour cream) and very quick to make. Make the base, add the yummies, pour yourself a glass of Muga Prado Enea and have a Mexican Dinner Night tonight!

Mexican Soup

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup – My Way

The base

The yummies (toppings)

  • Rice
  • Tortilla chips
  • Lime juice
  • Avocado
  • Cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Extra cilantro

Directions

  1. In a medium size pot, warm up the broth
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook until the onions begin to brown
  3. Add the garlic and the cumin and cook for another minute
  4. Transfer to blender, with a can of roasted tomatoes. Blend until smooth
  5. Transfer the tomato and onion mixture to the pot with the broth. Add the beans and the corn and simmer, partially covered, until the soup is slightly thickened, about 30-60 minutes (the longer = the better!)
  6. A few minutes before you turn the heat of, blend the stems from the cilantro with ½ cup of water in a blender. Add to pot
  7. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat
  8. Ladle the soup into bowls, leaving lots of room for the toppings

Wine Pairing with Mexican Soup

Wine Pairing

I do have a soft spot for the California wines, but when it comes to Mexican food, it is Beaujolais, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero that make it into my glass. For this particular dish, I recommend the silky 2005 Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva. It is hard to find it in stores, so order it in advance on Amazon or Wine.com

Mexican Soup

 

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Lightest Hummus on Earth

Chard Stalk Hummus

I’ve been on a path to heal my achy gut this past year. I’ve tried many different approaches, but none have produced any good (or shall I say “gut”) results. The newest one is all about eliminating foods high in insoluble fiber, which is pretty challenging for someone who’s had a love affair with chia seeds, flax and beans for years now.

I have no way of knowing if I will stick with this way of eating for long before I’m put on my next diet. In the meantime, however, I am on the lookout for healthy nutritious recipes low in insoluble fiber. This hummus fits the bill – it is light and healthy, contains no garbanzo beans, and allows me to repurpose the Chard stems that I’ve been discarding all this time.

And it tastes soooo good! Everytime I serve it I get asked for a recipe!

Chard Stalk Hummus

Chard Stalk Hummus (or Lightest Hummus on Earth)

Adapted from The CSA Cookbook

In our house, we like hummus in any flavor, texture, or style. As a dip, a salad dressing, or a spread. The base of each hummus creation never changes: chickpeas, garlic, tehina, lemon juice and olive oil;  while the flavoring agents vary seasonally: sun-dried tomatoes in the winter, herbs in the spring, grilled peppers in the summer, root vegetables in the fall. Imagine my surprise when I saw this Chard Stalk Hummus recipe change the rules of the game completely and mess with the holy hummus base! No chickpeas in hummus? What? Well, this beanless light spread has really changed the way I approach hummus, thanks to a wonderful new The CSA Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped chard stalks (from one bunch)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Swirl of olive oil
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Directions

  1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the chard stalks and boil for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on how thick they are) until the stalks are very soft
  2. Drain well, squeezing out any excess water, and add the stalks to a food processor, along with the garlic, tahini, salt, and lemon juice. Pulse continuously until the dip is slightly chunky and still has some bite to it, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed
  3. Serve with a generous swirl of oil on top and a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley, if desired

Chard Stalk Hummus

Wine pairing

If you want to challenge yourself, try pairing Hummus with wine! I mean it! Or to make life easier, go with my suggestion and get a bottle of  2013 ONEHOPE California Pinot Noir. It is light, subtle and will not fight Hummus for your attention.

Chard Stalk Hummus

{ 3 comments }

Peruvian Quinoa Tortilla

Quinoa Tortilla

I’m about to call it quits!

It all started with my husband. He waited until our wedding to casually inform me that he eats kosher. That sent me for a spin, as I really liked my seafood and pepperoni pizza.

Then my son was diagnosed with food allergies soon after he was born. So our household went egg , nut and dairy-free. And I went bonkers! Back into the kitchen, learning to cook differently. Here come the chia seeds, the kombucha, and the vegetables I’ve never heard of. CuceeSprouts is born.

When my son outgrew all but his nut allergies, a ray of sunshine blossomed on my kitchen table, in the form of frittatas, greek yogurts and mushroom stroganoff. Even though he never learned to like milk and eggs, he couldn’t stop asking for steaks and grilled cheese sandwiches. And so my fridge slowly started looking like a mini supermarket, bloated with meat, dairy, vegetables and fruit.

Then, out of nowhere, my daughter came out to me as a vegetarian. She simply refused to eat her favorite species (something I do not condone her for, especially after witnessing someone at a table next to me take a knife through a body of a deep fried guinea pig with its head still on.)

After a bit of convincing though, mainly for my own sanity, I converted her to a pescatarian lifestyle and started planning on integrating a bed into my kitchen furnishing. How else could I comfortably create meals for a kosher carnivore son, a dairy-loving husband, a pescatarian daughter who doesn’t really like vegetables, and … me?

That is when our dinner table started looking like a gourmet all-you-can-eat restaurant, with a glass of wine permanently attached to my wrist.

And just when I thought I had it all figured out, my husband arrived from Peru and calmly informed that he is now an egg-eating vegan.

Quinoa Tortilla

Peruvian Quinoa Tortilla

Inspired by a trip to Peru; created by me :)

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 inch of ginger, minced
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • ½ cup bell peppers of various colors, chopped (or any other vegetables – I used zucchini in this one)
  • ¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
  • 1 market-fresh corn, shucked
  • ½ cup cheese, cubed. My favorite cheeses to use here are feta, gouda, goat or cheddar
  • 6 eggs
  • Himalayan salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

  1. In a medium nonstick saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add the onions. Cook the onions until they are soft and starting to caramelize, 5-15 minutes
  2. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute or so
  3. Remove from heat, pour into a medium-sized bowl and cool slightly
  4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until they are light yellow in color. Stir in the cooled quinoa, onion mixture, cheese, corn, olives, bell peppers and combine until incorporated. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil in the saute pan. Return the entire mixture back to the pan and use a spatula to flatten out surface. Cook until the bottom is lightly brown, about 5 minutes
  6. To flip the tortilla, set a large plate over the skillet. In one motion, invert the tortilla onto the plate. Put the pan back on the burner and carefully slide tortilla in, cooked side up. Cook just until set, about 4 minutes longer
  7. Serve it warm or at room temperature. You can keep your tortilla on the lowest heat on the stove or in the oven until ready to serve

01

Wine pairing

I googled a bit to find THE perfect wine pairing for this dish as I really was not sure. My research led me to this beautiful rich and dry Olof Cellars Barbera that seems to complement and complete the dish! 

Quinoa Tortilla

 

{ 4 comments }

Kvass

Kvass

It was one of those warm middle-of-California-summer nights in a tiny lakeside town near Yosemite. You know, the type where you don’t feel like doing anything but don’t really feel like doing nothing either, so you just kinda slowly walk around in this hazy fog of dehydrated confusion. We were spending a week by the lake with other Russian families. The kids were glued to the TV. The adults were obsessing over how to unglue them from the TV. And as I sat next to a friend of a friend, listening to her talk about how her son had been taking piano lessons for over a year and could play a slightly off-key rendition of “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” I saw it.

A plastic soda bottle filled with a mysterious brown liquid that seemed like root beer in disguise. I lifted it up to my nose to smell it– and took a whiff of my childhood.

I filled up a bubbling glass of the drink I knew was one of my early memories– Kvass. A common Russian drink. I gave some to my son to try, and it was love at first sight. We’ve been making the drink ever since.

If you’ve never had a taste of Kvass before, you’re in for a surprise. Tasting like a milder version of Kombucha, it is tangy, slightly sweet and very refreshing on hot summer days.

Just like Kombucha, it is a Health drink, packed with vitamins C, B1 and E, amino acids, micronutrients and amazing natural bubbles. It energizes and regulates the body’s metabolic processes. It helps prevent infections and keep the heart and circulatory system healthy. And for those like me, suffering from gastritis, the acids that form during fermentation help in the digestion of meat and fat dishes.

Where I grew up, Kvass was a humble street drink. In Peru, the street drink is Chicha Morada. In Mexico, Tepache. In Soviet Union, Kvass! A thirst quencher, it was sold on almost every street corner, in any city from the smallest villages to the largest metropoli.

Picture a large metal barrel on wheels laying on its side in the middle of the sidewalk . A sweaty overweight woman stuffed into a long cotton dress, sitting in a creaky chair with a sack of coins around her waist. “Next,” she’d yell to the long line of thirsty locals waiting patiently for their turn.

3 kopeyki for a small. 6 for a large. A communal glass goes under a spigot and fills with the cold brown bubbly liquid. The next in line downs it in three large gulps and hands the glass over. In one fast motion, the vendor drops the glass into a bucket of water, swirls it once or twice, pulls it out, shakes off the water and waves to the line, “Next.”

This recipe I am sharing is of that nostalgically authentic Russian Kvass. Minus the germ-polluted glass. Minus the barrel. Minus the long line. Minus the hot and muggy Soviet Union. Minus the sweaty woman.

Kvass

Kvass

Recipe by Cucee. Edited by Mika

Ingredients

Brewing directions

  1. Toast the bread slices on the darkest toaster setting, until the bread looks VERY burnt. Darker bread makes darker kvass. You might need to toast the bread twice. (Alternatively, you can toast it in the oven)
  2. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the bread. Cover with a clean towel (or a lid) and let rest in a dark, cool place overnight or for 8 to 10 hours
  3. The next day, carefully remove the toasted bread and discard it
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together sugar and yeast, add them to kvas mixture and stir. Add raisins
  5. Cover again with the towel (or the lid) and let set another 8 to 10 hours. Taste your kvass to see if it is the right flavor. For the the right flavor means Kvass tastes tangy and not too sweet
  6. When ready, scoop out the raisins and discard
  7. Poor Kvass into bottles, close with the lids and leave them in the fridge overnight. Make sure to have a tight seal if you want bubbly Kvass. Plastic bottles work best for this
  8. You can enjoy your Kvass drink the next day. However, like borscht, it does tastes better each passing day

Kvass

Kvass

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