My son and I are sitting in the BMW that his dad left for us to use while on a business trip.
The engine is turned off. Russian music is playing on Spotify. My teenager is in the driver’s seat. We’re both quiet, each in our own thoughts. We just came home from dinner at the restaurant.
I am wearing a dress and my bare knees are folded in the direction of the driver.
I look down, and, for a second, I am 17, in my boyfriend’s car, in the driveway of my apartment building on 20th Ave and Anza, in San Francisco. He is in the driver’s seat. The engine is turned off. Russian music is playing on the cassette player. We’re both quiet, each in our own thoughts. We just returned from the Lucky Penny diner, where weeks earlier we had our first date.
I look up. It is 30 years later. Foster City. Our son is in the driver’s seat.
Rainbow is my favorite color. As if you don’t yet know that :)
When I was a kid, everyone had their favorite. My neighborhood buddy loved Aquamarine. My kindergarten bestie wore everything-purple. My cousin liked orange. I’d always be caught off-guard when asked about my color preference. I just didn’t have one.
It all changed for me when I turned 35. My house is now all shades of the rainbow. From paintings, to walls, to placemats, to clothes, to jewelry, to shoes. It isn’t that I still can’t decide on THE color, in fact, I finally know what (and who) I like and that rainbow IS my favorite color.
Rainbow Fried Cauliflower Rice
Use any veggies you have on hand. I have used Radishes, Green Onion and Garlic, Broccoli, Summer and Winter Squashes, even Avocado.
For meats, you can use pancetta, any cured meats (like duck, beef, or pork salami ), even summer sausage. I’ve also used leftover roasted salmon.
In a large nonstick skillet, cook duck over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes until a thin crust forms.
Add the vegetables, stir a few times, and move to a plate. The vegetables should be crisp.
Add the oil to the pan and, when it’s hot, add the eggs. Cook until the eggs are set on the bottom and around the edges, then stir, breaking the eggs up into pieces. Add back the vegetables and mix with the eggs quickly, making sure not to overcook the vegetables.
Serve with your favorite cup’o’Joe :)
Pour yourself your favorite cup of coffee. I am currenting drinking this one.
Life in quarantine is echoing my Soviet life during the Cold War era. Long lines in grocery stores, food deficit, black market prices, political deprivation due to the distrust in the government.
Summer 1985, Modova. My parents take a train to Odessa, Ukraine, to buy groceries and supplies at Privoz. Privoz is the closest-to-us marketplace for both food and black-market goods. 2 hours by train, 8 hours of browsing through what should’ve originally been available at stores and now reselling at 100x the price at Privoz, they come home, exhausted, with a stick of Jewish Salami, a fresh whole chicken, a box of oranges, 5 green apples, and a new sweater for me. I am happy.
March 2020, California. I drive around from one store to the next, desperately trying to find fresh meat and vegetables, bumping into my just-as-desperate neighbors. I buy the last of the frozen sausages, the kind I’d never keep in my fridge pre-Pandemic. I, then, browse through the online speciality shops and, after hours of searching, I get lucky with a supplier that can ship me enough groceries to last for the next month. For 3x the price. My kids are happy.
Life in quarantine is very reminiscent of my Soviet life. And in quarantine, I feel the urgency of seeking comfort from what provided that comfort to me as a young Soviet kid. Today, I am sharing a recipe for a dessert that my parents brought home each and every time they returned from Privoz.
Sunflower Gozinaki (Oven-Baked Brittle)
Gozinaki is a crunchy Georgian cracker, made with a medley of honey-fried, caramelized nuts. This is my Ketofied version.
In a mixer, beat the egg whites with a whisk attachment, until stiff peaks form
Fold the dry ingredients into the egg white. Add oil. Lightly mix
Roll the dough as thin as possible between two pieces of parchment paper. Discard the top sheet
Bake for 20-25 min, or until golden brown
I am posting this recipe over Passover 2021. During Passover, you are encouraged to drink 5 glasses of red wine on night 1. And even though I tried really hard to be a good Jew, 5 glasses are too much for me in one sitting, even if it is my favorite Camp Cab.
Morning cup of coffee, in the quiet sleepy house, with MacPro on my lap and pups by my side
Loosing to my kid in Chess
Reading psychological thrillers, the last thing before I close my eyes at night and first thing in the morning (my newest obsession, surprised me as well!)
Deep soulful conversation about anything and everything
I’ve already shared many bread recipes with you, all of which are on a regular monthly rotation at my house. And, now, I concocted one more, a denser loaf, with a deliciously crunchy crust, that toasts crazy well.
Before I share my newest recipe, here is a recap of all the other Cucee bread variations:
Life in the Soviet Union was oppressive. To survive, you had to look and act like everyone else. You had to first culturally assimilate. And then culturally separate. Jews hung out with Jews. Russians with Russians. Moldavians with Moldavians.
When we unpacked our Soviet suitcases in our new American home in San Francisco, we learned the beauty of acceptance. We learned to embrace the differences in others, and in ourselves. And with this acceptance came integration and cultural adaptation. People of one background adopting the beautiful customs and artifacts of other cultures.
This recipe is the result of my living in the states. Russian Stewed Cabbage meets Irish Braised Cabbage, in the celebration of St. Patrick’s day. Happy St Patties!
My whole life I’ve been Good. I was a Good daughter, a Good student, a Good friend, a Good wife, a Good Jew. My middle name is Borisovna but it should have really been Good. Faina Good Shpiler.
I was programmed to be Good from the day my mom brought me home from the hospital. In a family of frequent conflict and mental illness, I was obedient. I made sure I caused no issues between my parents, and I made sure I made them proud.
Lifted out of my safety at the age of 12, and dropped into a country whose language I did not understand, I did not rebel. I just quietly cried into my pillow and convinced myself that was happiness.
As a teenager, I navigated life by passionately agreeing with those whose language I did not understand.
I married another Good Jew and, together, we were really really Good.
We had many friends and empathetically tended to all their needs, each Saturday and Sunday, with food and wine, for many years. Our friends liked us. We liked us. We were really Good.
We birthed a really Good daughter.
And a son; he was not Good. He was not like us. He was Jacob! He was unique and he pleased nobody but himself! And that was Good.
With Jacob, I was born. I could no longer stay Good forever. I realized that if I remain Good, I remain Dead. I needed to hear the sound of my own voice. And when I finally spoke, I yelled, “I no longer want to be Good. I want to be Me! Unapologetically Real Me!”
Unapologetically, Pork Belly Butter with Roasted Garlic (Whipped Сало)
Salo (сало) is the traditional Ukrainian delicacy, made of cured pork fat.
Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and roast in the oven for 20-30 min. Let it cool.
Wash the access salt off the salo.
Trim off the skin and meat.
Roughly chop the fat and add to the food processor with the mustard. Whip, using short pulses, until everything is well incorporated and the mixture is smooth and fluffy. This should take just a few mins.
Keep in the refrigerated. Serve cold with CuceeSprouts bread.
Homemade Salo (recipe)
You can buy Salo at any Russian Grocery store. Or you can make it yourself, very very easily!
Place the pork belly on a cutting board and let it sit for at least an hour at room temperature.
Mix salt and pepper together.
Fill about an inch of glass container with salt and pepper mixture and place bacon on top. Layer bay leaves and garlic on top and cover it fully with salt.
Cure in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Serve cold with CuceeSprouts bread.
There is a belief that if you coat your stomach with fat, you won’t have as big of a hangover the next day. So, Ukrainians serve Salo with Vodka. I am not a Vodka-kinda-girl so I recommend this incredible Tequila with the whipped salo. Mexico meets Ukraine :)
Growing up in Moldova, I was responsible for buying bread, daily. This was my chore. Fresh bread would get delivered at Five in the afternoon and I had to get to the store a few minutes before or it would be gone.
The bakery itself was located only 3 blocks away, right outside my grade school. I know because I’d often sneak out of my classes to get myself a warm soft булочка (bun).
So when the clock would turn 4:45 pm, my bestie and I would leave the dolls with our friends and head to the Bread Store – Хлебный. Our parents would each give us 12 Копеек (12 Kopecks,) the exact change for one white loaf. By the time we’d get home, my loaf would look like swiss cheese – I’d eat all the soft insides and bring back the “whole-y” crust. My dad would get really mad at me – bread was the main food group in our family and, now, we’d be out of bread until tomorrow at 5 pm. The next day, history repeated itself. For years. Until finally my parents gave me enough money to buy two loaves.
Note on psyllium powder: it sometimes shifts the color of the baked goods to purple. If that happens to you (like it did to me with this batch), don’t sweat it – it won’t alter the taste or texture.
This bread toughens up a bit and forms a crispy crust when left uncovered. If you like it soft and bread-like, keep it in a bag.
Combine the egg white protein, psyllium husk powder, salt, and baking powder in a small bow. Mix
In a different bowl, combine the nut butter, egg yolks, and almond milk and beat until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix again
In a third bowl (I use my KitchenAid mixer for this,) beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Fold the egg whites into the rest of the mixture gently until smooth. Pour into a lined (or silicone) 9×5-in loaf pan
Bake for 45 min. Cool and serve
It’s winter and I enjoy chasing bread down with warm tea. I like it so much that I have over a dozen different teas at home – the newest addition is Equal Exchange Earl Grey that I get at Imperfect Produce
Many MANY years ago, my ex-husband and I were invited to his parents’ house for dinner. His family was visiting from Chicago and his uncle Eugine (Женя) made us delicious egg-coated chicken.
You know it was good if I still remember it, over 25 years later.
I tried to recreate the recipe at home many MANY times. In his version, he coated the chicken in flour before drenching the whole thing in egg and frying low’n’slow. Without the flour, the egg just would not stick in my own experiments. So after multiple flour-free attempts, I gave up on the chicken, keeping it as a delicious yet distant memory.
A few days ago, I stumbled upon The 50 Best Recipes of 2020 article on Epicurious and one caught my eye – a Filipino Eggplant Omelet – mostly because I had about 100 large eggplants in my garage fridge, waiting to be consumed. It was 8 a.m. when the recipe piqued my curiosity. My kids, whose rooms are in close proximity to the garage, were still sound asleep and I did not want to awaken them to satisfy my curiosity.
Suddenly, I remembered that I had a couple of already baked eggplant slices in the kitchen fridge from the Hanukkah party. So while the house was still quiet, I decided to try a technique described in the article on these prebaked slices.
It only took a few minutes. And as I bit into the eggplant, memories flooded my mind and belly. The eggplant, drenched an egg, was very reminiscent of Eugine’s chicken, with an even better texture and flavor: salty, rich, vegetarian, crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside.
When I first embarked on a low-carb journey in hopes of healing my gut, I kept away from most fruit, vegetables, and berries. Basically any high-fiber plant-based food. It was hard emotionally to give up fresh produce. But each time I tried to introduce it back into my diet, my gut would flare-up to remind me why I eat the way I eat.
Now, years into this WOE, I am able to eat more fresh produce without major stomach upset. I introduce one item at a time and, once I get a green light from my body, I use it abundantly and creatively in many meals.
Kiwi, welcome back to my life! You’ve been missed!