Sunflower Gozinaki

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.

Ingridients

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking tray with parchment paper
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl
  • 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

Wine Pairing

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.

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Crusty Zucchini Toast Bread

Top 5 things that make me happy:

  1. Morning cup of coffee, in the quiet sleepy house, with MacPro on my lap and pups by my side
  2. Loosing to my kid in Chess
  3. 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!)
  4. Deep soulful conversation about anything and everything
  5. Bread!

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: 

Crusty Zucchini Toast Bread

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Combine everything in a food processor and blend until smooth. 
  2. Move to the parchment-lined 9.5-inch loaf pan.
  3. Bake in the 375-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
  4. Remove from the oven and carefully lift the loaf out of the pan by the edges of the parchment paper.
  5. Remove the paper and cool on the wire rack for 1/2 an hour.
  6. Store slices in the refrigerator or freezer.
  7. Serving suggestions: eat it sliced, toasted, or untoasted. 

Drink pairing

Bread (with butter) + hot tea is my ultimate childhood comfort-food pairing. Now that I can make my own “meat butter,” I get to enjoy this duo often.

And this is my newest favorite tea.

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Russian-Irish Braised Sauerkgraut Cabbage

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!

Russian-Irish Braised Sauerkgraut Cabbage

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. On the stove or in the Instapot, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft and golden-brown.
  2. In the Instapot, add bone broth, sauteed onions, cabbage, sauerkraut, salt, pepper, vinegar, tomato sauce, and bay leaf. Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Quick-release to let the steam out. 
  3. Stir cabbage. Season with more salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste.
  4. Serve with Corned Beef.

Drink Pairing

Russians would pair this with Vodka, Irish would pair it with Jameson Irish Whiskey. Pick your favorite, just do not pick both :)

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I am a Jew. Good Jews do not eat pork. 

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)

Whipped Salo

Salo (сало) is the traditional Ukrainian delicacy, made of cured pork fat.

Ingridients

Directions

  1. Prehead oven to 350°F.
  2. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and roast in the oven for 20-30 min. Let it cool.
  3. Wash the access salt off the salo. 
  4. Trim off the skin and meat. 
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

Ingridients

Directions

  1. Place the pork belly on a cutting board and let it sit for at least an hour at room temperature.
  2. Mix salt and pepper together.
  3. 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.
  4. Cure in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  5. Serve cold with CuceeSprouts bread. 

Drink pairing

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 :)

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Sandwich Bread

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. 

Sandwich Bread

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.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. Combine the egg white protein, psyllium husk powder, salt, and baking powder in a small bow. Mix
  3. 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
  4. In a third bowl (I use my KitchenAid mixer for this,) beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  5. Fold the egg whites into the rest of the mixture gently until smooth. Pour into a lined (or silicone) 9×5-in loaf pan
  6. Bake for 45 min. Cool and serve

Drink Pairing

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

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Eggplant Schnitzel

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.

Eggplant Schnitzel

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Arrange the eggplant slices on an extra-large baking sheet in a single layer, brush with a tablespoon of Avocado oil, and roast for 30 min, or until soft and golden
  3. Transfer the slices to the cooling rack and cool for 15 min or overnight
  4. In the meantime, beat the eggs with a fork or a whisk. Transfer to a shallow bowl
  5. Dredge each eggplant slice in the egg. Press on them and flip a few times to make sure the slices absorb enough of the egg. You can leave the slices in the bowl for 5-10 min to maximize the absorption
  6. Heat 1/2 inch oil in a heavy bottom skillet
  7. Salt and pepper on one side of the slices. Place 3-4 slices gently into the hot oil, salted side down, and season the other side
  8. Fry the eggplant slices for 1-2 minute on each side

Wine Pairing

Well, if you are planning to make this for breakfast (and I highly suggest to), I’d serve it with this Earl Grey. But if you plan to serve it alongside a dinner protein, may I suggest this Cabernet?

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It’s Hanukkah and, all over the world, Jewish homes smell like freshly fried Sufganiyot.

It’s almost Christmas, and all over the US, American homes smell like cinnamony cookies.

It’s Christmakkah in our home and this year, we are planning to shake things up. Sufganiyot on Christmas and cookies on Hanukkah! Breaking traditions to make space for the new ones!

Today, I am sharing with you two kinds of cookie recipes: Snickerdoodle and Lemon Poppy Seed.

Snickerdoodle

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Position your oven rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until combined and the dough is formed. Or mix all ingredients by hand in a large bowl.
  3. Divide dough into 6-8 balls. Place on the baking sheet. Flatten each ball with your hand or parchment paper.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until cookies are set and browning.  Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet 5-7 min before carefully transferring to wire racks to cool completely. 

Lemon Poppy Seed cookies

Replace Cinnamon and Vanilla with ¼ cup poppy seeds, and juice and zest of 1 lemon.

Drink Pairing

I have two words for you – dairy-free Egg Nog.

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Kiwi Curd

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!

Kiwi Curd

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Place the yolks, kiwi, stevia, salt and lime juice in a high-speed blender. Cover and blend for 1 min. Transfer to saucepan 
  2. Over low/medium heat, cook and stir continually for 10-15min until thickened. Remove from heat and let it cool
  3. Cover and refrigerate to thicken and set overnight. Use within a week to 10 days for optimal texture and taste

Drink pairing

I found a new favorite California red. It is natural, non-funky, and bone dry. Let me introduce you to this delicious Camp Cab. (For a $25 off your first order, use this link)

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Zucchini Baba Ganoush

One. Last. Zucchini. Recipe. Of 2020. Maybe. 

Work from home has both benefits and drawbacks. The main benefit is not spending 3hrs per day on the commute and using this newly-acquired free time to stay physically and mentally healthy, cook more, and work from anywhere, including my partner’s house.

A few weeks ago, I spent a whole week living in Berkeley where I turned my partner’s kitchen into a home office. And when I finally came back home, I realized I had nothing in the fridge except for some dying zucchini.

These zucchini were really not looking that great, as you can imagine. I don’t like to waste food so I threw them on the grill and turned them into this delicious side.

Zucchini Baba Ganoush 

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Heat the grill on medium-low
  2. Place zucchini on the grill for 5–7 minutes, until they have some nice grill marks but aren’t starting to char completely. Flip and grill for another 5-7 minutes
  3. Remove the zucchini and let them cool for about 10 minutes
  4. Meanwhile, combine the lemon or lime juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and tahini in the food processor and pulse until chunky

Drink Pairing

Though I cannot pronounce the name of this natural Georgian red, it is the bomb! Try pairing it with this Zucchini beauty, or enjoy it on your own.

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Vegan Sour Cream that tastes real!

I moved to Foster City, California the summer of 2004. I fell in love with this 4mi Bay Area town, of beautiful water ways and a cool climate. When entering a bidding war for my house, I remember asking my real estate agent about the presence of the AC. “Just open all the windows, dear, and feel the breeze,” she smiled, “Foster City never gets hot!”

Fast forward to the summer of 2020. A portable AC, two heavy-duty Dyson fans, dogs and humans in constant search for a cool spot on the tiled kitchen floor. Global Warming = the city of no central ACs, melting.

Cooking in the global-warming heatwave is definitely different. Most of it happens outside, on the grill. Most of it is quick: grilled burgers, steaks, veggies. And most of the time, I am grateful for these quick healthy meals, feeling too hot to cook anything more extravagant. But weeks, months of the heat and quick meals, I start missing those time-consuming creative kitchen projects and start seeking more involved cooking ideas.

That is how I came up with this delicious vegan sour cream recipe idea.

Vegan Sour Cream that tastes like the real thing!

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cover cashews in very hot water for 1 hour to soak. Drain
  2. Add cashews and 1 cup of cold water to a high-speed blender. Blend until creamy and smooth
  3. Scrape mixture into a mixing bowl and add the probiotic. Stir with a wooden or plastic spoon until fully incorporated
  4. Cover with a kitchen towel. Let rest on the counter (in a 70F+ room) for 48 hours
  5. Once the mixture has reached your preferred tanginess and texture, move to a lided jar and refrigerate for 24hr
  6. Sour Cream should stay fresh in the refrigerator for weeks, even months. You’ll know it’s gone bad when mold has formed or it smells funky
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