Bee Pollen and Manuka Honey Ice-Cream

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September 30th, 2014

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This past summer was a summer of ice cream for us. Since I bought an ice cream machine five years ago, I haven’t been buying ice cream in stores  - it all seems too sweet to me. The only exception is specialty, like mochi and other types of Japanese ice cream.
This summer, it all began with Tarragon and Mint Ice Cream inspired by my home region in the springtime. Then I came across these amazingly perfumy guavas and turned them into ice cream. There were also Balsamic-Strawberry, Basil and Blackberry frozen treats. I believe that there is very little limit when it comes to flavors in ice cream – so many things take on an intriguing taste when frozen.

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Bee pollen is one of my breakfast staples – I sprinkle it on yogurt, smoothies or porridge and love its taste and magical immune boosting, digestive aiding health benefits. The idea of including it into an ice cream came to me recently, when I tried Manuka honey for the first time. Generally, I’m not crazy about eating honey straight up and the most important quality that I look for is subtle sweetness – the kind of sweetness I remember from my childhood, when tasting young spring honey. Manuka honey, a honey made by New Zealand bees from the nectar of the native manuka tree, has the kind of flavor I crave – a complex and subtle taste. Apparently, it’s exceptionally good for you when it comes to types of honey, especially when combined with bee pollen. And if you’re anything like me, the first chill in the air won’t stop you from making a batch of this, dare I say, warming ice cream.

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Manuka Honey and Bee Pollen Ice Cream

2 cans full fat Thai coconut milk
scant 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Manuka honey
2 tablespoons bee pollen
1/2 teaspoon xanathan gum or 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract – optional

1. Blend coconut milk, 1/4 cup Manuka honey, 1 tablespoon bee pollen, xanathan gum, salt and vanilla (if using) in a blender until smooth. Chill well in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
2. Process in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon 1/3 of the ice cream into a chilled container, even it out and drizzle some of the remaining 2 tablespoons Manuka honey over. Sprinkle with some of the remaining bee pollen. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients.
3. Freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight. Let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before scooping and serving.

Tags: bee pollen, dessert, ice cream, manuka honey

No Noodle Pad Thai

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September 21st, 2014

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I’m so excited to talk about the new creation of our long-time (virtual) friends, David and Luise, the team behind Green Kitchen Stories. I’ve been anticipating their second cookbook, Green Kitchen Travels, with much enthusiasm after admiring their work for many years. Once it arrived at my doorstep, I didn’t put it down until I saw the whole thing, studying every stunning image many times over. The book is filled with vibrant vegetarian and vegan dishes, many of which I was tempted to make right away. What makes it special is that every recipe is inspired by the authors’ travels around the world, often based on authentic dishes with a fresh, veggie-based twist. The creative and easy-going GKS style is evident on every page.

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It was very tough for me to decide on a dish for this post. I was quite torn between the Crispy Aubergine BitesLentil and Strawberry TacosSicilian CaponataVietnamese PhoVegan MoussakaIndian Cardamom LadduPortuguese Sopa de Legumes and Lemongrass Brussels Sprout Curry. Finally, my never-ending love for Pad Thai took over, and this No Noodle Pad Thai recipe did not disappoint. The flavors here are warming, yet very fresh and crisp, with julienned daikon and carrots replacing noodles.
Now I’m off to shop for ingredients for the Caponata, before it’s too late in the season for tomatoes and eggplants.
The good news is that Green Kitchen Travels is available for pre-order right here! Thank you David and Luise for another beautiful cookbook.

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No Noodle Pad Thai
1 daikon radish or zucchini
4 medium carrots – peeled
4 cups mung bean sprouts
4 spring onions (scallions) – finely chopped (I used chives here)
1 package firm tofu – cut in cubes
1 handfull cilantro leaves (I used basil because I had beautiful basil on hand)
2 tablespoons black or tan sesame seeds – toasted, plus extra for garnish
4 slices of lime – to serve

Sauce
1/2 cup (4 oz/125 g) peanut butter (I used almond butter)
4 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper

1. Create the noodles from the daikon and carrots using a julienne peeler, mandoline, spiralizer or potato peeler. Place the ‘noodles’  into a bowl, then add in the mung bean sprouts, onions, tofu, herbs and sesame seeds. Mix well.
2. Stir together all the sauce ingredients in a separate bowl, add more water if needed. Adjust the seasoning.
3. Pour the sauce over the vegetables and toss to combine thoroughly, using your hands. Garnish with more herbs, sesame seeds and a slice of lime.

Note: If making ahead, store the salad and sauce refrigerated in two separate containers.

Tags: basil, carrots, daikon radish, pad thai, raw

Dovga – Azerbaijani Wedding Soup

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August 21st, 2014

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I recently talked a bit about my home region in Russia, and its array of food cultures and cuisines. Its unique geographical positioning near the republics of the Caucasus mountains allowed me to form all kinds of connections with people from the neighboring areas, while living there most of my life.
My sister-in-law, Alla’s, family resided in Azerbaijan for many years. Visiting their home for lunch is always a treat, as the table is guaranteed to feature some authentic Azerbaijani dishes, learned first-hand during their stay.

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This time around, Alla’s mother introduced me to Dovga, an Azerbaijani wedding soup that is traditionally served at the celebratory table between meat dishes, as a vitamin and digestion boost. I couldn’t believe I’d never tried the soup before – it is exactly the kind of thing I want to eat during the summer.

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The base for dovga is made up of several types of fermented milk beverages, refreshing and healthy probiotic drinks, such as matsoni, ayran, and kefir. All of these cultured dairy drinks originate from the mountains of Caucasus. As it turns out, kefir, which nowadays is one of the most beloved beverages in Russia, was not introduced there until the beginning of the 20th century.
People from the Caucasus have always been known for their incredible longevity. In 1908, the Russian royal scientists were determined to unveil the mountain people’s fountain of youth. They sent a young woman scientist by the name of Irina Sakharova down South, to fetch some kefir grains from Bek-Mirza Baichorov, a Karachai prince who was rumored to have the goods. Baichorov did not want to give up his people’s secret, but legend has it that upon seeing Irina, he fell in love and proceeded to kidnap her, which is a customary courting routine in those parts. Later, in court, the freed Ms. Sakharova offered to drop the charges if Baichorov gave up some of his kefir grains, to which he agreed. Soon after, the nation, and later the world, fell in love with the miraculous drink. Who knows how much of this legend is true, but I like thinking of it as fact – a beautiful story of kefir and unreturned love.

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Back to Dovga – it is packed with a great amount of herbs and leafy greens. Now is the time to eat as many greens as you can, while they are still fresh and abundant at markets, before fall sneaks up on us.
Dovga can be served hot, right after making it, or cold. It is not recommended to reheat it after it’s been chilled. It is delicious either way, but the cold version is my favorite.

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The photos you are seeing here are from Sochi and its surrounding areas – a magical place where the Caucasus Mountains meet the Black Sea, where the climate is subtropical and summer nights are lit up by fireflies.

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Dovga
makes a big batch/large pot of soup

Notes:
1. If you do not have authentic matsoni, feel free to use kefir or yogurt, or a mixture of both. Whey (leftover liquid from ricotta cheese making among other things) is also a great addition. You can substitute the herbs and greens according to your taste.
2. Back home, there is a type of rice that is typically used in dovga, which cooks very fast. Therefore, the rice is added in uncooked rice, and it’s ready by the time the dovga is done. Here, I used cooked rice because none of the rice available to me would cook so quickly.
3. Alla’s mom also adds 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour, but I left it out. Adding the egg helps to make this soup creamy and prevents the liquid from separating. I haven’t yet tried making it without the egg. If anyone tries it, please let me know how it goes.

2 large bunches spinach
2 bunches cilantro
1 large bunch parsley
1 large bunch dill
5 green onions
handful of mint leaves plus more for garnish
handful of basil leaves plus more for garnish
2  liters mixed fermented milk beverages – kefir, yogurt, whey, or just kefir/yogurt (the ideal mixture would be: 1 liter kefir, 1/2 liter yogurt or matsoni, 1/2 liter whey or water )
1 cup cooked rice (I used brown rice)
1 egg – beaten
1 generous cup cooked chickpeas – optional
sea salt to taste

1. Chop the spinach and herbs, set aside.
2. Whisk together all of the beverages in a large pot. Add in the rice, egg and chickpeas, and whisk everything together. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.
3. Add spinach, herbs add salt. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, continuing to stir. Remove from heat.
4. Serve immediately or chill at room temperature and then in the refrigerator to served chilled. Garnish with mint, basil and cilantro leaves. Enjoy!

Tags: greens, soup, spinach

Sour Cherry Pie – Mom’s Specialty

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July 30th, 2014

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There are three foods from back home that I find myself missing consistently – wild mushrooms, black currants, and sour cherries. I made sure to eat good portions of each while I was visiting my mother in Russia this past May. Most people won’t eat black currants and sour cherries raw, as they are, but add the slightest touch of sweetness to them, and your heart will be stolen. Sour cherries made it into many of my meals – from morning yogurt to salads, to ice-cream. And of course there was the Sour Cherry Pie – my mom’s specialty.

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When we finally arrived at my mom’s house after a very long transatlantic journey, we knew what would be waiting for us at teatime – a fragrant and pillowy pie, jeweled with sour cherries. All her grandchildren get a wild sparkle in their eye when talking about grandma’s pie – it is a family-wide obsession. Paloma, the youngest, had her initiation and was quick to join the circle of cherry pie lovers.
My mom always makes sure to preserve some sour cherries while they are in season. She pits them with a hair pin, then freezes some and cans the rest with a little sugar. That way, she always has ammunition for when company turns up.

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I was curious to make a gluten-free version of the pie and began the search for ingredients. What has become second nature to me at home, turned out to be quite a challenge in Russia. Finding all kinds of gluten-free grains there is not a problem – buckwheat, millet and quinoa are widely available, but flours made of those grains are not. I freshly grind my own flours at home, but only with the help of my high-speed blender, which was absent in my mom’s kitchen. I finally used a coffee grinder and ended up with grainy, but perfectly workable flours.
I really loved the final result – the overall flavor of the pie was different from mom’s of course, but delicious in its own way.

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One more thing before we get to the recipe -
Public speaking has hardly been my favorite thing, in fact I find it absolutely terrifying. During the four years of working on this blog, I ran into situations when I had to speak in front of big groups of people, during cooking classes and such. As difficult as it was to get started, I’ve noticed that when I speak about the subject that I absolutely love, my fear disappears and I actually enjoy the process. Our cookbook coming out has brought on a new wave of public events, and after a little over a month of book talks, I’ve noticed the stage fright getting lighter every time. For that, I accredit my friendly and encouraging audiences -thank you so much for coming out to support me, listen with great interest, and ask thoughtful questions.

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Sour Cherry Pie
(adapted from here)

Note: Green markets and health food stores have sour cherries while they are in season, for a very short period of time. You can find frozen sour cherries in many Eastern European stores in the U.S. – our local Russian market sells them. Feel free to use regular cherries or other fruit/berries. The best ratio between the dough and cherries is to have just enough dough to barely cover each cherry. The dough will rise during baking and the balance between the juicy, tart berries and the sweet dough will be perfect.

1 cup full fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup millet flour
3/4 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup Turbinado sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling on top
zest of 2 lemons
3 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
3-5 cups or more pitted fresh or frozen and partially thawed sour cherries – the more the better (substitute with regular cherries or other fruit/berries)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180C). Thoroughly grease an 8-10 inch cake pan or line with parchment paper. Combine the coconut milk and lemon juice in a bowl and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine all the flours, baking powder and salt.
3. In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar and lemon zest and rub together until fragrant. Add in eggs, coconut milk mixture and olive oil, and whisk to combine. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and mix to combine.
4. Gently fold in the cherries, reserving about 1/3 of them. Pour the batter into the cake pan, topping with the reserved cherries and sugar.
5. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 30 minutes before removing. Store refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.

Tags: cherry, dessert, gluten free