Sour Cherry Pie – Mom’s Specialty

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July 30th, 2014


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.


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.


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.


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.


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
2 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 and coconut milk mixture, 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

Tarragon and Mint Ice Cream

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July 14th, 2014


During our recent stay in Russia, we took the time to enjoy our home region of Northern Caucasus and fell in love with it all over again. To orient you in the landscape – there is widespread steppe that rolls Southward into green hills, which eventually transition into the Caucasus Mountains. On clear days, you can see Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe, from an open point in my hometown.


Ours is an agricultural region, known for its fertile, black soil. The steppe is home to many wildflowers and medicinal herbs, like wild thyme and sage. The herbs get steeped into teas, which many people make at home.


Paloma and I frequented the local market, which was just a couple hundred steps away from my mom’s house. There too, mounds of spring greens and herbs – culinary and medicinal alike, were on beautiful display, asking to be taken home.

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My mom is an amazing cook and I can never compete with her when it comes to traditional Russian dishes, so I tried my best not to interfere in the kitchen very much. That being said, I can never stay away from cooking for too long, especially once I got the idea to use some of the local herbs in an ice-cream. The bushes of tarragon at the market were especially tempting – the unique flavor of tarragon always intrigues and challenges me.


Our region is known as a melting pot of many ethnic groups - Armenians, Georgians, Azerbaijani, Karachays, Circassians, Russians and more - that have been living there side by side for many generations. Each group has a deeply rooted culinary culture, very often with a strong emphasis on herbs and spices, which make the food bright and distinct in flavor. Tarragon is one of the herbs that is in frequent use, but when I told the vendor lady at the market that I’m going to put it into ice-cream, she was clearly shocked. She hurried to let all of her pals know what she thinks about it all in Armenian. I would have payed good money to have a translator right there and then.

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In the absence of an ice-cream machine, I turned to a no-churn recipe, which I learned about from Sarah. As usual, my first choice was to use coconut milk, but the only kind available wasn’t right in quality. I ended up with the recipe below which is very easy and amazingly delicious – you will not typically find these ingredients here at Golubka, but I was working with what I had at the moment. The ice cream was a huge success among friends and family.
Back home, I re-created the ice cream into a much lighter and vegan version that requires an ice-cream maker, so I’ve included both recipes here.


Tarragon and Mint No Churn Ice Cream

1 large bunch fresh tarragon – mostly leaves
1 large bunch fresh mint – mostly leaves
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
1 can condensed milk
pinch of sea salt

1. Bruise tarragon and mint with the back of a chef’s knife to help them release their oils. Place herbs into a medium saucepan. Pour the heavy cream over them and bring to a near boil.
2. Remove from heat, cover and let cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Strain the herbs out and cool completely in a refrigerator.
3. Combine the condensed milk with salt in a mixing bowl. Beat the chilled cream by hand or in the bowl of a stand-up mixer on high until stiff peaks form. Gently fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the condensed milk until fully combined, followed by the rest of the cream.
4. Pour into a loaf pan or another freezer appropriate dish. Cover and freeze until firm – about 6 hours or overnight. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Vegan Version

2 cans full fat Thai coconut milk
1 large bunch fresh tarragon – mostly leaves
1 large bunch fresh mint – mostly leaves (you can use just one type of herb if you wish)
pinch of sea salt
1/3-1/2 cups light agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon xanathan gum or 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder

1. Bruise tarragon and mint with the back of a chef’s knife to help them release their oils. Place the herbs into a medium saucepan and pour the coconut milk over them. Bring to a near boil.
2. Remove from heat, cover and let cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Strain out the herbs, pour the infused milk into a blender with the rest of the ingredients and blend until fully combined.
3. Chill completely in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. Churn in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions – about 25 minutes.
4. Transfer into a loaf pan or another freezer appropriate dish. Cover and freeze until firm, about 6 hours or overnight. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tags: dessert, ice cream, mint, tarragon

Turnip Blueberry Muffins

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July 6th, 2014


I’m always looking for ways to include vegetables in every dish, desserts included. After making vegan sweet potato muffins with great results, I one day thought of trying other root vegetables in a muffin. Turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi are not the most popular among their category, but rich in health benefits and culinary opportunity, so I try to pay them as much attention as I can. Lately I’ve been eating a lot of salad turnips from the local farm – they are great raw, with a squeeze of lemon juice, some salt, pepper and light drizzle of olive oil.


For these muffins, I made a turnip mash to include in the batter and the technique did not disappoint – I got a nice, light batter. Blueberry season is here, and we’ve been celebrating with these gluten free treats. I will also be making them with other berries and chocolate.
And if you enjoy this type of baking, you will like our Parsnip Cake with Candied Kumquats.


Today’s recipe for Turnip Blueberry Muffins is in this guest post over at The Rose Journals. Check out David and Noelle’s new beautiful ebook, Sacred Cookies and Elixirs full of recipes for Raw, Vegan and Gluten-Free cookies and drinks for chocolate lovers here.

Tags: blueberry, breakfast, dessert, gluten free, vegan

Squash Blossom Pizza

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June 29th, 2014


Squash blossoms have always epitomized the magic of summer to me. Like fireflies, they are quiet and fleeting – look away for a second and they disappear. That’s why, if I happen upon squash blossoms at the market, I rarely resist the urge to take them home – summer comes but once a year. Most recently, I found these beautiful pâtisson blossoms tucked away in a corner of a farmer’s stall, with their small squashes still attached, and had the idea to put them on a pizza.


I find that ricotta cheese combines very well with the subtle, flowery and pumpkin-like flavor of squash blossoms. In my cookbook, I have a recipe for Squash Blossom Ricotta Quiche, which happens to be one of my favorite dishes and photos in the whole book. I make my own goat milk ricotta cheese, which is a simple, satisfying process that everyone should try.


I generally prefer white pizza, as most pizza sauces are too salty for my taste. I thought the blossoms needed to be paired with some red, though, so I made my own pizza sauce, which was well worth the effort. The pizza crust is gluten free and vegan with the added bonus of shredded zucchini.


It has been an amazing two weeks since the release of The Vibrant Table, filled with wonderful news. First, PBS included the book in their list of this month’s best cookbooks. Then, we made it on Amazon’s list of Best Cookbooks of the Year, So Far, among nineteen outstanding authors. But most importantly, these past weeks have been filled with the kindest reader feedback that I could never even dream about. The best reward for all of the hard work and sleepless nights is to hear about you trying out and enjoying the recipes. If you are in fact one of those people, I would be forever grateful if you would leave a book review in order to help others make their choice.


Squash Blossom Pizza

for the tomato sauce
(makes about 2 cups)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves – minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
about 1 lb diced plum tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon coconut sugar
pinch red pepper flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

to make the sauce
1. Warm olive oil in a deep pan over medium low heat. Add in garlic and oregano and let sweat for about a minute.
2. Increase the heat to medium. Add tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
3 Reduce the heat to bring sauce to a simmer. Simmer for 90 minutes. Let cool.

for the crust (gluten free and vegan)
(makes one large pizza crust)
1/3 cup plus 4 tablespoon almond milk – divided
1/2 teaspoon coconut sugar
1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoon ground chia or flax seeds
3/4 cup (105 g) buckwheat flour (I used sprouted homemade flour)
1/2 cup (60g) tapioca starch
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing the blossoms
1 small zucchini – finely shredded (optional)

for the topping
tomato sauce from above
8-10 or more squash or zucchini blossoms
sliced baby squashes/zucchini – if attached to the blossoms
about 3/4 cup goat milk ricotta

to make the pizza
1. Warm 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of almond milk to 110 F (43C). Add in sugar and yeast, whisk together and leave for 10 minutes. The mixture should be very foamy.
2. Mix the remaining 3 tablespoons of almond milk with the ground chia seeds. Let sit for 10 minutes.
3. In a stand up mixer with a paddle attachment or a food processor, combine the yeasty mixture, chia gel and the rest of the ingredients. Mix until well combined into a runny dough.
4. If using shredded zucchini, transfer the dough into a mixing bowl. Squeeze the extra liquid out of the zucchini with your hands. Mix it into the pizza dough.
5. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and oil it lightly. With a wet spoon, spread and shape your crust into an even thickness. Let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).
6. Bake for 20 minutes (15 if without zucchini). Increase temperature to 400 F (200 C). Spread on the sauce (you don’t have to use all of it), arrange the blossoms, sliced squash (if using) and ricotta on top. Lightly brush the blossoms with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes or a little longer until the edges are slightly golden.
7. Let cool slightly. Top with your favorite greens or sprouts/microgreens, slice and serve immediately.

Tags: mains, pizza, tomato, zucchini, zucchini blossom