Thursday, January 18, 2018

Salmon Pie - Kulebyaka (Кулебяка)

Three years ago today, Kishore started his new job and to celebrate we went to a fancy restaurant. We had been talking about where to travel next and I brought up the possibility of visiting my dear friend Natalia in Russia. Since he had never really had Russian food he decided we'd go for an introduction at The Russian Tea Room in NYC. The menu consisted of Blinis with Red Caviar, Blinis stuffed with wild mushrooms and sour cream, Flounder in Polish Sauce, and of course the Salmon Kulebyaka...verdict  -- he loved it!

Early last year, Natalia came to visit us from Moscow, she was nice enough to bring me a Russian cookbook and some kitchen accouterments, and Ushankas for Kishore and John. While she was here we shared time and recipes in the kitchen; trading family cooking stories and secrets, adding new flavors and memories to our palate. We had a great time together and thinking back on these memories this week, I decided to try my hand at kulebyaka. While it is a time consuming process, if made right, it is completely worth it. Great Russian writer Anton Chekhov famously referred to it as, "a shameless temptation...butter drips like tears, and the filling is fat, juicy, rich..."

For my version I used wild rice, instead of the more traditional kasha (buckwheat) and omitted the mushrooms in favor of more onions. This is a great filling healthy fish dish, perfect for brunch, lunch or dinner. 

Here's my recipe for Salmon Pie - Kulebyaka (Кулебяка):

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Instapot Pepper Pongal

Over the holiday break we had our friends visiting from India. We had a lovely time spending Christmas and New Year's together, celebrating with our multicultural family's traditions. The day before they left, NJ was hit with the 'bomb cyclone'  and at least 12" of snow. This gave us a relaxing snow day to learn and trade recipes! This Pepper Pongal is her recipe adapted for an Instapot, and just in time for Makar Sankrati!

Makar Sankranti marks the start of longer days. It is also known by various names such as Lohri, and Pongal.  In Telangana, people wear new clothes, pray to God, fly kites, and make offerings of traditional food to loved ones who've past on. Kishore often talks about his childhood memories of flying kites from the apartment rooftop, competing with others to capture each others kites. For this festival traditional foods are prepared like: Murukulu, Vadas, Sweet and Savory Pongals and other sweets and snacks.

This hearty gingery bean and rice dish is perfect for a cold winter day's lunch. Tasty, and filling with just the right amount of crisp warming spice from the ginger and black pepper to keep a cold at bay.

Here's my recipe for Instapot Pepper Pongal:

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Winter Melon Soup with Meatballs

The start of the New Year has been a cold one. The 'bomb cyclone' delivered about a foot of snow and arrived on strong blistering cold winds. This cold weather can mean only one thing in our house...soup's for dinner, and lunch if it's a weekend! It seemed fitting given the crazy cold weather we've been dealing with to warm ourselves up with a soup who's key ingredient is named after the season, Winter Melon.

Courtesy of
Winter Melon, also known as ash gourd, wax gourd, pethakaddu, boodida gummadikaaya, and kumbalanga; is a gourd that is native to Southeast Asia. Used in both sweet and savory dishes, you can find the vegetable in local Asian markets. The immature melon has thick white flesh that is sweet but once mature, the fruit develops a waxy coating giving it a long shelf life. The mature fruit's taste is neutral which is perfect for picking up a variety of flavorings. It is also full of vitamin C, almost twice as much as Chayote.

This hearty and quick soup is the perfect comfort food after a long cold day. The vegetable soup can stand on its own if you don't have the time or inclination to make the meatballs. There have been days that I'redone without the meatballs, and the soup was still delicious and satisfying.

Here is my recipe for Winter Melon Soup with Meatballs:

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