Category Archives: Appetizer

Not Your Mama’s Plantains

We watch a lot of cooking shows, like a lot a lot.  I’ve noticed that most dishes focusing on Puerto Rican food have plantains in it.  I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to visit my parents in Puerto Rico over the Thanksgiving holiday.



on the beach

San Juan fort

Being that I had never tried plantains before (shocker, I know), I was so excited to try them on this trip.  I tried so many different versions and was so stinkin’ disappointed that I didn’t really care for them.  Not to let that stop me, I kept trying them.  Over, and over, and over, and…you get the idea.  To those of you who like the original plantain, I am so jealous, and this recipe is probably not for you.  Although the recipe may provide an interesting change…maybe?

When figuring this recipe out, I was thinking about my favorite way to indulge in starches.  I love mashed potato leftovers formed into patties and pan-fried.  I was hoping plantains wouldn’t be any different.

To start, take two ripe plantains.  They should be fairly soft (again, I have no idea if this is traditional when using plantains, but it is what I did).

ripe plantains

Peel the plantains, mash ‘em, and lightly cover the mush with salt and pepper.  I love salt, so it is a must for me.  If you don’t like salt (whaaaaa????) then leave it out.  I must warn you…if you leave it out, you may end up with bland goop.  That’s just my very biased opinion.


Ok.  Now that we have established that I love salt, I will remind you, yet again, that I have had a long-standing love affair with scallions.  Unfortunately, I was out and no interest in going to the store.  The next best option was to use sliced washed leeks.  I sautéed them in butter for just a few minutes to slightly soften them.  If you use scallions, there is no need to soften them.  Now combine everything, and add a few tablespoons of flour, just to firm up the texture a little bit.  I also added about 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro, just for a little extra flavor and the pretty green color.


Next, take ¼ cup of the mixture, flatten it between your hands and coat the patties in seasoned breadcrumbs.  Once all the patties are formed, place them on a plate and refrigerate for an hour or so.  This will ensure that they stay together during cooking.

Finally, heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter, and add just a little bit of oil to keep the butter from browning.  Cook the plantain patties until both sides are browned, turning only once during cooking.

Now comes the best part: time to chow down.  I decided to serve them with the most delicious spicy mango sauce that my amazing mother made and sent home with us from Puerto Rico.  It is unfortunately almost gone…she may have to mail more.  That wasn’t too subtle, was it?  Maybe she will even post the recipe sometime (it is that amazingly good, and you haven’t lived until you try it.  For real.)


Happy February to you all, and here’s to many more delicious meals in 2014.


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The 11th Day

On the 11th day before Christmas (I know, it’s past midnight and thus technically the 10th day before Christmas, but these things happen), The Troikas gave to me: TOSTONES.

I first sampled these fried plantain slices in Puerto Rico, when visiting Mom and Dad at their new Puerto Rican headquarters. They were delicious, salty, and often served with a salsa or something saucy. I made them to go with a beef curry (recipe coming soon!), and they were the perfect thing to sop up the spicy curry juices.


adapted from Saveur 

Vegetable or olive oil for frying
3 green plantains, peeled and cut into 1-inch thick rounds
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Pour about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil into a large, heavy-bottomed skillet.  Heat over medium-high heat until about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. (If you don’t have a thermometer, just stick a piece of plantain in the oil, and once it starts sizzling, it’s ready to go).

Fry plantains until soft, about 8 minutes, turning over half way through. (Work in batches if needed, as you don’t want to overcrowd your skillet.) They might start to crisp on the outside, but that’s fine. Remove the plantains to a paper towel-lined baking sheet, but don’t take the oil off the heat. Increase the heat a little bit, so that your oil is about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Or, if you don’t have a thermometer, just increase the heat a notch. It’ll be fine. I did it without a thermometer, and so can you.

half smushed, half not

Smush each plantain piece with the palm of your hand into a disk. (You can put a paper towel in between your palm and the plantain if you don’t want to get too oily.) Once the oil is heated a bit more, fry the plantains until crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. I’d suggest relining your baking sheet with new paper towels, but do what you gotta do. Lightly salt the tostones while they’re still hot.

Serve with salsa, guacamole, or beef curry.

Yield: 4 – 6 servings

the beginning

Happy frying!


P.S. If you live in Washington, D.C., I highly recommend you go to Pelican’s Rum on U St. We just had the Stewed Chicken (served with rice and peas and some cabbage), and I want to eat that chicken every day for the rest of my life.


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Tomatoes II: Wrath of Khan, or, “It is very cold in THE FREEZER!”

Much like Admiral Kirk and his inevitable defeat of Khan, I have defeated the tomatoes. (Or should I say, “TOMATOOOOOES!”)


I’m not sure if this shot captures the mess that I felt was all over the little kitchen after dealing with the tomatoes, but lemme tell you: it was a battlefield. There were tomato guts, skins, and tears all over the counter and in the sink. I submit the above as evidence, lest you think the life of bloggers is all pretty pictures of food and happiness and sunshine, all the time.

But the battle was completely worth it, because look!:

ready to go

Thanks to a brilliant suggestion by Braeden’s mom, I easily defeated most of the tomatoes by blanching, peeling, lightly chopping, and freezing them in quart-sized freezer bags.

tomato jam

A halved recipe of this tomato jam also happened. It’s been spread into breakfast sandwiches with fried eggs and blanched kale, on toast with sweet pickled jalapeños, and on toast with feta sprinkled over top. In other words it’s very versatile, and what are you waiting for? You don’t even have to use all the listed ingredients – I used a bit less sugar, no ginger, and just a squeeze of lime and didn’t bother with sterilizing and canning since it will be eaten within a few weeks anyway. Easy, peasy.

If the Khan tomatoes are still tormenting you, though, may I suggest something else? Something green, perhaps?

green tomatoes

If you have the chance to get your hands on some green tomatoes, do it. And then fry them. With a gentle salting, followed by a quick dredge in seasoned flour, a light bath in an egg whisked with buttermilk, and a hefty coating of spiced cornmeal and breadcrumbs, those green tomatoes will be the happiest of green tomatoes in the world. Who wouldn’t want happy tomatoes? (Aside from Khan, that is.)

I adapted my recipe from here and was craving a Mexican spice profile at the time. After making them again, I didn’t see a reason to change the spices. Even the leftovers were good cold, straight from the fridge. I happened to have a few tomatillos on hand and put together a quick, fresh salsa of tomatillos, a few small tomatoes, peppers, onions, cilantro, lime, and salt to spoon over the fried green tomatoes, but they actually didn’t need a condiment. Even Braeden, the Condiment King, ate one or two without adornment.


Give it a shot. I was intimidated at first (dredging, coating, and frying, oh my!), but I promise this formula actually keeps the coating stuck on the tomatoes.

(And on your fingers. But this is a battle, so you should expect some minor injuries.)

battle wounds

A glass of sangria while you work couldn’t hurt, either.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Adapted from Simply Recipes

Notes: The first time I made these, I followed the original recipe measurements for the flour, egg/buttermilk mix, and cornmeal coating but ran out before I finished frying the last tomato, leaving me in a frenzy of mixing more to finish it off. Having enough coating just depends on the size of your tomatoes. The below measurements will likely make a little more than you need, but you should know that the flour, egg/buttermilk, and cornmeal combo also does wonders to other things that may be lurking around your kitchen – pickled okra, leftover slices of grilled eggplant, slices of already cooked sweet potatoes, for example. About the seasonings: I used cumin and two other spice blends (Goya Adobo and Ancho Chili and Lime), but use whatever you’d like. Do let me know if you try something you’re particularly excited about!

  • 3 medium-large green tomatoes
  • 1 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs (plain, Panko, homemade, whatever you have)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Adobo seasoning
  • 1-2 teaspoons Ancho Chili and Lime seasoning
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup vegetable oil, for frying

1. Slice the tomatoes into ¼ inch rounds and arrange on a plate, lightly salting each slice. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

2. In a wide, shallow dish or bowl, combine the flour and pepper to taste. Set aside.

3. In another shallow dish, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs. Set aside.

4. In one more shallow dish, combine the cornmeal, breadcrumbs, and seasonings.

5. Heat about a 1/4 cup of oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet. While the oil is heating, arrange your assembly line: sangria with straw (optional), sliced tomatoes, flour bowl, buttermilk-egg bowl, cornmeal-breadcrumb bowl. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and place near your skillet.


6. Once oil is heated, start coating your tomatoes. Dredge both sides of a tomato slice lightly in flour, then coat both sides in the buttermilk-egg, and finally coat both sides in the cornmeal-breadcrumbs. Place in oil. Quickly repeat with more tomato slices, filling pan in a single layer of tomatoes. Cook about 3 minutes per side (they’ll be nicely golden-brown) and remove to paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve used up all your tomatoes, replenishing the oil if needed. If you have leftover coating ingredients, experiment with other things in your refrigerator! (Just don’t save the cornmeal-breadcrumb mixture, since it will be contaminated with the raw egg.)

side one

side two


7. Serve with salsa, barbecue sauce, tomato chutney, or eat plain. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator – they’re good cold or gently crisped in an oven.

with salsa verde

Yes, tomatoes, it has been lovely doing battle with you, but I have won yet again.

In conclusion, I leave you with these words of wisdom:

“Ah Kirk, my old friend. Do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us ‘Revenge is a dish that is best served cold.’? It is very cold in SPACE!”


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Mayoneggs for all

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We here at The Troika Table’s DC headquarters quite enjoy Arrested Development. (Braeden even watched it when it was on the air.)

Warning: If you haven’t watched Arrested Development, you probably definitely won’t get this. It’s ok. Just let it happen.

There are many a food item to be found in Arrested Development – ice cream sandwiches, chocolate-covered bananas, and corn balls, to name a few. The one that hooked me is the Mayonegg, created by the lovely Ann Veal. (Her?)

The Mayonegg, described by George Michael:

You might not feel so good, but if you think about it, you’ll realize the Mayonegg is just a deconstructed deviled egg. That’s not so bad, now is it? And so, in honor of the long-awaited fourth season of Arrested Development, we created a Mayonegg for our favorite characters. We even made our own mayo.

The Original Mayonegg – Ann Veal. (Not pictured)

Egg + packet of mayo.

The Original

Breakfast Egg – George Michael. What have we always said is the most important thing?

Egg + mayo + crumbled bacon

George Michael

Banana Egg – Michael. There’s always money in the Banana Stand!

Egg + mayo + a few slices of banana. (Yes, we did this. Braeden ate it and does not recommend that you do.)


Sumac Egg – George Senior. I may have committed some…light treason.

Egg + mayo + sprinkling of sumac.

George Senior

Vodka – Lucille. They have my brands!

No egg + shot of vodka.


Magic Trick Egg – GOB. It’s an illusion, Michael.  

Egg white + Chives/Yolk.  But where’s the mayo?  (It’s mixed in with the yolk).  The Alliance surely won’t approve of that.


Silent Egg – Buster. You can always tell a Milford Man.

Egg, which will remain undetected for years.


HOOP Egg – Lindsey. Hands Off Our Poultry!

Plate, no egg.


Blue egg – Tobias. I just blue myself.

Egg + mayo + blue food coloring.


Egg, Indubitably – Maeby. Well, that was a freebie.

Egg + mayo + whatever ingredient you have on hand (We used Thai basil and Sriracha).


Korean Egg – Annyong. Annyong!

Egg + mayo mixed with spicy chile sauce (preferably Kim Kim, but we only had Sriracha).


Vertigo Egg – Lucille Austero. A touch of the dizzies.

Egg, upside down and maybe falling apart.

Lucille II

Chipotle Egg – Marta. So good it will make your hermano jealous.

Egg + mayo mixed with a dab of adobo sauce.

Marta & Lupe

Hairless Egg – Stan Sitwell. I look like Edgar Winter here.

Egg + mayo (preferably blonde) on the side.

Stan Sitwell


Just remember, if you choose to make any of the Mayoneggs, use your own eggs. It can be a real downer when someone takes eggs that don’t belong to them.

All the eggs

And please, tell your friends about this blog.

-K and B (Kara and Braeden)

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the roof

Remember that glorious Russian feast I keep promising you? Today’s the daaay!

But. (I know, I hate buts too.)

You’re not getting any pictures of the food. I had some, quite a few actually, but they are no more. My purse (with phone) was rather traumatically stolen at the end of April (hence April being a rather rough month), and alas, those darn thieves just didn’t want to return my fancyschmancy phone with all the pictures of food on it. I hope they enjoyed the Merriam-Webster word of the day and Kittens of Instagram as much I did. So, I had the phone remotely erased. Which, honestly, probably doesn’t matter anyway, since it’s almost definitely in some warehouse or en route to being completely out of reach. Hey! Maybe someone is enjoying his or her my fancy phone right now. Really glad I paid $100 three weeks before to have the shattered screen fixed. I’m sure everyone involved appreciates it. (Ahem.)

Ironically, “figure out how the Cloud works so I can back up all my pictures” was on my to-do list, nestled inside a little black Moleskin notebook, which was also in the purse. I was on the verge of celebrating my lack of will to do anything (you know, since the to-do list was stolen) when the nice police (and I say “nice” quite sincerely – the police were wonderful) returned a few of my belongings, including the to-do list notebook but noticeably not including the phone or wallet. (Seriously, punks? You want my library card? I hope you check out lots of books about how assaulting people in the middle of day is rude. But hey, thanks for taking my voucher for a $15 brunch entree with unlimited mimosas out of my wallet before you took the rest of it. I’ll be needing that.)

Loathing sarcasm and the urge to throttle glass bottles against the ground aside, I’m starting to get over it. I went outside the other day (by myself!) and only looked behind me, like, 10 times to make sure I wasn’t being followed. Baby steps.

Aaaaaanyway. All that is to say: I have no pictures of past food adventures, save for the few that survive on instagram. I have learned my lessons: I will take pictures with a real camera from now on. I won’t walk on sunny, quiet, pretty [deserted] streets (in my own neighborhood, no less) anymore. I’ll try my hardest not to be afraid, which is something I already struggle with. I’m sure somewhere, sometime, someone wise said something along the lines of: “What are you waiting for? Get on with your life.”

So here we are.


The second annual Old Russian New Year’s Party was another success. Really, when you combine good food, infused vodka, and wonderful people, I don’t know how you can go wrong. Most of the food was more suited for mid-January consumption, when it’s cold outside but you can still drink just enough vodka to feel comfortably warm and be able to climb onto your roof.

Old Russian New Years, take two

Bread: black, rye.


Badrijani nigvzit.

Pickles: cucumber, red pepper, okra.

Cheese-carrot-garlic spread, baklazhanaya ikra, lobio.

Vodka: lemon, pepper, plain, honey, and caramel.

Feuerzangenbowle (pictured, in part, above)

Sunflower seed butter cookies, toffee chocolates, pomegranate seeds.

Of all of these morsels, the badrijani nigzis are definitely my favorite. Affectionally dubbed “vegan egg rolls” by a friend who happens to be vegan, they are Georgian (the country, not the state), spunky, and fabulous. For ease of terminology, let’s call them eggplant rolls. The eggplant rolls are a work of genius – simple, garlicky, genius. You take strips of lightly fried eggplant, make a filling of ground walnuts, garlic, onion, and celery, roll the filling into the strips, and garnish the whole dish with bright pomegranate seeds that give the perfect tangy punch to foil the rich, garlicky eggplant rolls. Well done, Georgia. Well done.

Eggplant Rolls (Badrijani nigvzit)
filling adapted from Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen, method adapted from this lovely post

Note: These will be especially delicious in the summer, when the eggplants are fresh and delicious. However, I fear you won’t be able to easily track down pomegranates in the summer, and the pomegranate seeds really add a little somethin’ to the dish. I’m working on substitutes and hope to report back later with success. [Update: Maybe fresh currants would be nice? They’re slightly sour and have the same sort of burst-in-your-mouth qualities, and are slightly easier to come by in the summer than pomegranates.] The filling will likely make more than you need, but it makes an excellent spread for toast or in a sandwich, would be great thinned with pasta water for a unique sauce, or would almost definitely be delicious dolloped on a lamb chop or baked potatoes. Go ahead, get crazy.

Also: these are best prepared at least two hours in advance of serving, and are even great prepared a day in advance. This allows the garlic to mellow and the flavors to meld.

  • 3 medium eggplants
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a sliver of onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small rib of celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika (original recipe calls for hot Hungarian, I had sweet Hungarian. Adapt for your tastes.)
  • finely chopped parsley and cilantro, totaling about 3 tablespoons combined (again, adapt to taste)
  • 5 tablespoons vinegar (I used red wine, the original recipe calls for tarragon)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • pomegranate seeds to garnish (just seed a whole pomegranate, you’ll find uses for any leftover seeds)
  • vegetable or peanut oil (or any other oil with a high smoke point)

1. Prepare the eggplant: slice the top off each eggplant. Unless the peel seems particularly thick, there is no need to peel. Slice eggplant from top to bottom into roughly 1/4 inch thick slices. (Really wish I had pictures, but look! Google does.) Lay the slices in one layer on a paper towel-lined sheet and liberally apply salt. Let sit at least 30 minutes to expel liquid, then rinse and drain the slices in a colander. Pat dry and set aside.

2. While the eggplant are expelling the liquid, prepare the filling: grind the walnuts and garlic in a food processor or mortar and pestle. If you are without either, chop everything up as finely as you can. Place in a bowl and add the onion, celery, paprika, cilantro and parsley, vinegar, water, salt, and pepper. Stir well. Set aside.

3. Cook the eggplant: In a lage skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat. Add the eggplant in a single layer and don’t crowd them too much. Work in batches if you have to, adding more oil if needed to prevent sticking. Cook the eggplant until golden brown and easily pierced with a fork. (I’d guess about 5 minutes per side.) If in doubt, try tasting a little nibble – if the texture is chewy or rubbery, cook a little longer. It should be soft, and delicious. Set the cooked strips aside on more paper towel-lined sheets.

4. Assemble: when the eggplant is cool enough to handle, place a spoonful of filling on one end of a strip. Roll the eggplant closed. (Reference google if you can’t picture it.) Place seam-side down onto serving platter, cover, and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.

5. Serve the rolls at room temperature garnished with pomegranate seeds.


Don’t be put off by the name of this next one: Eggplant caviar. Or, if you are put off by the name and afraid others might be too, here it is in Russian: baklazhanaya ikra, pronounced “bach-luh-zhahn-ah-yah eek-rah.” One of many versions of a poor man’s caviar, this tastes anything but. It’s silky, garlicky, and perfect spread on slices of black bread. My host mother in Russia would make this often, and her version included zucchini, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, onions, and presumably a mystery ingredient only available in Russia, as I have been haunted by and as yet unable to recreate her version. Luckily, Anya von Bremzen saves the day again. Below is an Odessian version of the dish.

Baklazhanaya ikra
adapted from Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen

Note: This is another dish best made in advance, to allow the flavors to mellow and meld.

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, finely chopped (and peeled, if you like)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • chopped parsley and/or cilantro, to garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Pierce the eggplant in several places with a knife and bake on a baking sheet until soft, about 50 minutes, turning midway through. Set aside to cool (and turn off the oven.)

2. Once cool, cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp and place into a large bowl.

3. Add the onion, tomato, garlic, oil, and vinegar, mashing everything together with a fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

4. Serve garnished with cilantro and/or parsley. I enjoy it best on slice of black bread, but white or rye are nice as well. It’s also great in an omelet or as a pasta sauce. I’m also dreaming of using it on pizza (specifically, grilled.)


Last but not least, a vodka infusion. Last year, I gave you a lemon vodka that took a whole two weeks to infuse. Guess how long this year’s took? Less than a day. And it was, dare I say, even better than last year’s. I’m also guessing it would welcome a spot in your summer cocktail repertoire.

Lemon-infused vodka
adapted from Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen (starting to sense a theme here?)

  • grated zest of 2 lemons (zest only, no white pith)
  • 750 ml good-quality vodka (I used Skyy, Ms. von Bremzen suggests Stolichnaya)

Add the zest to the vodka and infuse at room temperature for at least 4 hours, but no more than 12. (I did around 8). Strain and chill.

You could mix this vodka with some bubbly water and a little simple syrup, or during the summer with some sopping ripe, crushed raspberries. But really, this vodka is so tasty you should just drink it like it was meant to be: icy cold and straight up, followed immediately by a little bite of food (we found that pomegranate seeds made excellent chasers).

I leave you with (again, I know) the wise writings of Anya von Bremzen, on how to take the proper shot of vodka.

how to drink vodka

Until next time, with promises of more pictures.


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Eggplant grilled cheese

This afternoon, I told my kids that we were again experimenting with grilled cheese. I received a very astounding, “ahhh….Mom…”  I think they may be over it.  Little did they know this was going to be pretty much the best thing ever.  When I was grocery shopping, I was intending to pick up some normal eggplant.  Instead, I found these adorable little ones!  See!?!? Seriously, they are the size of an egg.  SO cute!

eggplant like eggs

At first, I considered putting eggplant between layers of bread.  Yeah, kinda boring.  I eventually decided to get rid of the bread, and just use eggplant and cheese.  Good, good, good.


Since they were so little, I decided they would make a wonderful appetizer.  The kids were thrilled they didn’t have to eat grilled cheese again.  Really, whose kids protest grilled cheese?  Um, yeah.  Mine.

To begin, thinly slice the eggplant, I used 4 small ones.  After they are all sliced, sprinkle with a very small amount of salt.  I’m not sure if it is an old wives’ tale, but I have always heard that salt draws out the bitterness.  It could be true, maybe not.  I figure it can’t hurt.  Salt is good!

While the eggplant sits for a few minutes, combine the following in 3 separate dishes. Glass pie plates work wonderfully.

1st dish:

  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper

2nd dish:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

3rd dish:

Seasoned breadcrumbs – I added crushed red pepper, onion powder, and ¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese to 2 cups of panko breadcrumbs.

Coat the eggplant in flour. Place in the egg mixture, coat thoroughly, and then coat in the breadcrumbs.  Let the eggplant rest for a few minutes.


Slice fresh mozzarella cheese and heat marinara sauce. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with a couple tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil.


Pan fry in the oil heated at medium heat.  After they are browned on both sides, assemble the “sandwich.”  Take a piece of eggplant and top with a small amount of marinara sauce along with a slice of the mozzarella.  Finally, top with another piece of eggplant. Enjoy!

dressed up

P.S. My kids loved them as well!



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An Unexpected Journey

News flash!!! Even though we aren’t the very first in the world, we do get to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey before everyone in the U.S.  How’s that for exciting?  December 12 will find us at our local Kino following Bilbo Baggins’ quest, and it’s going to be an adventure for sure!

In other news, we’re going on an epic unexpected journey of our own.  After ten years in Germany, we are moving… Puerto Rico!  Yep, as Kara mentioned not long ago, a lot has been happening lately, and there is more to come.  I don’t even know where to start, but I guess it should be with a thank you to Kara, Janessa, Linda, and Kelly for keeping good things to eat on The Troika Table while I was busily starting the school year, finishing the fiscal year, applying for a new job that came open out of the blue, and getting ready for a big move.  While all that was going on, I didn’t stop cooking.  I even took a few pictures while I was at it, and some of those recipes will no doubt appear here in the future.  We also threw a few fun parties with food worth sharing (and I will, someday!).  And we took a nice drive to Poland with Kara, who came for one last trip home to Deutschland while it was still home.  We came home with some lovely Polish pottery, and since we are about to become islanders, we also picked up a couple of Borowski fish.


Little shopping excursion notwithstanding, you know how it is when you are getting ready to move.  We downsized, sold, recycled, and donated at least an entire moving crate’s worth of accumulated stuff (especially winter clothes, hee-hee), and of course we used up everything we could from the pantry and fridge.  There wasn’t much of sustenance left when moving day arrived.


No, we don’t normally store aspirin, aluminum foil, plastic cups, and paper plates and napkins in the refrigerator, but that seemed like the best way to keep the movers from packing them.  Everything else we wanted left alone went into the bathroom behind this sign:


Don’t you wonder what’s behind that door?  No, you don’t really want to know….nothing exciting, just the supplies we would need for final cleaning.

In the fridge we had the sweet potato pie that would be breakfast for the next three days of packing our household goods, various condiments, a half sheet of purchased flammkuchen crust left from our last party a couple of weeks ago, and not much else.  But I thought to myself, “Hmmm, that flammkuchen crust offers some real possibilities,” and the resulting lunch proved to be delicious.

Tante Fanny knows best

Flammkuchen, or tarte flambée, is a pizza-like Alsatian specialty.  It’s simple to make your own dough from this recipe if you don’t have Tante Fanny in your neighborhood store.  Traditional flammkuchen is nothing more than the dough rolled as thinly as possible, spread with crème fraiche, and topped with thinly sliced onions and lardons, baked in a hot wood-fired oven.  No wood-fired oven?  No worries, simply set your oven to 475 F.  I like to make flammkuchen as an appetizer for parties, and I’ve made versions with thin slices of potatoes or Hokkaido squash, diced bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, caramelized onions, and various cheeses.

Squash Flammkuchen

This time in addition to the crust, I had a little crème fraiche and a partial bottle of bacon pieces to work with, plus about a quarter of a small jar of candied jalapeños (by the way, if you haven’t tried making these yet, trust me, all you have to do is tie a ribbon around the jar and you have the perfect little Christmas gift for friends and coworkers).

Moving Day Flammkuchen

  • Flammkuchen crust – purchased or from recipe linked above
  • Crème fraiche – about ½ cup for a standard rectangle baking sheet
  • Toppings of your choice (see description above and use your imagination)

Place your baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 475 F. Roll the dough out on a sheet of parchment paper, then lift the entire sheet onto the hot baking sheet (ignore the foil in my photos – by this time I didn’t have a baking sheet available so I used a sheet of foil on the broiler rack).  Bake for 2-3 minutes, or until the surface of the dough is starting to feel dry.

Spread the dough with crème fraiche and add toppings of your choice.  For this flammkuchen I used about three tablespoons of prepared bacon pieces and maybe two dozen candied jalapeño slices.  Return to the oven and bake until the crème fraiche is bubbly and starting to brown a little.  Cut into squares and enjoy!

Candied jalapeno, bacon Flammkuchen

All dressed up with a place to go



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Party for Everybody, Dance! Come on and . . . Boom! Boom!

First, even if you don’t normally click on links in recipe posts, trust me – this will bring you a smile: meet the Buranovskiye Babushki, Russia’s entry and the second place winner in Eurovision 2012, which was held in Baku, Azerbaijan in May.  I saw a little blip about their performance on German news, and that set me off searching to learn more about them.  These grannies from the Udmurtia region of Russia are cute from the scarves on their heads to the bark booties on their feet.   And don’t you wonder what it is they are baking?

Well, wonder no more!  The grannies are making perepechi, a traditional Udmurt rye-crust tart filled with meat or vegetables, and they shared their recipe and baked some up to serve to the press in Baku.  I needed just a bit more to go on than what one of the grannies described, and when I went hunting for recipes I had pretty good luck after I started searching in and using the translate feature.  I actually started writing this post right after I saw the grannies on the news, but I got busy finishing up the school year and left it sitting in my drafts folder.  Then this week there was a photo and story in the New York Times about how the grannies’ fame has finally brought improvements to their rural village of Buranovo, and that reminded me: time to finish up the recipe, and here it is.  Why don’t you make some perepechi and play the Babushki’s song while you eat them?

Perepechi with Meat and Mushrooms
Adapted from


  • 2/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • ½ cup wheat flour (I used spelt flour instead; all-purpose flour is fine)
  • 1½ cups rye flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • A little milk, if needed


  • ¼ onion, chopped
  • ½ pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil
  • ¾ pound ground meat (I used all beef, but from my reading I think a mixture of lamb, pork, and/or beef seems to be more traditional)
  • Fresh or dried thyme to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk

For the crust, combine the yogurt, egg, and melted butter.  Stir together the flours, salt, and soda and add the dry ingredients to the yogurt mixture to form a fairly stiff dough (add a little milk if the dough is too dry).  Form the dough into a ball, cover with a towel, and let it sit for half an hour while you are preparing the filling.

Cook the onions and mushrooms in a little butter or oil until lightly browned.  Remove from the pan and brown the meat.  Mix the onions and mushrooms back in and season to taste with thyme, salt, and pepper.

Heat the oven to 400 F.

Divide the dough into eight pieces.  Roll each one out on a floured surface to a circle about six inches across.  Lift up all around the edge and pinch at intervals to form “baskets” with a rim about ¾ of an inch high (see photo).  Place the dough baskets on a baking sheet and fill them with the meat mixture.

Beat the egg and milk together with a little more salt.  Pour the egg mixture over the meat mixture in each crust and immediately put them in the oven to bake (if you leave them sitting, the edges will fall).  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the filling is set and the crusts are done.

Cabbage Perepechi

When I was reading perepechi recipes I saw several comments from other readers who said they like to make perepechi with cabbage.  I thought that sounded good, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it until I came across a clip from a Russian television show.  In the 4½ minute segment, a reporter journeys to Udmurtia and has a perepechi-making lesson from a group of local ladies (I don’t understand what they are saying, but it is worth watching to see the technique).

It looked easy enough, so I gave it a try (mmmmm!).  All you have to do is substitute about 2 cups finely chopped cabbage for the meat filling and use two eggs and 2/3 cup milk seasoned with salt and pepper.  I didn’t add any other seasoning, but I think some fresh dill would be nice.  Somehow this time I made my dough a little too soft, and I had a feeling the rims wouldn’t stand up on their own.   No problem, I made little foil collars to hold the edges up and that worked perfectly.


We ate the cabbage perepechi as a side dish, and the next day I warmed a couple up in the oven for lunch.  I had some leftover roasted cherry tomatoes in the fridge and decided to put them on top before I put the perepechi in the oven, and they were even more delicious that way.

Leftover perepechi can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, and they are also fine reheated in the oven after freezing.  I like the cabbage version best, but the meat perepechi are also very good.  Do you need an excuse for a party for everybody?  Boom, boom!


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Summer juice

We had a party a couple of weeks ago, and we served this agua fresca, and we liked it!  It’s quick and easy, it’s cool and refreshing, and it’s made from lemon juice and celery.  I’ve made it several times since the party, and it is just right to celebrate the first weekend of summer.

I found the recipe on Cocina al Natural, which has recently morphed into Cocina y Comparte (which means Cook and Share – the site still features recipes and videos by Sonia Ortiz, plus many more uploaded by contributors).

Following the tradition established by Kara’s Winter Juice and Spring Juice, we’re calling this Summer Juice (in Spanish, it is Agua de Apio, or Celery Water).  It’s the perfect thing for a warm day – don’t let the celery scare you… this is just right to cool your tongue if your menu trends toward spicy like ours did.

Summer Juice with Lemon and Celery

  • 4 lemons
  • 2 cups sliced celery (2-3 ribs)
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup agave nectar
  • Sparkling water or club soda and ice

Juice the lemons, removing the zest first to save for another purpose if desired.  When you squeeze the lemons it is fine if some of the pulp gets mixed in, but pick out the seeds.  You should have about a cup of lemon juice.  Whiz the juice in the blender with the celery and 2 cups water until the celery is finely pureed, then pour through a fine sieve into a pitcher.  Save the ground up celery (see below).

Stir in the agave nectar until well-blended.  Pour over ice and add sparkling water or club soda (or simply dilute to taste with regular water if you don’t want bubbles – equal parts juice and water or use more juice if you want a stronger taste).

Fortify as desired.

Remember that ground up celery?  Here’s a nice little appetizer.  Squeeze the excess liquid out of the celery and chill it in a little bowl.  Take some flour tortillas, brush them on both sides with melted butter, and cut them into chip-sized pieces.  Bake on a parchment-lined sheet at 400 F until lightly browned and crisp, keeping an eye on them and turning after about five minutes.   Cool and store in a zip bag until time to serve.

Put the chips out on a plate alongside a little dish of cream cheese, the bowl of celery puree, and some kind of spicy pickled peppers – I highly recommend Candied Jalapeños.

Happy summer!


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Hi there

Hey, everyone. It’s been a while, I apologize. But! I’m going to show you something tasty and so quick you’ll be eating a satisfying lunch or snack in no time.

Ready? Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

Strawberry basil grilled cheese
adapted (barely) from here

Notes: I used Russian black bread, which was lovely. I think any bread you’d like to use for a sandwich would be nice. As for the cheese, I used mozzarella. The original recipe recommends smoked cheddar or jack. I think gouda or a few dots of goat cheese could be interesting. Or then again, why not brie?

  • 2 slices bread
  • enough slices of cheese to fit comfortably on your sandwich
  • 3 or 4 basil leaves
  • a handful of strawberries (I used about 8-10 small ones)
  • splash of balsamic vinegar

Rinse and slice strawberries, place in a small bowl or cup. Splash with balsamic vinegar and let sit for 15 – 30 minutes.

Start a small pan heating with a touch of olive oil over medium-low heat.

Assemble sandwich: layer cheese, strawberries, and basil leaves onto bread, top with other slice.

Cook in pan, pressing down a few times to get a nice browned and slightly panini-esque flatness to the sandwich. Grill, flipping occasionally to prevent burning, until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes total. I like to place a lid over the sandwich to speed the cheese-melting along. Or, use a panini press.

Tah dah, you have a sandwich. Also, we think this formula would work wonderfully with all sorts of fruits and herbs and cheese. Peaches splashed with balsamic or red wine vinegar + fresh ricotta + basil, maybe? Plums dashed with cider vinegar + mozzarella + arugula (+ prosciutto or other cured ham?!).

What other combinations would you try?


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