Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Huevos Rancheros

First I was attracted by the music of its name: h-u-e-v-o-s r-a-n-c-h-e-r-o-s ... but at the moment I knew it's all about my favorite food - eggs, it was sold to me entirely.

Blog's Category: International, Vegetarian


Translated from Spanish, it means "farmer's eggs" and well known as traditional Mexican egg breakfast. For me, it's a perfect weekend breakfast when I like to feed my folks with a big breakfast to stretch time to the next meal as much as possible (that's time when I like to tackle my big, ambitious cooking projects and prefer not to be disturbed by ordinary requests of ordinary lunch :)).

Back to huevos rancheros.. There is a few "the must" ingredients to the dish: eggs, of course, corn tortilla and tomato sauce. All other, avocado, beans, cheese and cilantro are embellishments that can be easily omitted, or varied in different combinations. Below is a recipe  of the most common version of huevos rancheros: with avocado, queso blanco cheese and fresh cilantro. I tried to stick to authentic recipe as close as I could.

What is it?

It's a sunny-side eggs, rested on a bed of corn tortilla and dressed in homemade tomato sauce. All of this is topped with crumbles of queso blanco. pieces of avocado and a good amount of chopped cilantro leaves. 

Taste Description

Delicious! Chewy corn tortilla, smothered in runny yolks and drowned in a medium spicy tomato sauce is such a satisfying fare. Add to this party mild saltiness of chewy queso blanco, buttery avocado and overloaded with flavor cilantro, and you may have an idea (just slight idea!) of how beautiful this breakfast is.

How to Serve

Serve right away when it's still hot.

Huevos Rancheros

For 4 serving:
  • eggs
  • corn tortillas
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 fresh red or green chili peppers (or jalapeno peppers), finely chopped
  • 1 large (12oz) can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 tbs sugar (optional)
  • black pepper
  • 1 c fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled and sliced (or diced)
  • 1 c crumbled queso blanco cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt
- Get all your ingredients ready and do all prep work of chopping and slicing first.

- Cook onion and bell pepper in a pan with 2 tbs of olive oil for about 7 minutes, stirring, until they soft. Add chopped tomatoes, chili (or jalapeno) peppers, salt and simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste, adjust salt, add sugar if sauce is too sour. Leave it simmering on the lowest setting.

- Meanwhile, fry tortillas in decent amount of hot oil (about 7-10 tbs). They have to be fried on each side very briefly, for about 10 seconds, just until surface of tortilla starts bubbling. Place two tortillas on the each serving plate.

- Fry sunny side eggs and place two eggs on a top of tortillas, on the each plate.

- Pour several spoons of sauce onto the edges of eggs and tortillas, top with crumbled queso blanco cheese, cilantro and avocado. Serve and enjoy!


- It has to be queso blanco cheese - it has very interesting qualities that popular, such as cheddar, mozzarella, muenster, cheeses do not have - dense, chewy texture and mild milky taste with a light and pleasant saltiness to it. I love this cheese fried, it doesn't melt but gets nice golden crust and awesome soft and juicy texture, I would call it cheese steak.

- Stay away from a sauce from a jar - you won't get even close to that homemade sauce above, which is real thing and easy to prepare.


I used great canned Sun Marzano crushed tomatoes. Regular canned crushed, diced, sliced or pureed tomatoes of any other brand will work just as well.

Let sauce simmer very slowly while you move to the next steps. Just don't forget to turn heat off after you will be done with serving.

This is queso blanco. Now it's one of my favorite cheeses.

This is my usual way to cut an avocado: slice in half; twist to separate halves; hit the peat with a knife, slightly twist to get it out. Now cut each half in half and, grabbing corner of a skin, easily peel it off. Now slice and dice just the way you need. This method works for me the best (yes.. I know there is a fancy way of dicing avocado halves right in a skin and then turning skin out but this way is not my favorite).

This is the traditional way of frying tortillas for huevos rancheros: swiftly frying in a hot oil just until it starts to bubble, but before it gets any color.

To make nice sunny side eggs, break the eggs on a hot skillet with a little olive oil or butter and then turn heat to the lowest setting right away. Salt and cook uncovered, piercing whites occasionally to get uncooked whites to run beneath. Take off the heat when whites are cooked and yolks are still runny.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Garlic Lemon Eggplant

This recipe is easy and quick fix for those who loves eggplants and another chance for those who just didn't discover this magic plant just yet.

Blog's Category: Vegetarian, Awesome Findings

Being from Ukraine, I love my eggplants. I remember, in a season, my mom was always cooking it - they were fried, sautéed, roasted and even marinated and fermented. Most of the time eggplant was paired with tomatoes, peppers, onions or carrots.

This recipe is a bit different from those my mama cooked - it is stirred-fried as a single ingredient, with some mediterranean style seasoning. 

The original recipe comes from my Vegetarian Cooking cookbook. I didn't have much success with recipe from this book but didn't give up on it yet because a lot of recipes look so good there. With the recipe below I took the risk and don't regret!

As always, I tweaked the recipe according to my rules and tastes. For example, I simplified preparation: I don't believe in a legend about bitterness of eggplant so I never do that "salt-and-then-drain-the-bitter-juice" procedure. Do you?

What is it?

Easy: diced eggplant stir-fried in olive oil, cumin seeds, lemon juice and zest, garlic and green onion added at the end; and that's all!

Taste Description
Smoothly chunky texture of eggplants soaks up nicely all those flavors of lemon, garlic and cilantro. Small but mighty cumin seeds will spark, occasionally, with earthy notes as you will bite on it.

How to Serve

It's best when served cold and will keep in a fridge for a few days. Use as a side to your meal. I just love it topped on a piece of country bread with hummus. Hummus and this stir-fried eggplants are perfect companions.
Garlic Lemon Eggplant

  • 1 medium-large eggplant, ends trimmed, diced 1" x 1"
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 5-7 tbs flavorless/cooking olive oil
  • fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1.5 tbs cumin seeds
  • 1 tbs ground coriander
  • 1 large lemon, juices and zest
  • salt to taste

- In a large non-stick skillet, stir-fry eggplant until golden-brown. It will soak all olive oil right away but don't be tempted to add more - just lower the heat and continue to cook, stirring and shaking. Lower the heat more if it burns faster than cooks :)

- In a middle of cooking add salt, cumin seeds, salt and coriander.

- When eggplant is cooked and golden-brown, add the rest of ingredients, stir, adjust seasoning, take off the heat. Enjoy!


- Omit cumin seeds if you are not fan of it - their taste is pretty pronounced in this dish.

- Add more lemon juice, apple cider vinegar (or any other vinegar) if you feel it lacks acidity.


It's better to not overcrowd a skillet - I cooked my eggplant on a two medium skillets.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Caramelized Onion Mushrooms

Being curious cook, I have been trying various mushroom recipes, great, good, and mediocre. This simple recipe, running in a family since I remember myself, so far, stands firm as the best one.

Blog's Category: Hors D'oeuvre, My Own Fast and Easy, Vegetarian


Here is why I just love recipes with a limited amount of ingredients - you take two or three perfectly matching ingredients (as a happily married couple), process them in a magic (or may not be so magic) way and receive wonderful dish in which each of ingredients is a star and sings a song in a perfect harmony with other ingredient. This Caramelized Onion Mushrooms is an example of it.

It seems like no matter how many new and exciting recipes with mushrooms I offered to my folks, they tell me over and over that this recipe is their favorite. Quickly disappearing mushrooms are the best proof of this.

Honestly, this recipe is so simple that I would be ashamed to call it a "recipe" if not one culprit you have to know to get a great result. This small detail in the process of cooking mushrooms with onions give it the right to be a RECIPE. Ready?

What is it?

Plain white mushrooms, cooked down with onion until both caramelized to the beautiful golden-brown sheen.

Taste Description

Combination of savory sweetness of caramelized onions and it's buttery texture, merged with warm and woody flavors of mushrooms. Semi-crunchy texture of well browned mushrooms is a bonus feature nobody would resist.

How to Serve

 It's versatile: serve right away, hot, or just warm, piled on a top of rice, mashed potato, or crostini. It's great as addition to your burger or as a filling for a wrap - there can be so many application of it. It will keep in a fridge for a several days.
Caramelized Onion Mushrooms

For about 4 cups of end product:
  • 4 8-oz containers of white mushrooms (about 8-10 medium mushrooms per container),cleaned and sliced thinly about 1/5"
  • 3 medium onions, sliced into 1/5" half-rings
  • 1/3 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 5-7 tbs flavorless/cooking olive oil

- Assemble wrap: spread mayo onto the flatbread; then put a sheet of nori; then pile rice closer to the end of flatbread. Top rice with fish pieces and celery sticks (refer to pictures below). To pack a lunch, roll your wrap into square sheet of foil and twist the ends candy-like...cute, hah?


- In a non-stick large frying pan, pour olive oil and cook mushrooms, stirring occasionaly. Here comes the culprit I was talking about: mushrooms has to cook up untill all liquid they release will evaporate. You may need a bit of a patience - it may take a while, up to 30 minutes depending how many mushrooms you have, how high the heat is and so on.

- Just when all liquid is evaporated, add onions and continue to cook, stirring.

- Add salt and pepper and continue to cook, stirring, until onion is nicely caramelized and mushrooms are "well done" and a bit crunchy. Adjust salt and pepper if needed, take off heat and enjoy!


"In a middle of a game" I had to switch from my favorite stainless steel pan to a non-stick one. Must be, my great stainless steel pan is not so great :( So, to get nicely browned mushrooms and onions, definitely, use non-stick pan.

I paired my mushrooms here with a savory steel-cut oatmeal.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sushi Wrap

Just scrape around your pantry and fridge to find couple of necessary ingredients and you are good to go for a nice and tasty, sushi inspired, wrap.

Blog's Category: Hors D'oeuvre, My Own Fast and Easy, Vegetarian


Lately my daughter was traveling around a lot for her pharmacy rotation's administration block of a final year of college. I'm not very happy about the idea of her driving 2 hours away to some remote pharmacy but what can I do? I do lunches.. I pack lunches for her because she have to eat on-a-go now. Frankly it should be over at the end of month....

Well.. this quick wrap I have made today in a morning turned out so good that I have to share the idea here. I hope it will be valuable one for you too :) 

I love nori seaweed sold in oriental stores. They are packed already roasted, no need for roasting them over the flame. I actually like to eat them as is: crunchy, salty and flavorful. I guess I'm not the only one who loves it - lately I see a lot of them all over western groceries here, in Cleveland, packed into snack portions.

Actually idea of sticking nori into the sandwiches is not new to me, I did it before. This time it's a wrap to be invaded by sushi nori. Let's go for it?

What is it?

It's a handful of cooked rice, your favorite canned fish and some vegetable strips, wrapped into tortilla/flatbread and nori seaweed sheet. Mayo, wasabi or/and mustard, smudged onto tortilla or flatbread, are used to "butter" things up.

Taste Description

Is it crime to say that it's better than sushi?  Or at least better than some sushi? Or, may be, it's our old good bread that sushi always lacked? I guess I said enough to be "boo-ed" by refined sushi lovers :)
Anyway... Nori plays a key role in the orchestra of flavors in this wrap. Smokey flavor of sprats, I used as "canned fish" ingredient, and rich, umami notes of mayo (yes I believe good mayo has a tons of umami) knock your taste buds out in a swirl of gastronomy pleasure ;)
Rice, celery and flatbread create fusion texture that is perfect carrier of all this goodness.
How to Serve

 Pack for lunch (take 2 if you are really hungry) and enjoy on-a-go while traveling or "glued" to your work place. It would be a great idea to cut them across into bite size portions for a hors d'oeuvre table.
Sushi Wrap

For 1 wrap:
  • 1 flatbread (or tortilla)
  • 1 tsp of good mayonnaise
  • 1 nori seaweed sheet
  • 2-3 tbs cooked rice
  • 5 small sprats (canned sardines in oil works well too)
  • 1 7" piece of celery rib, cut along into 3-4 sticks

- Assemble wrap: spread mayo onto the flatbread; then put a sheet of nori; then pile rice closer to the end of flatbread. Top rice with fish pieces and celery sticks (refer to pictures below). To pack a lunch, roll your wrap into square sheet of foil and twist the ends candy-like...cute, hah?


- Add specks of mustard, wasabi or your favorite hot sauce on a pile of rice, fish and veggies for some kick. I didn't do this and my sushi wrap was still very good though I'm a fan of spiced food.

- Instead of canned fish, you can use ham, crab sticks, shrimp or whatever your creativity gene will throw for you:)

Sprats (in abundance at a russian groceries) have an awesome smokiness to them. They are great in a combinations with bread and fresh vegetables.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tofu Satay

Hey vegetarians and vegans! Here is something for you - tofu satay. It’s same good as chicken version. Now you can enjoy those barbeque gatherings too ;)

Blog's Category: Awesome Findings, DK Challenges, Hors D'oeuvre, International, Vegetarian



At The Daring Kitchen this month, we were free to choose any past challenge. What a great opportunity to catch on those challenges before I become member of DK. I have chosen Satay Challenge.

Satay is essentially mini-kebabs served with various oriental style sauces. I decided to go with recipes suggested by our Satay Challenge's host. Tweaking up sauces to suit my family tastes, I produced these lovely treat. My "homies" loved it, even those who are on a carnivore "diet". Actually, I have an impression that anything threaded on skewers is destined to be yummy just because it's on a skewer. That's probably our inner child talks to us - everything is better on a sticks. Regarding satay, all is left is putting good sauces for dipping and voila.

What is it?

Long pieces of tofu, marinated, are put onto wooden skewer and baked in oven. Ideally, it should be grilled, but oven is so much more convenient that I defeated to the easier option. Separately, three sauces are prepared and served with tofu sticks.

Taste Description

It all depends on sauce!  Especially when you cook with tofu. By marinating, we gave it initial flavor with sour-gingery-garlicky flavors. When cooked, it's up to you how to entertain yourself - either with rich peanut sauce; sweet-and-sour fruity tamarind sauce or with a spicy soy sauce. My favorite way is to try to get combination of any two with each bite - mathematicians, how many combinations I'll get? If to add bites made with a single sauce plus greedy bite made with all three sauces together, we will end up with a pretty diverse taste combinations!
FYI: on a picture, you see four sauces because I couldn't cold-bloodedly throw away that sauce tofu was marinated in. I cooked it down a little bit with and extra spoon of sugar to balance acidity. It's your math to count final sauce combinations :)

How to Serve

 Serve hot, right from the oven or grill, next to various sauces.

Tofu Satay (does it look like butterfly down there?)

 For 16 satay sticks:

  • 2 blocks of firm tofu

  • 2 tbs flavorless olive oil
  • 4 tbs lemon juice
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tsp ginger, grated
  • 2 tbs garlic, grated
  • 1 tbs cayenne paper

- In a bowl, mix marinade using all marinade ingredients.

- Cut tofu into long logs to get total 16 logs.

- Place all tofu pieces in a single layer into the large, flat container or dish. Pour marinade on top and let it seat at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.

- Soak 16 wooden skewers in a water (not to be burned out later in a oven or grill).

- Meanwhile prepare sauces (recipes follow).

- Pre-heat oven to 400F. Stick skewers through tofu log. Place tofu sticks on a baking sheet with a silicon mat or oiled foil (there is no need to oil silicon mat, that's why I love to use them!).

- Bake tofu sticks for about 35-40 minutes or until golden-brown.

- Serve with sauces and enjoy!

Peanut sauce

For about 1 cup of sauce:
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 4 tbs smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1-2 dried red chilies, chopped (with seeds if you like spicy food)

In a small sauce pan, on a low heat, cook mix of the all sauce ingredients, stirring, until sauce is smooth and silky. No need to bring to a boil. Set aside. Reheat before serving.

Soy-based sauce

For about 2/3 cup of sauce:

  • 4 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1-2 dried red chilies, chopped (with seeds if you like spicy food) or hot pepper flakes
  • 1 finely chopped green onion

Mix well. Serve cold.

Tamarind sauce

For about 2/3 cup of sauce:
  • 2 tbs tamarind concentrate or 4 tbs tamarind paste
  • 3 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 finely chopped green onion

Mix well. Serve cold.


In sauces, adjust sugars and hot peppers to your preference. If you don't like acidic sauces, most likely, you may want to add more sugar.


don't forget to pre-soak your wooden skewers..

Mrinade for tofu...

...marinade for tofu...

...marinade for tofu is done.

It's better to place tofu pieces in one layer (not like here.. I've taken small-ish container)

Peanut sauce...

...panut sauce...

...panut sauce...
...panut sauce is done.
Soy-based Sauce...

...soy-based sauce is done.
Tamarind sauce.

Extra (bonus) sauce from marinade leftovers...

..extra sauce - just add some sugar and bring it to a boil.
..extra sauce is done.
all four sauces