Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sochniki Or Soft Cheese Scones

This is another traditional Ukrainian dessert called Sochniki. Right from my childhood, this humble looking pastry has buttery aroma and comforting soft texture I adore. 

Blog's Category: International, My Staple Food, Perfect Breakfast, USSR-era Recipes, Vegetarian 



Literally, sochniki, means "something moist". Which pretty close to definition of this butter and cottage cheese based cookies (or scones). I guess sochniki (as well as cottage cheese pancakes) were invented back in USSR as yet another way to feed kids "oh-so-healthy" cottage cheese our moms and grannies notoriously nurtured us with. Well, they succeeded, big time - we loved sochniki!

Indeed, with all those natural and wholesome ingredients, Sochniki is a great pastry. Especially they are good for breakfast and for "to-go" situation - they are filling, nutritious and very, very yummy.

What is it?

- Dough, mixed on sour cream and butter, hugs nice blob of sweetened, vanilla flavored cottage cheese. Baked to the shiny golden top, sochniki retain its unbelievably soft and moist, hence the name, texture.

Taste Description

Not overly sweet, but just to the point to call it "dessert", sochniki are full of buttery aroma. They have very tender, thick outer dough layer and purposely overflowing. slicking out as a tongue from a mouth, moderately sweet and cheesy filling.

How to Serve

They are best at room temperature and can be stored in a closed container for a couple of days at room temperature, or in a fridge for up to two weeks. For the best experience, I would recommend to microwave cold sochnik for about 20 second to bring it to room temperature and revive that amazing pillow-y softness and butter-y flavor.


For about 12:
  • 2.5 cup of all purpose flour (I use unbleached)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 stick of soft butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 tsp salt

  • 2 cups of cottage cheese
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 2 tbs semolina flour (or cream of wheat)
  • 2 tbs sour cream
  • 1 egg white, whipped
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tbs water for egg wash to cover pastry before baking
- In a large mixing bowl, stir sugar and butter until its white and creamy, for about 1 minute. Add sour cream and egg, mix another minute until well incorporated.

 - In a separate bowl mix together flour, salt and soda.

- Add flour mix to the butter mix and mix quickly just until dough is formed. Do not over mix it, otherwise your dough will be tough.

- Cover dough ball with a plastic wrap (or pop it in a plastic bag) and transfer in a fridge for a 30 minutes.

- Prepare filling thoroughly mixing filling ingredients together. Set it aside.

- Turn on an oven to 375F.

- With a wooden pin, on a lightly floured surface, roll out a dough into 1/3"-thick large circle. Using large round cookie cutter (or small bowl as on my pictures below), cut out circles.

- Place filling on a one half of each circle. Using spatula, lift the other half of circle to cover the filling, leaving the edge of a filling uncovered. Do not push it too hard, just tap it lightly to fixate the shape.

- Use dough leftovers to make funny shaped sochniki. Place a piece of M&M inside of filling for a surprise for your little ones.

- Mix egg yolk with tablespoon of water. Brush this egg wash onto your sochniki before popping them into oven.

- Bake sochniki in a preheated to 375F oven for about 20-30 minutes until light golden brown. Enjoy


By mixing flour with baking soda, you activate leavening process and eliminate soda aftertaste sometimes sensitive people are able to detect in soda breads.

..bringing together wet and dry ingredients of the dough...

If you feel lazy, do not whip your egg white for the filling and mix it in a filling as is like I did ;)

.. you don't need to have cookie cutter for this. As always my mom and my grandma did, I used small bowl for this purpose. As the dough is somewhat wet, it will stick to the edges of your bowl - use a pinch of flour to wipe out the rims before cutting up the next circle.

Use dough scrap to make couple of extra sochniki.

I'm sure you'll do better job of making fun shapes out of that remaining dough, right?

..egg wash..

Leave more room between sochniki than I did.. My sochniki ended up kissing each other...


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chickpea and Purple Cabbage Slaw

What is my family's usual weekday dinner? It's a large impromptu salad. Sometimes it's really good, sometimes it's "just good" but always is absolutely satisfying. Below is one of them. It has come out especially lovely, particularly because of homemade avocado dressing.

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


As Chickpea and Purple Cabbage Slaw is the results of my usual salad improvisation, I'll break down my salad making knowledge into a few tips and tricks. It's just a couple of rules and intuition required to get your one-meal salad using whatever you have on hands. Here they are:

- I like to use romaine, red or green lettuce, spinach or arugula as a base for my salad. But my favorite "base" vegetable is a cabbage, green or purple, - it's very healthy, inexpensive and, what is very important - cabbage keeps in your fridge for a weeks!

- Supplemental vegetables, which are great in salads and keep great in your fridge are: carrots, turnips, bell pepper, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli. 

- Protein element for your salad, which are also have a long shelf life in your fridge - any kind of nuts and seeds, any kind of cheeses, canned legumes and at the last but not least, any meat or poultry leftovers (though not for those who vegetarians as myself :)), seafood such as smoked fish, cooked shrimp or crabsticks.

- Seasoning elements - hot peppers (fresh or marinated), pickled vegetables of any kind, chopped anchovies, fresh or dry herbs.

- Spices of your choice.

- For a dressing, if I don't have anything special in mind or I just plain in a hurry, I splash onto a salad my favorite "salad quartet" - vinegar, salt, sugar and olive oil. It's all about balance of sweet, sour and salty. Usually ratio of 3/1/5 for vinegar, sugar and olive oil respectively works for me fine. 

What is it?

- This particular salad has a very few ingredients - purple cabbage, carrots and chickpeas. Other flavor boosting elements are fresh parsley and green onion. Rich avocado dressing ties all together - avocado, raw sweet onion, garlic, buttermilk, lime juice, fresh herbs, a spoon of mayo, salt and pepper. E-e-e-e-asy!

Taste Description

Somehow two contradictory adjectives comes to mind - creamy smooth and crunchy, the best of both worlds :). A lot of flavor comes from fresh herbs - adjust them to your liking picking the herbs you really like. Salad is barely spicy, so spike it up a notch if you wish so!
I was very pleased by combination of those three - purple cabbage, carrots and chickpeas. Besides appealing and playful colors, they compliment each other perfectly taste wise.

How to Serve

Serve as a healthy end-of-the day meal, with your favorite tortilla chips (personally, reasonably healthy type of tortilla chips are my favorite accompaniment for salads).

Chickpea and Purple Cabbage Slaw


Salad for 4 large serving:

  • 2 medium carrots, coarsely grated
  • 1/2 small purple cabbage, shredded
  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 2 green onions, chopped, for garnishing
  • 1 tbs parsley, finely chopped

Avocado Dressing:
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 small wedge of sweet onion
  • garlic cloves
  • few stems with leaves of various fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, dill)
  • 1 tbs mayonnaise
  • 1/3 tbs salt
  • 1/2 tbs black pepper
  • 1 lime (juice only)
- Using immersion or regular blender, make dressing. Adjust seasoning adding salt, pepper or lime juice (add a little bit regular vinegar if you don't want to start another lime). Add a little bit plain water to make dressing thinner.

- Prepare vegetables for salad and place them into a large bowl.

- In a large bowl, mix in half of dressing with a cabbage, chickpeas and carrots.

- Serve salad, drizzling on a top with the remaining dressing, chopped parsley and chopped green onion. Enjoy!


By volume, it's about 2/1 ratio for a shredded cabbage and grated carrots. On this picture, cabbage is partially topped with carrots.
Fresh oregano, dill and parsley are herbs I used for a dressing.

It's just happened that I added lime juice and mayo later on. It's o'key to throw all ingredients together for blending.

Taste to adjust ingredients. Keep in mind that it is not a dip and has to be a little bolder in taste.

Be generous adding the dressing to your salad ;)

Serve some additional dressing on a side. BTW, this dressing can be used next day. Surprisingly, despite of avocado, it does not get darker and keeps its color and taste.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Tamagoyaki is a traditional Japanese omelet. Learn this interesting, totally doable technique to make these neat omelet medallions, great tasting and pleasing to your eyes.

Blog's Category: Hors D'oeuvre, International, Perfect Breakfast, Vegetarian


I adore Japanese cuisine, delicate, neat, meticulous. I have pretty extensive arsenal of Japanese dishes and this is one of them which I lo-o-o-ve and come back to this egg dish over and over.

Tamagoyaki is great as a breakfast, intriguing hors d'oeuvre for your next part, and healthy, filling snack sitting, handy, in your refrigerator.

Technique, to make tamagoyaki, may seem a bit complicated but don't be afraid. In fact, it's fun, easy and quick. Ready? 

What is it?

- Mixture to make tamagoyaki consists of a few eggs mixed with very finely chopped carrots, onion, scallion and seasoned with salt and pepper. Then goes the fun part - cooking tamagoyaki omelet in, as I call it, indefinite fashion - continuously adding egg mixture to the one side of skillet while rolling the omelet on the opposite side of a skillet. Sounds intimidating? Commmonn.. it's rather entertaining!

Taste Description

I was a bit reluctant to allow tamagoyaki being allowed to cool down completely before serving. Surprisingly, cold tamagoyaki tasted still amazing. First of all, you'll be impressed how moist and flavorful they are. Paired with the oriental style tomato dipping sauce, they are knock-out appetizer you will love.

How to Serve

I think the best way to serve them warm or at room temperature, with a dipping sauce. I suggest oriental style sauce (see recipe below).


For about 12-16 slices (2 rolls):
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tbs very finely chopped carrots (finer-better but do not use processor - we don't want any juice come out of carrots)
  • 2 tbs very finely chopped sweet or regular yellow onion (optional)
  • 2 tbs thinly sliced green onion
  • 2 tbs milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • some cooking vegetable oil

 Oriental Tomato Dipping sauce
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs shoyu (or soy sauce)
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tbs sriracha sauce (or any other spicy chili sauce)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
- Chop finely carrots, onion and green onion.

- Beat eggs with whisk just until whites and yolks are well combined. Add chopped vegetables, milk, salt and pepper. Stir well.

- You can make one large tamagoyaki roll or two smaller ones. If cooking two rolls, divide egg mixture between two cups/bowls with an easy-to-pour spout.

- Using 10-12" non-stick skillet, cook tamagoyaki. Preheat skillet, turn heat low and add about 1 teaspoon of cooking oil. Pour about 1/2 cup of tamagoyaki mixture, right from a bowl, onto one half of your pan, let is set for a couple of second, then tilting and shaking the pan, distribute the mixture to cover all pan. Keep heat low all the time. Let omelet cook for a minute or two just until eggs are set then start rolling. (Refer to the pictures below as nothing as descriptive as pictures, right?)

- Shake a pan slightly to loosen the omelet. Using two forks, roll omelet just until the center of a pan, then carefully move half-rolled omelet back, to the edge of a pan to make room for the next batch of mixture. Thus, make indefinite omelet by rolling/shifting/pouring until all mixture is used up.

- Cook tamagoyaki roll turning over on all sides for additional 3-5 minutes.

- Carefully slide roll from the skillet onto a wooden board. Let it cool down without disturbing for a bout 20 minutes before slicing.

- With a sharp thin knife slice roll into 1 " pieces.

- Make dipping sauce mixing sauce ingredients with a whisk until well incorporated.

- Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold, with dipping sauce, crostini. Some decorating options are below, in pictures. Enjoy!


- To chop carrots finely, I julienne carrots first using mandolin and then chop with knife as fine as I can. Also mincing technique can be use here like if you would mince garlic. If carrot pieces will be bigger than let's say 2mm x 2 mm than they will tear the omelet and it won't roll up neatly (nevertheless, it's not the end of the world :) , just do it!)

- Do not use too much oil for cooking tamagoyaki - about 1 teaspoon initially and then adding by drops as needed, during the cooking.


There is a choice making one large fat tamagoyaki roll or two smaller ones. If making two smaller tamagoyaki, divide the mixture between two large cups with pouring spout.

1 teaspoon of cooking oil will be enough to start. Add oil later, by drops, as needed. Skillet should be kept relatively dry during cooking tamagoyaki.

Pour egg mixture on about half of skillet and then, tilting and shaking skillet distribute this mixture to cover all skillet in a thin layer.

Keep skillet on a low heat all the time. Start to roll when first layer set up. Traditionally, chopsticks are used to roll tamagoyaki but, despite my expertise in eating with chopsticks, I didn't have much luck using it as tool for tamagoyaki. I've found that two forks were much more handy here :)

Keeping heat low, will allow you to enjoy the process and not to worry about burning stuff..
Roll to the middle of skillet, then carefully move half-rolled omelet to the edge to make room for the "extension".

Pour a little bit more egg mixture (don't forget to shake and tilt skillet to distribute it evenly).

Let it sit a bit to firm and start rolling again

Continue to roll/pour until all mixture is used.

When all mixture is used, cook your tamagoyaki additionally, turning it on all sides forming the shape of your tamagoyaki. I flipped it just on two sides and ended up with somewhat rectangular shape of sliced tamagoyaki. To have more round shape, try to turn tamagoyaki gradually to brown it up a little bit.

Slide tamagoyaki carefully from the skillet onto wooden board and leave it alone for about 20-30 minutes to cool down.

With a sharp thin knife slice each roll into 1" pieces. It can be served as is, at this point, or, to form heart-shaped tamagoyaki, slice each piece diagonally, then flip one half over and piece halves together to make hearts. Cute..isn't it?

..now flip one half over.. and voila heart.. it is

it's easy sauce to make...

use whisk to combine sauce ingredients

If serving party, these onion decoration will look fantastic over your beautiful tamagoyaki hearts.
To make onion feathers, using tip of your sharpest pairing knife, slice white part of green onion in half, then continue to slice each piece until they become thin and feathery.

To decorate plates with green peppercorn powder, toast them a little bit or without toasting, ground pepper into fine powder.

My tamagoyaki were cooked for "internal" consuming but just for fun I made a plate decorated  with toasted baguette slices, oriental sauce, onion and green peppercorn powder.

Interestingly, on a picture, tamagoyaki doesn't look juicy while in real life they were so-o-o moist and flavorful..