Monday, September 29, 2014

Fish Escabeche

This is Ukrainian version of fish escabeche from my childhood. Cooked in tomato sauce it has a perfect balance of sweet and sour, spicy and salty. 

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


As a picky eater in a childhood, I didn't appreciate much this dish. It was too bold, too spicy for me, and in addition, here and there, were small fish bones... Though adults must adored it, because for every more or less significant occasion when crowd had to be fed, fish escabeche was served. 

Now I think, I can hear my fellow friends from Eastern Europe "there were no such thing as escabeche there"... Actually, they are almost right... Escabeche is a dish well known in Spain, Italy, Mexico - it is fried fish marinated in vinegary sauce and served cold. Following this definition, fish dish, known in Ukraine under vague name "fish in tomato sauce" or "marinated fish", is indeed fish escabeche! Agree?

Fish escabeche is cooked using inexpensive sorts of fish such as whiting, perch, better with a skin on. Remembering my frustration with a fish bones, I always use fillets of fish - with all this wonderful sauce it's  a shame to go through all those bones and fins.

If you already tried Hispanic/Mediterranian version of fish escabeche and was not really impressed with it, try this version - you may be pleasantly surprised!

What is it?

Fish fillet pieces with a skin intact are fried first, then cooked in a rich tomato sauce. The most important, critical, in this dish is to reach a right balance between sugar and acide coming from tomato. Perfect level of spiciness, I would say mild-to-medium, is a must.

Taste Description

Pieces of fish, are tender although meaty. Skin adds up as a buttery layer to it and sauce is soaked in right into the heart of these fish nuggets. Plenty of delicious, bright-red  eye-pleasing sauce, makes it great partner to a piece of beautiful crusty baguette or giabatta bread... 

How to Serve/Store

If follow the rules, cooked fish escabeche has to sit in a fridge overnight to reach its full potential and then served cold. It rarely happens in my house - it's often consumed still warm or even right after I take it off the heat. 
It will keep in a fridge for several days.
As an option, serve fish escabeche with a chopped cilantro, or dollop of sour cream, or (oh, sin) grated parmesan or queso fresco.

Fish Escabeche

  • perch fillets, skin on
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs paprika powder
  • 1 tsp red chili pepper flakes (or 1/4 tsp cayenne powder)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tbs sugar 
  • some flour to dredge fish in before frying
  • oil for frying (light olive oil)
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Make sure fish skin is cleaned from scale. Then cut fillets into 2" pieces, salt a little bit, dredge in flour and sear in an olive oil, on a medium-high heat, just until light-gold. It doesn't have to be cooked through. Transfer chicken into a pot or deep pan and set aside. You may need to do this in a couple of batches.

- In the same skillet, cook onion for 3 minutes, stirring. Add tomato paste, all spices and cook it stirring for one more minute. 

- Add about 1.5 quarts of water to your skillet, stir it thouroughly, continuing to cook until tomato paste and spices distribute evenly. Add more water if needed - you have to have enough sauce to cover all fish in a pot. Add salt and sugar. Let sauce simmer for 5 minutes. Add more sugar if sauce is still sour - it has to be sweet-and-sour. Keep in mind that it is not the final taste of your sauce - combined with fish, it will transform drastically.

- Pour sauce over your fried fish in a pot and place pot on a heat. Shake a pot a little bit to distribute a sauce in between the fish pieces. Simmer your fish escabeche, with a lid adjar, for about 30-40 minutes letting it just barely simmer. Take off heat - done! Enjoy!

This fillet of perch is often sold barely cleaned from scale.. so I always have to clean it. I like to use perch for fish escabeche because the texture of cooked perch is so buttery and it works really good with a sauce.

For a perch, it's really doesn't matter if you start to fry it skin side first or otherwise - it will swirl into tube anyway (tested!)

This time I added coriander powder to the sauce. I don't think it worth to do - it didn't add much to flavor but took away from a color adding brown hues. So, follow the recipe (above) to the word :)


Friday, September 26, 2014

Chicken Bitki

My mother-in-law's specialty, chicken bitki (schnitzel) is really good. I'm not even comfortable giving away this recipe to the public . Anyway... try to make it - I'll tell ya, it's a good stuff :)

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


Word "bitki", translated from russian, means "those bitten or pounded". Pieces of chicken in this recipe are pounded prior to cooking. That is where Chicken Bitki comes from. Or we could call it schnitzel although, in my life on the "other side",  as schnitzel, we called pounded beef patties. Close enough, right?

As I said, these chicken schnitzels, are my mother-in-law's specialty. They are made for grandkids,  they are made for holidays, they are made for long travels in our car when we go on vacation to an ocean. Occasionally,  they are also lovingly passed from grandma's house to ours for dear grandkids as a yummy grandma's treat. Well.. they are delicious and worth all the labor you put into cooking it.  Just stick to the recipe exactly!

What is it?

Flat, pounded down, chicken breast pieces are dredged in a flour and whipped (in a very special way) eggs. Then they are fried on a skillet into wonderful chicken bitki.

Taste Description

Juicy inside, with a crunchy crust on outside, bitki have that great natural chicken flavor, as good as it gets. Just hint of garlic flavor and black pepper are not overwhelming, rather supporting the leading ingredient - chicken meat.

How to Serve/Store

It's the best when served right away, of course, when they are at its prime - juicy and crispy. 
They keep well in a fridge for several days and are very lovely:
- inside of your to-go sandwich 
- or cut in strips and thrown on a top of your garden salad. 
- Also you can reheat them in a toaster (to renew that wonderful crunch on outside) for your weekday dinner.

Chicken Bitki (or Chicken Schnitzel)

For about 20 medium size schnitzels:
  • 5 chicken breasts
  • 5 eggs
  • 5 small garlic cloves
  • 1-2 cups flour
  • oil for frying (light olive oil)
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
- To get uniformly sized bitki, cut chicken breast exactly as shown on my pictures below. My chicken breasts come without tenderloin part so I had 4 schnitzels out of 1 chicken breast. If your chicken breasts have tenderloin part, you will have 5. FYI, tenderloin located on the inner surface of chicken breast, it's easily identifiable and easy to separate literally by hands.

- Using flat side of mallet, pound chicken pieces into flat patties about 1/4" thick.

- Rub flattened chicken pieces with grated garlic and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Transfer into a bowl and set aside.

- On a large plate, pour your flour and set aside.

- Separate egg yolks from whites. In a large bowl, whip whites thoroughly until firm picks.
Them add yolks, one by one, while continue whipping. 

- Place all three - chicken pieces, flour, and then whipped eggs, next to your stove. Pour about 4 tablespoons of oil into a large skillet and hit it until it's hot but not smoking.

- Dredge chicken schnitzel, first, in a flour, then in eggs, let excess of eggs drip back to a bowl for a second or two and then place your schnitzel onto hot skillet. Your whipped eggs will separate into liquid part on a bottom and foam on a top - no worry, just dip chicken all the way to the bottom to pick on both, liquid part and foam.

-  Fry schnitzels on both sides on a low-medium heat - oil around chicken has to sizzle happily (not crazy), without splattering oil around.

- Fry in batches, add some oil when needed. If after second batch it's too much burned stuff on your skillet, wipe it out with a dry paper towel, add oil and continue to fry. Enjoy!

To divide chicken into 4 pieces: cut off the end of chicken breast first (on a picture, at the left). Then cut off thinner part of remaining piece. You will end up with the most thick part of chicken breast - slice it into two thinner pieces (exactly what my knife is doing above).

Before pounding your chicken, cover them with plastic wrap to avoid salmonella guys flying around your kitchen table...

Finely grate garlic.

Chicken, seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper.

happy sizzling...

can you see this wonderful porous crispy crust?

..and can you see here how juicy it is inside? Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Avocado bites

If you love avocado as much as I do, you will adore this recipe! Perfectly paired with grapefruit, pine nuts and fresh thyme, it makes charming hors d'oeuvre, or delicious appetizer for your next party, or light gourmet breakfast sandwich.

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


I've found this recipe on web net, modified it and ended up with adorable appetizer. Easy to make, it will be swept away by your guests first, I promise. 

What is it?

It's a simple mix of cubed avocado, grapefruit, tiny leaves of fresh thyme, generously topped with pine nuts and piled on petite toasts.

Taste Description

There is no harsh spices in this recipe, so the taste overall is gentle and delicate. At the same time it's rich in distinct flavors of grapefruit, fresh thyme and pine nuts. Those flavors are harmoniously infused into the avocado pieces. Texture is awesome - buttery chunks of avocado, toothsome pine nuts, crunchy toast - ahhhh... 

How to Serve/Store

Serve right away. It pairs great with a white wine or cocktail.

Actually, avocado mix can be prepared in advanced - it will keep in a fridge for several hours if you transfer it into glass container, smooth out a surface with a spoon to get rid of any air pockets, then lay plastic wrap right onto the avocado mix pressing wrap into the surface neatly. Cover tightly with a container lid. In this case there won't be air access and avocado won't darken (get oxidized).

Additional tips

- everyone in my house loves avocado, so, they are always lay on a top of my kitchen island. In a store, I pick a bag of the most green and visibly without dark spots, even, avocados. It assures me that I won't get avocado damaged by those careless buyers, who in a search of soft avocado press on it by their fingers, damaging tender fruit. BTW, may be that's me who is freak - I never press onto the produce to check on ripeness, I judge by look, only. I know how much labor put into the growing food and try to be respectful of it.

- take into the account that if you buy green avocados, you will be able to use them in 3-4 days so plan accordingly. In a 3-4 days they will be practically black, ready to be used with amazingly soft beautifully green and buttery flesh. 

- to slow down ripening process, pop avocado in a fridge. 

Avocado Bites with Grapefruit

For about ten small toasts:
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 10 slices of cocktail bread or baguette
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 4-5 tbs thyme leaves
  • 4 tbs pine nuts
  • salt, ground black pepper to taste
- Toasts the bread (baguette) pieces. Set aside and let it cool down.

- Cut grapefruit in half. Juice one half. For the other half, separate grapefruit sections from membranes and shred into small pieces. 

- Peel avocado and dice it (see pictures below) into large bowl.

- Mix avocado, half of all amount of grapefruit juice, salt, pepper, thyme leaves and half of grapefruit pieces, reserving other half of grapefruit shreds for decoration. Stir well, taste and adjust grapefruit juice, salt and pepper if needed.

- Distribute avocado mix evenly onto your toasts, sprinkle with remaining grapefruit pieces and pine nuts and serve. Enjoy! 

- I always cut avocado cutting it, first, in half. Then I remove stone by hitting it with a knife - knife stuck in a pit and then you can easily pull the pit out. After that I cut each avocado half in a half again thus quartering the avocado. At this point, I usually peel the skin (it's so easy!) and slice a quarter into thin slices for sandwich or dice avocado inside of skin (as on picture below) if I need it diced.

- Sometimes, in a periods of bad avocado craving attacks, I cut avocado in half, remove pit, splash inside a teaspoon of my favorite sauce or just soy sauce and spoon it out right into my mouth with a little bite of crusty bread - yummm.


Use sharp end of your small pairing knife for this...

If you add too much grapefruit juice and it's too watery - no worries! Just cover bowl with a plate and drain out extra liquid.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Chicken Tikka Masala

One of the most know Indian dishes - succulent Chicken Tikka Masala. It's explosion of flavors, spices and overwhelming orange hues. And it's absolutely doable in our modern urban kitchens! 

Blog's Category: International, Indian


I'm not in the position to teach how to make really authentic chicken tikka masala. After all, for a "real" tikka masala you have to cook your chicken in a special tandur oven - do you have one? Most likely no.. but you shouldn't give up on cooking this amazingly delicious dish. Easy as 1-2-3 steps below will bring it for you - the most famous Indian chicken recipe, right there, right to your plate ;)

What is it?

Yogurt marinated chicken has to be grilled, or broiled as in my recipe, and then briefly cooked in a rich sauce made of yogurt cooked with a beautiful bouquet of Indian spices.

Taste Description

It's a flavor bomb! Natural grilled chicken taste and flavor is not overpowered by potent sauce but rather brought to another level, enhanced and complimented by abundance of different powerful spices. Juicy, not overcooked pieces of chicken are still white inside, but outside are covered with beautiful thick, medium-hot masala sauce. 

How to Serve/Store

Serve hot, over the rice or pasta. It's also great as a filling for french baguette sandwich. Traditionally it's served with naan bread and some fresh vegetable salad.

Chicken Tikka Masala

  • 5 chicken breasts
  • 2 cups whole milk yogurt
  • 3 tbs ghee (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 7 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1" fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs turmeric powder
  • 1 tbs cumin powder
  • 1 tbs coriander powder
  • 2 tbs paprika
  • 1 tsp chili flakes (or cayenne pepper powder to taste)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
- Cut each chicken breast into 4-5 long strips. Transfer chicken into a bowl, add a little bit salt, one cup (half of all amount) of yogurt. Mix well and let marinate for a couple of hours.

- Preheat oven to 430F. It should be very hot. Cook chicken pieces just until they get nice golden-brown patches (about 15-20 minutes depending on your oven and how large pieces are). Or you can broil them on the upper rack of the oven.

- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: in a large frying pan, melt ghee and cook onion just until translucent. Add garlic, ginger, spices, bay leaves and tomato paste. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add remaining 1 cup of yogurt, 4 cups of water and stir nicely. Add salt. Simmer for 2 minutes.

- Remove chicken from the oven. It still may be under-cooked inside but should be golden-brown on the outside. Cut it into a bite size pieces. 

- Transfer chicken to the pan with sauce, stir and simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat. It's done, enjoy!