Category Archives: appetizer

Persimmon Salsa

I honestly cannot remember ever trying a persimmon before I got to Ukraine.  Of course they are not native to Eastern Europe, but they can be found at virtually every outdoor produce market in Kyiv.

At perfect ripeness, persimmons are much like tomatoes: firm, but with a bit of give.  One of the great things about persimmons is that they have neither the slimy seeds of tomatoes nor the fibrous pits of mangos.  They are smooth, sweet and so refreshing!

Persimmon Salsa

INGREDIENTS:
1 persimmon
4 vine ripened tomatoes
1/2 cup chickpeas
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp. chopped red onion
1 tsp. salt
juice from 1/2 lemon
hot sauce to taste

DIRECTIONS:
Peel and dice the persimmon (I eat the skin, but don’t particularly like it in the salsa).
Roughly dice the tomatoes.
Finely chop the garlic.
Combine all ingredients and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Serve plain as a salad, or with your favorite salsa accompaniment (pictured above over hearty brown rice).

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Egg Stuffed ‘Shrooms

Today is Orthodox Christmas!

I’ve decided to make a mushroom dish in honor of one of the most prominent traditional Christmas dishes, the oushka.

Oushka are basically mushroom-filled perogies, but they are folded like tortellini and only made for Christmas.  They’re pretty special.

I was not motivated to make this intricate dish–with all the rolling, cutting, boiling, and expensive dried mushrooms–so here’s what I made…

Egg Stuffed ‘Shrooms

INGREDIENTS:
1 tbsp. finely chopped onions
1/2 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt, to taste
1 egg
3 button mushrooms
marinara sauce

DIRECTIONS:
De-stem the mushrooms and finely chop the stems (leaving the caps intact.
Sautee the chopped mushroom stems, onions and garlic until the onions are transparent, about 5 minutes.
Remove the mushroom mixture from the heat.
Add salt, egg, and mix well.
Fill the mushroom caps with the egg mixture and place in a frying pan.
Cook, covered, on low-medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the egg is no longer runny.
Serve with warm marinara sauce.

Chicksquash Patties with Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Did I mention that I don’t have an oven?

No cookies, no frozen pizza, and no lasagna for me!  This recipe is one of my attempts to be creative with just a stovetop.

Chicksquash Patties with Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups chickpeas (prepared as directed; I used dried, so I soaked & boiled them beforehand)
1.5 cups butternut squash, cubed
1 egg
1/2 onion, diced
1 red pepper
1 cup spicy tomato sauce
1/4 cup creamy goat cheese
2 garlic cloves
seasoned salt, to taste
fresh parsley as a garnish (I had a guest this particular evening, so I wanted to be fancy)

DIRECTIONS:
Mash the cooked chickpeas with a potato masher, or whatever works best for you.
Steam the butternut squash in a frying pan (or roast in the oven if you’ve got one).
Mash the squash with the chickpeas and add salt to taste.
Add a beaten egg and mix thoroughly.
At this point, I would normally add seasoned bread crumbs or flour to help shape the patties, but I didn’t want to spend the money.
Form the mixture into patties, approximately 2 inches in diameter and 1/2 in tall.
Cook the patties in a pan on low-medium flame until cooked through; about 3 minutes on each side.
In the meantime, lay the whole red pepper on an open flame until the side is burnt.  Rotate regularly until the entire pepper is black.
Remove the pepper from the flame and let it sit.
To make the sauce, sautee the chopped onion and garlic in a pot.
De-seed & skin the pepper, chop, and add to the onion and garlic.
Add the tomato sauce and mix thoroughly.
Add the goat cheese, mix, and remove from heat.
Serve the patties with sauce and garnish with parsley.

Smoked Prunes with Goat Cheese and Toasted Walnuts

For reasons which I will not elaborate here, I needed a prune fix.

A couple weeks ago my Russian language teacher mentioned there was a great grocery store next to Kyiv’s central train station, or Vokzal.  I just so happened to be in the area, so I decided to stop by.

She wasn’t kidding.  The grocery store had an impressive assortment of imported items that I’d all but given up on finding in Ukraine.  Exotic spices, fruits, vegetables, canned goods.  I could go on.  I think I set my expectations of what foods I’d find here a bit too low, but I’m glad that I’ve been pleasantly surprised and not the other way around.

Just between the raisins and dried figs were piles of dark purple prunes.  A fellow shopper was delicately and intensely digging through them to find just the right ones.  I didn’t really care; I just grabbed the scooper and shoveled a couple small heaps into my plastic bag.  But my fellow prune lover just wouldn’t have it.  In a kind but instructive tone, she began explaining to me that the prunes that I chose were not good.  From her tone and body language, I knew she wanted me to pick from the pile that she was digging through, but I didn’t know why.  I wished I knew more Russian!

I really had no clue what made the prunes in my bag any less effective delicious than the ones in her bag.  But clearly she thought they were.  I smiled and dumped out my bag as if I understood, but resumed gathering the glistening gems by scooping a few out of this bin, a few out of that bin.  To cover all my bases.

When I finally tried the prunes, I discovered that they had a surprising but welcomed smoky flavor unlike any dried fruit I’ve ever tasted.  I also quickly realized that the prunes that I had been selecting were far more dry than the selection that my new friend at the store recommended.

That smoky flavor stuck with me, and I knew they would somehow be perfect to share as an appetizer or dessert at the New Year’s Eve party I would be attending the following day.

So, on December 31st I was back at the supermarket picking through the prune bin, being careful to select only the plumpest, moistest fruits.  How quickly I am becoming a local!

Here’s what I brought to the party…

Smoked Prunes with Goat Cheese and Toasted Walnuts

INGREDIENTS:
10 smoked prunes (whole & moist)
1/3 cup creamy goat cheese (more or less, depending on the size of your prunes)
10 toasted walnuts, whole or halved
lemon zest

DIRECTIONS:
Cut a slit into each prune (to create a bowl-like structure).
Roll the goat cheese into 10 equally sized balls.
Stuff each prune with a ball of goat cheese – fill them as much as possible.
Press a toasted walnut on top of the goat cheese and garnish with lemon zest.