December 18, 2010

Stir-Fried Pork Loin cubes with Balsamic vinegar and Orange reduction

This turned out so good! I pretty much followed the recipe as described here except I had to scale up, since I had twice the amount of pork and I also added some onions. I also did it in a cast iron pan, since I don't have a wok, and it still turned out really tasty!

5 pork loin chops, boneless, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes.
2 orange bell peppers, chopped into cubes.
2 white onions, peeled and sliced into strips.
3-4 garlic cloves.
2 oranges, juiced

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 inch piece ginger, smashed
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp corn starch (or 1 tsp flour if you don't have corn starch)

Glazing sause:
3 tsp balsamic vinegar
juice of 2 oranges, freshly squeezed
1 tsp brown sugar

Method is exactly as described in the recipe that I found on the web:

1. Rinse pork chops, pat dry and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Put in a bowl and add the marinade ingredients EXCEPT THE FLOUR. Mix well, cover with clear foil and put in fridge for ~ 1 hour.
2. Once the meat is done marinating, heat some olive oil in a pan and saute the garlic for ~ 2 min.
3. Then add the flour to the meat, mix well and transfer the pork into the pan. Cook on medium heat until done. Can season with additional black pepper and some cayenne pepper. Then remove the pork from the pan and set aside.
4. Saute the onions and peppers briefly in the pan with whatever oil was left from the meat. Then pour the glazing sauce and stir constantly until it gets reduced to about half the original volume.
5. Put the pork back in the pan and cook for ~ 5 more minutes or until the glaze is nice and thick.
6. Serve with rice or with mashed potatoes and enjoy!

p.s. When I ate this with mashed potatoes, the flavor reminded me of "vinen kebab"! Yummy!

ETL: Fennel, Bok Choy and Watermelon Radish salad

We got fennel from our CSA box and I remembered that last year Marulka had made an amazing fennel and celery salad, topped with shaved cheese. Well I was out of celery and did not have any cheese so I decided to improvise and used only the ingredients that we got from the box. The result was awesome!


1 fennel bulb, cleaned and thinly sliced.
2 heads of bok choy, cleaned and thinly sliced.
2 watermelon radishes, washed, peeled and thinly sliced.
5-6 kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise
1 lemon, juiced
some olive oil, salt and black pepper.

Wash all vegetables well and slice thinly (i used food processor and it took 30 sec!). Mix in a large salad bowl and add some olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the leftover fennel fronds and enjoy!

p.s. Here is what watermelon radish looks like :)

December 04, 2010

ETL: Easy and Delicious Pumpkin Cake

If you  LOVE pumpkin, as much as I DO, you must try this easy-to-make pumpkin layered cake. Each bite melts in the mouth, leaving a perfect flavour of pumpkin, cinnamon, and walnuts.
I must give all the credit for this recipe to my friend D.M. She worked on the recipe for years and gave me a perfected version of it. I made very small adjustments to reduce the calories.

Makes 12 squares

Dry Mix:

1 1/4 cup of semolina or farina
3/4 cup of flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup walnuts, chopped or grounded
1 tbsp baking powder

Wet Mix:

6 cups of shredded butternut squash
3 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla

2 tbsp butter or olive oil (optional )

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a sauce pan saute the shredded pumpkin with the oil and the sugar. Add the cinnamon and the vanilla at the end.

Grease a 8x8 cake pan. Lay 1/3 of the dry mix in the bottom of the pan, following with a layer of the 1/3 of the wet mixture. Continue layering, alternating dry and wet, finishing with the wet mixture as shown on the photos below.
I made 2 batches at once and used a 13x9 pan.

Cut 2 tbsp of butter into small chunks and space them out on top of the cake. I think using additional fat ( butter or oil) in this step can be avoided. The cake is moist enough from the pumpkin and can do without extra fat.

Bake the cake for 30-40 minute.

Allow to fully cool and cut into 12 squares. Decorate with a spoon of whipped cream and enjoy!!!

PS. Did I tell you that cooking with wine is always GOOD ? :)

November 25, 2010

ETL: 30-minutes Corn Bread

I can't wait to share this recipe with you. It was so good, I could've eaten the whole pan by myself. It is again this time of year, when I crave hot stews and warm breads. The fresh, (cold) salads are not on my mind anymore. I know, I know, it means packing a few pounds, but if that is the price, let be it. I won't fight it :)

16 squares
Adapted from Basil and Wine. Krystina knows good food. So far I cooked two of her recipes and they came out great.
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned cornmeal or polenta
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp raw sugar
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3 tbsp canola oil. Per Marulka's suggestion, I'm reducing the oil next time, by replacing 2 tbsp oil with 2 tbsp apple sauce.
  • 1 flax egg ( 1 tbsp flax seed + 2 tbsp water )
  • 1 tbsp vinegar ( I used rice vinegar )
I used polenta bought from Whole Foods. As you see from the picture below, it is quite coarse, not that fine like corn meal. Next time I'll try using polenta from Golden Pheasant. It is even more granular.


Preheat oven to 375.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and the wet ingredients (aside from flax egg) in another bowl. Add wet to dry then add flax egg and mix until the batter comes together.
Allow mixture to sit for about 5 minutes. This is the key to ultimate cornbread moistness.

Pour batter into a greased 8x8 pan. Shake and tap the pan to smooth out the batter if needed. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean out of the center.


 Serve with hot stew. I made chili, and the corn bread was just a perfect compilment. 

November 24, 2010

ETL: Thai Curry for Beginners

If you like Thai food like me, you should try this recipe. The taste is 100% good and as close as it could be to the authentic version. I used all the vegetables, I found in my fridge, and a stick of rice noodles. Steamed white or brown rice works as well. Surprisingly, the dish holds well when reheated. I was concerned the rice noodles would get mushy, but they were just fine.

Serves 6
Adapted from Basil and Wine
  • 1 block firm tofu.  My tofu was already cubed, I just squeezed the cubes to take out the water.
  • 2 large bell peppers, yellow and red for colors, cut in strips
  • 3 carrots, cut
  • 2 zucchini, cubed
  • 2 potatoes, cubed
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 clove garlic, chopped or minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 1 Thai chili, minced, I used jalapeno
  • 4-5 basil leaves, preferably Thai
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 4 tbsp red curry paste
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • Zest and juice of 2 lime
  • 4oz rice noodles 

First chop the onions, the garlic and the chili, Grate the ginger and the lime zest. Juice the limes.

Prepare your vegetables, washing and cutting them in equal sizes. 

Wash the rice noodles with cold water, or act according to package directions, and set them aside.

Dry fry the tofu in a non-stick skillet on medium/medium-high heat until golden brown on both sides. Set aside. 
For omnivores, you can use chicken instead of tofu. Just cube a chicken breast and saute the chicken in a tea spoon of coconut oil.

Add coconut oil to a large pan  on medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, chili and ginger and cook until translucent. Add the vegetables to the pan, starting with the vegetables that require the most time to cook, in this case, the carrots and potatoes, then the mushrooms, and the peppers and the zucchini at the end.

While vegetables cook, heat coconut milk in sauce pan. Stir the red curry paste into the coconut milk until dissolved, and the coconut milk is boiled. Add mixture to vegetables and stir to combine.
Add lime zest and juice, soy sauce, basil and tofu. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are soft. During the last few minutes of cooking, add rice noodles. Stir to break them apart and coat them in the curry sauce. Plate with a garnish of lime and cilantro and enjoy!


November 17, 2010

Holiday Sunflower Bread

This bread is named "Sunflower bread" because it looks like a sunflower. It is a traditional Bulgarian bread made for special occasions, like engagement parties, weddings, baby showers, or Christmas.
 I got the recipe from my mother in law and I've been making the bread for years.


  • 2.5 tsp dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2-3 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 500 g yogurt
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 kg + flour. I used whole wheat organic flour from Costco.
Bread preparation:
  • 125 g soft butter
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 yolk
In a small bowl mix the ingredients for the sponge. Cover with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place for 15 minutes, till the yeast rises.
In a big bowl, mix the eggs with the yogurt, salt, oil, vinegar, and pour the yeast mix to it. Start adding flour to the mix till you form the dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead the dough to form a smooth, round ball. You may need more than 1kg of flour, depending on the amount of the used liquids. The dough should be easy to knead, not very soft, but not very hard either. Place the dough in the bowl again, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile soften the butter in a microwave.  Grease a 13" pan with butter. 
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter.You'll need a rolling pin to make the bread.

Cut some dough into a size of a tennis ball and set it aside. Divide the rest of the dough into three equal pieces and form three balls.

 With the rolling pin roll the 3 balls into 10-inch circles.

Spread  one third of the soften butter onto the first circle and place the second circle on top of it. Spread the other third of the butter on the second circle. Place the third circle on top of the second. 

Roll the three circles into a big 1/4 of inch thick circle.

Spread the rest of the butter over it. Using a knife or a pizza cutter, cut the circle into 16 equal wedges.

Roll each wedge up, starting from the wide end and following one of the edges, as shown on the images below. 

Lay the rolls into the pan with the pointed tip to the center, spaced equally from each other.
Lightly press the small ball, you put aside at the beginning, into a small circle. Place the circle on the middle of the pan. The small  circle represents the sunflower head and the rolls are the leaves.

Beat the egg yolk with 1/3 tsp olive oil and lightly brush the bread with the mixture. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size and dough barely springs back when poked with a knuckle, 45 to 75 minutes.

Adjust the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake until golden, 30 to 40 minutes. Cover the pan with foil for the last 5-10 minutes, if needed,  to prevent the bread from burning and make sure it is well baked.

Cover the bread with a towel and let it cool in the pan for 1/2 hour before serving.

November 13, 2010

Stinging Nettle Soup, aka "Supa ot Kopriva" or "Супа от Коприва"

Words cannot describe how much I like nettle soup and how excited I was today when I saw fresh nettle leaves at the farmers market... I went CRAZY!!! I ran to the ATM to get some cash and got myself a bag of fresh stinging nettle leaves and as soon as I got home I started cooking. Last time I had nettle soup was in 2006 when I went back to Bulgaria and my grandma made it for me. I have been craving it ever since and today I finally had some of this amazingly delicious soup. The flavor is very unique and nutty and it just tastes so so good.

  • 1lb fresh nettle leaves, stems removed, washed well and chopped
  • 3 - 4 small carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 - 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white rice
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • some feta cheese to garnish
  • salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika to taste

In a large boiling pot sauté the onions and garlic in some olive oil until soft and translucent. Then add the carrots and cook for 5 min until soft.

Then add the chopped nettle leaves and cook about 5 min, or until all the water is released (nettle leaves behave like spinach and will pretty much evaporate upon cooking so do not get alarmed if the 1 lb of leaves seems too much) and season with salt, black pepper, red pepper and some cayenne pepper.

Then add water (add little by little until you reach a desired consistency), the rice and the walnuts and bring to a boil and cook for ~ 15 minutes, or until the rice is ready.

Serve as is or with crumbled feta and a spoon of plain yogurt and ENJOY!

October 17, 2010

Spinach and Sorrel soup, aka "Supa ot Spanak i Kiselec"

Another one of my all time favorites and a great soup for all you vegetarians and vegans! Alternatively, it can be made with spinach only, but I really like the taste of sorrel - it adds slight sour-flavor that is surprisingly refreshing and delicious. As always, feel free to scale up or down, depending on how many hungry throats you will be feeding :) ... And I have to give Plodova Salata credit for this soup, since she made it for me first and kindly provided sorrel from her garden!

1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 carrots, sliced
2 bell peppers, chopped
1 lb fresh baby spinach, washed (or 2 lbs if you are not adding any sorrel)
1 lb sorrel (this is "киселец"... I only had frozen kiselec), washed and coarsely chopped
1 cup rice
Spices: salt, black and red pepper, cayene pepper, cumin, savory

In a large pot, saute the onions and garlic with some olive oil over medium heat. Then add the carrots, celery, bell peppers and all the seasonings / spices and continue cooking until all the vegetables are soft (5 min). Then add the washed spinach and sorrel and cook for additional 5 minutes or until all the leaves have released water. Add water (~ 1.5 - 2 Liters) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the rice and simmer for 20 min. (TIP: If you are in a hurry, you can reduce the cooking time by adding pre-heated water to the spinach.)

Serve and ENJOY!

Also for the non-vegans, this soup goes incredibly well with a spoon of plain yogurt and some feta cheese! Double Enjoy!

October 09, 2010

ETL:Bulgarian Vegetable Stew - "Gyuvetch"

There are many healthy and tasty vegetarian dishes in the Bulgarian cuisine. One of them is the famous gyuvetch. Many people cook gyuvetch with meat, beef, lamb or pork. Traditionally it is cooked with seasonal vegetables, baked in  in a clay pot. Since not many spices are added to this dish, the key is to find the perfect selection and proportion of vegetables and cook them the right amount of time to get the best blend of flavors and texture. For me the gyuvetch is one of the most difficult dishes to cook, and extremely rewarding when I get it right.

Here is my humble version of gyuvetch:


1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
2-3 small or 1 big eggplant, cubed
2 zucchini, cubed
1 celery stalk, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
1/2 lb green beans, chopped
2-3 bell or other kind sweet peppers
1/2 okra cleaned and cut at 2 " pieces
1 can diced tomatoes (optional )
2-3 Yukon gold potatoes
few sprigs mint and savory
2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste and 1 tbsp paprika
1 cup Veggie broth

First clean and chop all the vegetables. Try to cut into similar size pieces to get the veggies cook simultaneously. Also the dish looks better when you get a mix of good shaped and bright colored vegetables. You must be careful to not overcook the vegetables to keep their colors fresh.
Saute the onions and garlic. I added salt, a little bit dry mint, and savory (chubritza).

Meanwhile boil water and pour it over the okra. You must soak the okra in hot water for 10-15 minutes and rinse it to get rid of the slime.

Add  first the carrots, then the celery, and then the eggplant to the pot and saute them for 2 minutes before adding the next veggie.

 Add the peppers and the green beans and sate them for 2 minutes.  

Then add the paprika and pour the broth. Cook for about an 30 minutes, before adding the okra, and the zucchini. After 30 more minutes add the potatoes. Cook them for about 20 minutes and then add the tomatoes. Always add the tomatoes at the end, otherwise the acids from the tomatoes would prevent the vegetables from cooking.

Cook till the potatoes get soft. Add parsley, and serve with MM's brown rice on a side or dip the Marulka's crusty ciabatta in the delicious sauce.