July 01, 2011

Fiesta Farro Salad


I prepared a nice summer farro salad inspired by a similar dish I had tried at Il Cane Rosso in the San Francisco Ferry Building. Less tomatoey, more festive because of the touch of cilantro and the (semi) home-made tortilla strips...

It was perfect on a nice summer evening - filling because of the whole grains and at the same time light and refreshing because of the fresh veggies without lacking flavor (freshly boiled corn and grilled peppers are key!)
Farro works great here not only because it has a rich nutty flavor but also because it has the right amount of chewiness and can stand up to the juicy tomatoes and peppers.

Here are the ingredients I used:
  • Italian farro (love Costco's variety)
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Grilled red/yellow bell peppers
  • Corn
  • Diced cucumber
  • Diced onion
  • My best extra virgin olive oil
  • Rice vinegar (I'm a die hard Trader Joe's vinegar fan)
  • Cilantro
  • Tortilla strips
  • Feta cheese (cotija cheese would be great too!)
  • Salt a black pepper

May 24, 2011

Fresh Peas and Carrots Pasta Salad

We got a big bag of fresh English peas from the vegetable box and I decided to use them in a pasta salad. The shelling takes a while but let me tell you, the effort was well worth it! The peas were really flavorful and together with fresh carrots and bell peppers made for a delicious pasta salad dish.

  • 3 cups fresh shelled peas
  • 2 cups finely chopped carrots
  • 1 cup finely chopped kalamata olives
  • 2 red bell peppers, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 1/2 bunch basil (finely chopped)
  • olive oil, salt, black pepper

Bring ~1 L of water with some salt to a boil and add the fresh peas and boil for 2 min, then immediately remove from the hot water and put into a bowl with iced water to stop the cooking process. Repeat the same with the carrots and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Boil 1 lb of penne pasta for 9 - 10 min (or according to instructions) in slightly salted water. Drain the pasta but make sure to save ~ 1/4 cup of the water. Do not rinse the pasta after draining, but instead sprinkle with olive oil and mix well to prevent it from sticking together. Also add couple of table spoons of the leftover pasta water to make sure the pasta stays hydrated and does not stick.

Let the pasta cool for ~10 min and then add the peas, carrots, peppers, olives and the chopped basil. Mix well and season with salt, black pepper and some more olive oil. Lastly, add the feta cheese, mix and enjoy!

April 20, 2011

Creamy Asparagus Soup (with no cream :)

Very delicious, nutritious and easy to make soup made from fresh asparagus. Muhlio Muhlev suggested adding in some cauliflower and potatoes and the soup turned out very tasty. For a vegan recipe, omit the butter and cheese!

3 lb fresh asparagus - chopped into 2cm pieces
1 small leek
2 stems fresh garlic
1 fresh spring onion
2 sweet potatoes (or regular potatoes)
1 head of cauliflower
2 table spoons of unsalted butter
2 table spoons of olive oil
salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and cumin to taste

 1. Finely chop the leek, garlic and onion and sauté over medium heat in 2 table spoons olive oil for 5 min, or until soft and translucent.

2. Add the asparagus, cauliflower and chopped sweet potatoes and sauté for additional 5 minutes. Season with salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and some cumin to taste.

3. Add water and bring to boil and boil for 10 min or until all the vegetables are fully cooked.

4. Carefully transfer to a blender (do it in several batches) and puree the soup. Once it is all pureed, transfer back to the original pot and add 2 table spoons of butter. Heat for 2 min and stir well until the butter has completely melted.

5. Serve with some shredded Parmesan cheese and some croutons and ENJOY!


February 26, 2011

Bibimbap (Mixed rice with vegetables) - Bulgarian style

This delicious dish is a perfect refrigerator cleaner. You can use any type of vegetables, meat, or cheese to compose this dish. It is an ideal food to serve when you have friends over. Just prepare everything in advance and arrange in individual clay pots. Bake and serve when your guests come.

6-8 servings

  • 1 big onion, sliced
  • 3 large carrots, julienned
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 different colors bell peppers, julienned
  • 1 bunch of collard greens (or spinach), julienned
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 chicken thighs, cut into small bites
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups steamed rice

 First steam the rice.

Till the  rice is cooking, clean and slice the vegetables. 


Brown the chicken in 1 tbsp oil. Add spices to your taste, such like salt, fresh ground black pepper, cumin, and savory.

Take out the chicken, add a another tablespoon of oil and saute the onions. Season the vegetables.

Turn the oven on to preheat to 400 F. Next saute the peppers, and the jalapenos.

Then the Collard greens. Add oil if needed.

Arrange the ceramic pots on a cookie sheet. and start layering the ingredients. Start with the rice.

Next add the carrots, onions, peppers, greens and the chicken. Crack an egg on top of each, add a pinch of salt and black pepper on the egg.

 Place the lids and bake for 30 minutes. Take out the lids at the last 10 minutes.

Pour a glass of red wine and enjoy!

February 08, 2011

Mint Chicken Stew

This is another meal my children adore, so I am publishing the recipe per their request.

  • 2 chicken breasts cut into large cubes, or 6-8 chicken thighs 
  • 2 big carrots cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 lb potatoes, cut into big, ~1 inch cubes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 big onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dry mint
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • salt to taste
  • fresh parsley
In a big pot saute the chicken in the olive oil. Add the mint, the salt, and the onions.

Add few sprinkles hot red pepper flakes.

Cook until the onions become soft. Add the sweet paprika, the carrots and the tomatoes.

Add 3-4 cups water or chicken broth, close the lid and cook it until the chicken and the carrots are ready, about an hour. Then add the potatoes. While the potatoes are cooking take out a cup of the stew sauce in a bowl and wait for 5 minutes for it to get colder. Mix well the flour into the sauce and pour it back to the pot. Cook for another 15 minutes till the potatoes are ready and the sauce thickens.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with salad and bread.

February 01, 2011

Pickled Vegetables - "Trushia"

Pickled vegetables, a.k.a. turshia or trushia, as it is pronounced differently in different parts of Bulgaria, is an excellent accompaniment to meat dishes. Typically it is made in the late fall with the last load of vegetables picked in the home gardens. Made in huge amount, the turshia is then stored in the darkest and coldest places of the houses to last till spring. In the older times people ate only produce in season, so the typical winter diet consisted mainly of grilled pork cutlets, and home made sausages,  pork stews with potatoes, beans, pork cooked with pickled cabbage, and of course turshia. All the households in the villages had pigs and the killing and processing of the meat from the pig, usually happening around Christmas, was a pleasant occasion for family and friends gatherings and celebrations. The trushia had permanent place on the tables, used as an appetizer that people had when drinking rakia and a side dish for the meat dishes. Every family had their own recipes, or tips and tricks, and there was always a silent competition going on of who makes the most crunchy, fresh and delicious turshia.
These days, when we eat fresh vegetables all year round, we don't make turshia very often. It happens once in a while, usually around Christmas, to follow the years-long  tradition and satisfy the cravings we usually experience. 
A friend of mine DM gave me this simple recipe for a quick turshia. It gets ready in 2-3 days. There are variations of what types of vegetables you can use. In addition to my list below, you can add regular cabbage, green tomatoes, and small sweet peppers. The original recipe recommends slightly grilling the tomatoes and peppers before adding them to the mix.

This is what I used:
(Adapted from the original recipe)
  • 2-3 heads cauliflower, cleaned and cut in small pieces
  • 8 - 10 carrots cut in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 5 celery stalks, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 lb peppers cut in pieces. I use different colors peppers
  • 1 head garlic, each clove peeled and cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 bunch of parsley

  • 300 g vegetable oil
  • 500 g sugar
  • 200 g salt
  • 700 g apple cider vinegar


Boil the marinade and leave it aside. Mix all the vegetables, with the exception of garlic and parsley, in a big pot. Pour the marinade over the vegetables. Be careful not to use very hot marinade, because the vegetables will loose their crunchiness and become mushy. Cover with plastic foil or a lid and leave it for 24 hours in a cool place.
On the next day, add the garlic and parsley. Pack the turshia in glass jars and store in the fridge. If you live in a cold weather you can keep it outside. Usually the turshia is ready for eating in 2-3 days.

January 30, 2011

Crepes or Palachinki (Палачинки)

Palachinki (Crepes, or Палачинки) is a popular Bulgarian brunch item. When we were growing up my mom and grandma would make them on the weekends and we would wait around the stove and just grab them as soon as they were done and devour them with either honey, jam or feta cheese! The recipe is quite simple and with the modern kitchen appliances (such as Blenders) everyone can make perfect batter and enjoy delicious home made crepes!

  • 4 eggs
  • 16 table spoons all purpose flour
  • 1 table spoon sugar
  • 1/2 table spoon salt
  • 1/4 table spoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup water (sparkling water works great but if you don't have any then tap water is just fine)

Put eggs + flour + sugar + salt + vanilla + milk + water in a blender. Blend until the mixture is nice and homogeneous and there are no more chunks of flour left.

Put very little olive oil in a pan and heat on med/high setting.

Then gently add ~ 2/3 laddle of the batter and swirl the bottom of the pan while adding in order for the batter to be evenly distributed. Cook on med/high heat for ~ 1 min then flip the crepe and cook for another minute.

Serve with your favorite jam or honey or whatever else you like on your crepe.

January 27, 2011

Zelnik (Зелник)

This traditional Bulgarian variant of Banitsa (Баница) is really delicious and our favorite during the Holiday season. Usual recipe calls for leeks, spinach and sorrel, but you can put any leafy greens that you have on hand and you will not be disappointed. Lokuma made this couple of weeks ago and she put kale and it tasted really good! Online you can find other recipes for Zelnik and some of those even include meat, but where we come from we've always had it vegetarian.

1 pack fillo dough
3 eggs
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 lb feta cheese, crumbled
3 leeks
1 bunch spinach
1 bunch kale
1/8 cup butter + 1/8 cup olive oil

0. Preheat oven to 400F.

1. Wash the leeks really well to get rid of any dirt and slice them finely (using food processor really helps here). Wash the kale and chop really finely. Wash and chop the spinach.


2. Saute the leeks with a little bit of olive oil over medium heat for about 5 min. Then add the chopped kale and cook with the leeks until fully cooked (10 min). Last add the spinach and cook until all water has been released (5 min).


3. In a large mixing bowl combine the crumbled feta and eggs and mix well. Then add the yogurt and mix until homogeneous consistency.

4. Melt the butter and the olive oil and lightly grease the bottom of a 9' x 13' pan.

5. Place one sheet of fillo dough and grease it slightly with the oil+butter (very easy if you have a brush). Then place a second sheet of dough on top of it and grease again. Place a third sheet and this time add 1/3 of the sauteed greens (distribute evenly along the surface) and 1/3 of the egg+feta+yogurt mix. Cover the filling with new sheet of fillo dough and repeat the layering (pretty much 3 sheets of fillo dough greased lightly in between => filling =>3 sheets fillo dough => filling => 3 sheets of fillo dough => filling => 3 sheets fillo dough).


6. Once done layering, cut the Zelnik into squares and put in the oven.

7. Bake at 400F for ~ 40 min or until nicely brown. You can cover with  aluminum foil for the first 20 min to prevent the edges from becoming too brown.