It all started with Sergey Donika’s Moldovan Cuisine, a book that one might call obscure for rather obvious reasons: 1) it’s written in Russian, 2) it was published in Chișinău, and 3) I found it in a bookstore in Kiev. Overnight, I went from not knowing a single Moldovan dish to having at my disposal “500 ancient and contemporary recipes” — at least that’s what it says on the cover. I’m afraid that this sudden profusion of choices (many of which didn’t sound all that different from one another), plus the fact that the book contains no index or detailed table of contents, left me a little bit confused. I completed my reading with the vague notion that I should be trying a dish with turkey, pumpkin, and prunes, and labeling it as Moldovan…
So, there! My Moldovan turkey gratin is full of what appears to be quintessential Moldovan ingredients, and it’s layered and baked like a Moldovan moussaka. Moreover, for my American readers, it’s an instant Thanksgiving classic that doesn’t even require you to be able to spell / pronounce / locate Chișinău on a map — and if you can’t wait till next year, you can always prepare it for Christmas. This makes a sophisticated side for roasted turkey breast, or a whole bird minus one leg. Or you can easily adapt the recipe to use your leftovers.
It’s been almost 3 months since I last wrote about my adventures in the Caucasus. All this time, I’ve been planning to talk about the various kinds of baklava in Azerbaijan (locally known as pakhlava), but the task turned out to be harder than I anticipated.
There are almost as many kinds of pakhlava as there are regions in Azerbaijan. You’ll find different variations in Baku, Ganja, Qabala, Nakhchivan, Shaki, and finally, Quba. The bad news is that the distinctions between them seem to be poorly documented. My cookbooks gave me a handful of recipes for the Baku, Ganja, and Shaki varieties, but the others remain a mystery, even in the days of the Internet.
Happy Thanksgiving, Americans!
If you haven’t made a dinner plan for Turkey Day, it’s not entirely too late:
As for your leftovers on Black Friday, you should be able to adapt some of these recipes:
- The Turkey plov will help you repurpose both your gobbler and your butternut squash.
- I could see the Guinea Hen Rillettes working with turkey leg and thigh meat.
- The Kurnik can be done with white and dark meat, and will move a lot of leftover turkey. But of course, you may find yourself with leftover kurnik the next day
This past weekend, we went to Brighton Beach to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy on the Russian restaurant scene, and support the local businesses with a few shots of vodka.
This recipe is inspired by the crab salad I ate at Baku Palace in Sheepshead Bay a few weeks ago (my restaurant review will come soon, but for now the place is still without power since Hurricane Sandy). The original recipe was terribly deceptive, as the dish, priced at $20 for two people, consisted of julienned cucumber, ground walnut, and… surimi.
So, in order to get rid of the feeling of being cheated, I figured I’d do my own version at home, for about the same price but with real king crab. I added a couple of elements to the recipe and I’m serving it on toasted bread, but the spirit remains the same. Compared to many other posts on my blog, this is surprisingly quick and easy to make. And still delicious!
Pirozhki are Russian buns, usually individual-sized and baked. As with varenyky, you can fill them with pretty much anything you want — in fact, you could even use the exact same fillings for pirozhki and varenyky. It’s not rare, however, to find more diverse recipes, some of then even in classic French cookbooks. Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire, for example, counts a dozen variations called piroguis (not to be confused with Polish pierogi), and the Larousse Gastronomique has a few similar pirojkis, many of which take some serious culinary license with the real deal.
A note about my restaurant reviews: New York City counts many Eastern European restaurants scattered across the five boroughs, most of them ignored by restaurant critics and diners alike. I intend to visit as many as I can and report!
Café Glechik, a Ukrainian restaurant with locations in Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, derives its name from a Ukrainian word that means “a clay jar, a jug, a crock with something VERY DELICIOUS inside” (so says their website).