Category Archives: Salad

Chaihana

With my all-encompassing love of Uzbek food, I try to find every opportunity to sample it.  But sometimes, I have to make these opportunities.  So, a while back, the folks and I drove to the Botanical Gardens in Chicago and for lunch/dinner went to the Uzbek restaurant not too far from there.  The restaurant is called Chaihana (19 West Dundee Road Buffalo Grove, IL; 847-215-5044) and is in a strip-mall next to Rogan Shoes. Don’t let the location fool you, it’s an oasis where your hunger for scrumptious food and delicious drink will be fulfilled.  There were several articles written about it, and this one is probably one of the better ones.

Chaihana

Chaihana

This was my second trip to this restaurant and I wish it were closer to where I live. Not that absolutely everything was always fantastic, but it’s pretty great. Of course it differs from how we make this kind of food at home and how it was made in Tashkent, but it’s pretty close given the limitations (the lamb species here is different from the lamb in Tashkent, so it’s missing the proper fat, and there are no tandyr (tandoori) ovens).

Chaihana interior

Chaihana interior

The decor is surprisingly  nice. I like that there are crisp, clean, white table cloths and napkins; I like the little fountain, the murals, and the suzaneh (pronounced: soo-za-neh with the accent on the last syllable in this case) hanging on the wall. My grandma has one that was made especially for her at her work as a sign of respect and appreciation. It was given to her at her retirement party.

Suzaneh

Suzaneh

Here is a close-up of the suzaneh.
Seeing it in this restaurant just reminded me so much more of where I came from, made it feel more authentic, and I’m sure made the food taste all that much better.  Though our waiter was not an Uzbek, we learned that the owners have lived in Andijon (a city in Uzbekistan) for many years.  And no, I don’t have a suzaneh hanging on my walls, nor does anyone else in my family. It’s stored in some dusty suitcase somewhere…

But back to the food….

Tea in Piala

Tea in Piala

First things first…. We ordered hot tea. Remember that it was the middle if winter and cold and there’s nothing better than a steaming cup of real black tea. By real I mean loose leaf, not in a tea bag. See, you can even see the leaf floating in the cup. Oh, and these cups are called piala or pialushka (pronounced: pee-a-loosh-ka, with the emphasis on the “loo” part; with pialushki being the plural). The tea was good, so totally hit the spot. Ahhhh, bliss… And it helped that it was served in the traditional tableware. We have that same set at home, it’s what helped fill our crates when we came here (and if you know where we can get more, please let me know!) and the atmosphere was therefore so much more comfortable and homier.

Salad

Salad

Then we ordered food. It felt like we ordered half the menu, but the portions were very generous and we had plenty to take home.
We ordered salad (“achichuk“), like the one we typically make at home. But we (I) typically leave the cucumbers off. It was pretty good, and I was surprised since it was the middle of winter and the tomatoes were pretty good. You know me and tomatoes…  If you search online for this restaurant you’ll see other reviews and sometimes incorrect descriptions.  This salad is not pickled as others claim, and you can see that from the picture.

Lepyoshka - Uzbek bread)

Lepyoshka - Uzbek bread

We also ordered bread. It’s called a lepyoshka (pronounced: le-pyo-shka), and should generally be made in a tandyr, but this was done in a regular oven. It was pretty good, but of course, not like what you’d get in Tashkent pretty much at any bazaar, even the little sidewalk ones. The open fire really adds quite a bit of flavor and puts it over the top. I really like the sesame seeds on it; just adds a really nice hint of nutty-ness and changes the flavor profile of the whole thing. These are made from scratch daily and are served warm. YUM!

This post is getting pretty long, and I haven’t even gotten to the main course. So please stay tuned to the next post.

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Roasted Salad

Roasted Salad

Roasted Salad

I am so thrilled that it’s finally summer, but it seems I can’t give up my oven. Though I do have a grill, it’s an electric one. 😦 My local fire department does not allow grilling on balconies. But I still love summer veggies and have a tendency to buy too much. So, today, I decided to put some of those veggies to good use and make a salad. Since roasting is so easy and brings out the flavor so much, I decided to sacrifice personal comfort in my caricature-worthy tiny kitchen for the benefit of the salad.

Ingredients:
3 bell peppers (I used red, orange, and yellow)
1 bunch of asparagus
1/2 red onion diced
1 tb basil
Salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar to taste

Steps:
1. Cut up the peppers in large chunks and clean the asparagus
2. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
3. Roast to your desired doneness at 425 degrees; I roasted the asparagus for about 5-6 minutes and peppers for about 15-20.
4. When the veggies cool, dress with a little bit of balsamic vinegar.
5. Add the diced onion.
6. Sprinkle with a little bit of basil

Roasted Salad Detail

Roasted Salad Detail

Voila! Ready to serve.

Orzo with Roasted Shrimp

Shrimp and Orzo salad

Shrimp and Orzo salad

This dinner is completely inspired by Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa.  I love her style of cooking and many of her recipes and have tried quite a few.  But I had a couple pounds of shrimp sitting around and I wanted to use up some of it.  I also had a ton of veggies sitting around and I didn’t want to waste those either.  So, I thought that orzo would be a perfect canvas to combine all these great ingredients. I tried to stick to her recipe for the most part, but of course, I had to make things “mine” by switching a few things.

Ingredients:
Shrimp
1/2 cup (dry) orzo
2 bell peppers (I used yellow and orange)
1/4 large hothouse cucumber
1/4 cup feta (I used French feta, but use your favorite/whatever you have on hand)
basil, lots (I used about a 1/4 cup)
2 TB olives, finely minced
2 scalions finely minced.
Olive oil, salt, pepper to taste

Steps:
1. Dice the bell peppers and cucumber.
2. Cook the orzo according to package directions.
3. Combine all the ingredients.

Orzo with Shrimp

Orzo with Shrimp

Oven Roasted Shrimp

Oven Roasted Shrimp

Birthday Celebration

Birthday Celebration

Birthday Celebration

I know that it looks like I haven’t cooked anything in months.  And it’s almost true.  I have cooked things I already wrote about and have a few more recipes I haven’t posted.  But let me start with the birthday celebration which was in early March.

I made two roasted chickens, just to be sure I had enough. But one was enough. Everyone seemed to love it. I hope they weren’t just polite but actually liked it.

I also made:

Additionally, I bought a lot of marinated things such as marinated tomatoes, mushrooms, and pattisons (baby squash of some kind).

Nora’s Salad

Eggplant Salad

Eggplant Salad

Nora and I got together and cooked again today. And boy did we cook! We made shurpa (a lamb soup), damlyama (a lamb and vegetable dish) and a new salad. Since I don’t know the name for that salad and since she introduced us to it, I’ll just call this “Nora’s Salad”. She said that she’s been making it for ages. It’s absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:
2-3 eggplants (cut up like fries)
4 tomatoes thinly sliced (we used Roma tomatoes)
1 medium onion (thinly sliced in half moons and soaked in a water/vinegar solution)
1/2 cup total of dill and flat leaf (Italian) parsley finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely minced
Salt to taste
Oil for frying (or if you have a deep fryer, that would work too)
1/4 – 1/2 cup of vinegar

Finished Salad

Finished Salad

Steps:
1. Cut the onion into half moons and soak in a water/vinegar solution for at least a half hour. If you have more time, that would be fine too. Use about 1/4 cup of vinegar about as much water.
2. Cut up the eggplant like you would potatoes for french fries. Soak the eggplant in water for at least a half hour. More would work fine too. Soaking removes the bitterness. Remove as many seeds as possible, but if there are some left, that’s fine.
3. Fry the eggplant in oil in batches and layer the salad as follows:

  • Eggplant
  • Minced garlic
  • Onion
  • Tomatoes
  • Greens (dill/parsley mixture)
  • Repeat.
Salad Layers

Salad Layers

Eggplant Soaking

Eggplant Soaking

Eggplant Frying

Eggplant Frying

Memories of Summer (tomato salads)

Aren't they cute!

Aren't they cute!

On days like today and those like last week, I need to remember summer. Since tomatoes are my favorite food, it’s hard to replicate the feeling of summer in the dead of winter. But somehow, I was able to spot good tomatoes at Costco (yes, I know, but they were great). These little beauties were so sweet (they were intended for soup or sauce, but I tasted one and decided that they’re good enough for salad).
So here’s my new take on salad.

Ingredients:
Tomatoes
Onions
Feta
Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar
Salt, pepper (to taste)

Steps:
1. Quarter the tomatoes
2. Slice the onions into thin moons
3. Add salt, pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and feta. Mix. Eat.

Tomato close-up

Tomato close-up

Salad

Salad

Roasted Tomatoes

Fresh Roma Tomatoes

Fresh Roma Tomatoes

I found this recipe on The Perfect Pantry and decided to give it a try.  I followed the recipe closely, but not exactly.  Since ovens vary, I actually roasted my tomatoes for around 14 hours (started late in the evening and turned it off in the morning).  Also, I didn’t add the thyme.  To me, it makes everything taste moldy.  Yeah, I know, it’s odd.

But just to recap, here is what happened.

Ingredients:
Several pounds of Roma tomatoes
Olive oil (if you have garlic olive oil, it would be PERFECT! here)
Garlic (a lot/to taste)
Salt
Black pepper, freshly ground

Seasoned Tomatoes

Seasoned Tomatoes

Steps:
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
2. Cut the tomatoes lengthwise. Salt and pepper liberally. Place on a cookie sheet.
3. Sprinkle minced garlic (this should be to taste and it should depend on how many pounds of tomatoes you have).
4. Drizzle olive oil and place the tomatoes into the oven.

The phenomenal smell emanating from the oven will be ridiculously hard to resist, but please do. The results will be well worth the wait.

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes