Category Archives: Veggies

Orzo with Veggies and Feta

Orzo with Feta

Orzo with Feta

I’ve been thinking about making something with orzo for a while, and saw a good recipe on Tasty Kitchen and thought I’d give it a try.  But you know me, I can’t follow directions when it comes to food, so, as always, I added my own touch on the recipe.

The asparagus I had was already roasted (LOVE! roasted asparagus) so that was one variation from the original recipe.  Another was the tomatoes.  I love tomatoes, and Sendik’s had cute little cherry tomatoes on sale.  These aren’t good enough to eat on their own yet, but are good enough to cook with (the added spiced and other things in the dish help out the paper-like taste of winter tomatoes).

1/2 cup orzo
1/2 lb spinach
1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
1/2 cup roasted asparagus (sliced on the diagonal in bite-sized pieces)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
Feta (as much as you like)
2 TB olive oil
Salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder to taste.

1. Cook orzo according to package directions
2. Let the minced garlic infuse the olive oil on relatively low heat, so it doesn’t burn, until you can smell it (or about 5 minutes)
3. Add the spinach and cook down a bit
4. Add the tomatoes, season, and cook together for about 5 minutes
5. Add the roasted asparagus and orzo
6. Add the feta

Garlic infusing oil

Garlic infusing oil

Cooked spinach

Spinach cooked down


Added the tomatoes


Added orzo and asparagus

Added feta

Added feta


Chaihana Continued…

Ok, as promised, now to the food….



My dad ordered Lagman. I love lagman (pronounced: lah-g-mahn, with emphasis on the last syllable). I subconsciously tried making it when I was adding my own twist on a chili recipe I read on the back of a can of beans. And I’ve made it myself quite a few times and you can check out my version. It has carrots and celery (though I don’t know how authentic the celery is and I never use it) and noodles and red bell peppers and lamb. Dad liked it.  And it had scallions as a garnish.

Mastava - Uzbek soup


This time around, I ordered Mastava (I think that’s how that soup is called and spelled and if I’m wrong, please let me know). It was delicious. The lamb was very well prepared, so tender it melted in your mouth as you ate it. No need to chew, really. Just inhale…. It had rice, lamb, carrots and other stuff I forgot about. And specks of emerald cilantro garnished the soup. Really good. Authentic. Notice how my sentences tend to shrink when the food is really fabulous. Probably because that’s all my mind is capable of at that moment and all the other mental powers are reserved to fully experiencing the decadence of the food. Love the flecks of cilantro garnishing most dishes. Just try it…Very yummy. I might have to try to make this at home one of these days. I wonder if I have a recipe somewhere… Hmmm. Oh, and this is a half-portion. Notice the difference between the full portion of Lagman and the half portion here. Not a whole lot of difference.

Manti - Uzbek food


Then we ordered manti. I’ve been wanting to try them here and so we did. There are several kinds on the menu, but we got the ones with lamb. Notice how huge these are; they were about the size of my fist, not like the ones we typically make. Also, notice that they’re served with sour cream and vinegar (the bottle behind the dish). You typically don’t mix the vinegar and sour cream, it’s either or. These were so right. I can’t say that about many places, but not many places claim to have Uzbek food. But these were sooooo good! And huge… The dough was a tad thick, but barely noticeable, and the meat was all good. The spices, meat to fat ratio, and all other aspects of manti were nearly perfect. I’d definitely recommend that dish to anyone.

Liver Shashlik - shish-kebab

Liver Shashlik - shish-kebab

We also ordered liver shashlik (shish-kebab). I think this specific type is called “djigar”, but I could be wrong. Someone correct me on this please. I don’t understand why it was served with the veggies. But ok. The onion is the authentic part of how it’s typically served. None of us liked this dish. It was too dry.

Liver Shashlik - shish-kebab

Liver Shashlik - shish-kebab

See in the picture how dry it was? It should be a lot more pink in the middle. It was like rubber; a workout for our knives and teeth. I hope they improve this. When it’s right, it melts in your mouth and has a very nice mouth feel, like pate. When it’s right even a baby/toddler could eat it.

Shashlik - shish-kebab

Shashlik - shish-kebab

Next, we tried “regular” shashlik. I must say that this is made from beef and not lamb, that’s why it’s in quotes. It’s as “regular” as you can have there. This is a hit or miss dish. The first time I had it I didn’t like because it had some weird spices. The server must have heard me describe that and had the kitchen leave it off this time so it was actually pretty good this time. It was seasoned and marinated properly and was very soft. Each skewer had plenty of meat and a serving is more than plenty.

Samsa - Uzbek dish

Samsa - Uzbek dish

The first time I was at this restaurant I also tried samsa. It was pretty good, but not how I remember, but then again, it’s been more than 20 years since I’ve had an authentic samsa. And this one was also very huge. These portions are very filling.
So let’s start at the beginning.

Samsa - inside view

Samsa - inside view

A samsa is a minced meat, fat, spices, and onion mixture that’s wrapped in dough and baked in a tandoori oven (tandyr). There are several kinds: rounds ones made from regular dough and triangular ones made of layered dough and not quite as tall as this one though they do puff up. This sucker was the size of my head! Not quite, but nearly. It also had more than onions for veggies but I couldn’t discern what all comprised the mixture. Still, it was very good. When made in a tandyr, the crust that forms on the bottom is very crunchy and the top is soft and when you bite into it, the juices run down your chin and the steam that escapes is like a sigh of contentment. I actually have a recipe that I’ve been thinking of trying for this.

Plov - Uzbek dish


And finally, what I always crave. Plov! This is definitely not for the weight-watching crowd. This thing is packed with most delicious calories. You got beef, fat, oil, rice, carrots, and other yummies. Don’t get me wrong, plov is worth it! This is my “holy grail”, something I really want to learn to make; I don’t have the correct pot for this (it’s cooked in a “kazan“, a cast-iron pot much like a dutch oven that’s not enameled). So if you know where I can get my hands on a kazan, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!
This dish alone is worth the trip (because I can’t make it home at the moment, not because it’s legendarily good). It’s the only consistently good dish I’ve had here (but I’ve only been here twice…) and I would go there just for it again, even if the meat was just a tad dry.  That they use beef instead of lamb is not authentic but that substitution is made often enough. It’s good, but don’t get me wrong, any competent home cook can make something far better. My grandma’s plov is hands-down a thousand times better; it’s legendarily good.  And I can’t even learn it (no kazan)!  Grrrr!  I tried a few times in an enameled cast iron pot, but everything sticks, so there’s burned rice on the bottom affecting the taste of everything else. But it was still edible.

Note: if you’re familiar with Indian cuisine, some things might look/taste familiar (like the use of lamb, rice, and spices).  Uzbek food is delicately spiced, but not spicy-hot; it’s heavy on the meat and very filling. (With all that we ordered, we had a lot of leftovers.)

Bring an empty stomach and an open mind if you’ve never tried these dishes before.

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff

After making the Mushroom Stroganoff I wanted to make the real thing. Especially considering that I haven’t had beef stroganoff in at least ten years. Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either when I started thinking about it. I actually don’t remember the last time I had it. And after I made the mushroom stroganoff, I started searching for recipes. But as you know, I have a hard time following a recipe. So, I decided to combine a few and the ones I liked were the Paula Dean version and a Cooking Light version.  Here is what I came up with:

1 lb of beef (I used the already-cut-up beef that you can find at your local grocery store)
3 TB of flour (this depends on your beef; you could use more or less)
24 oz. of mushrooms, sliced thinly (less mushrooms if you like less)
1 cup of low-fat sour cream
1 large onion, diced
Spices to taste (salt, black pepper, paprika, chipotle pepper)

Cook noodles according to package directions.
1. In a zip bag, season and flour the meat. Shake it to make sure the flour, salt, and pepper cover the meat.
2. In a large skillet, saute the onions and then the meat.
3. Add the mushrooms once the meat is done.
4. Once the mushrooms reduce, add sour cream and cook over low heat till you have a nice sauce and no lumps and the meat is cooked through.
Add seasonings as you go along to deepen the depth of flavor.

Serve over noodles.

Onions and meat

Onions and meat

Mushrooms added

Mushrooms added

Sauce for stroganoff

With Sour Cream

Another Giveaway

It’s been a long time since my last giveaway, and the wonderful people at Red Gold have offered another sampler.  What you’d get is a fairly large tin and in the tin are cans of tomatoes, a reusable bag (I use it all the time and it holds tons), a cookbook, and a commemorative cute little truck.

So, here are the rules:

Add a comment to this blog with your favorite or easy tomato recipe.  The owner of the winning recipe gets the prize.

Mushroom “Stroganoff”



I was reading a few yummy recipes, some for beef stroganoff and some for a mushroom and pasta dish, and the wires must have gotten crossed and this creation emerged.  I had a rather large packet of mushrooms from Costco and I’ve been trying not to waste them (again).  So I figured I’d saute them and server with ribbon pasta and some sort of sauce, but that’s not exactly what happened.  Here is what I did:

24oz packet of mushrooms (thinly sliced)
1 cup of low-fat sour cream
Roasted asparagus (optional; I just had some in the fridge so decided to use it)
1 large onion (diced)
Salt, freshly ground black pepper, sweet paprika, smoked spanish paprika (all to taste)
Noodles (I used half a pound of whole wheat ones)

Cook noodles according to package directions
1. Saute onion.
2. Add mushrooms and saute them too. If you see it sticking, add some stock or pasta water.
3. Add sour cream. Season.
4. Add asparagus, if using.


Mushrooms and onions

mushroom stroganoff

With Sourcream

mushroom stroganoff with pasta

With Noodles

Chicken Soup

chicken soup

Look at the golden glow!

I’ve never made chicken soup before. Mainly because I don’t really like it. I know, it’s an odd confession as an opening for a chicken soup recipe. But…. The soup I made wasn’t like the chicken soup I grew up with. What never appealed to me was the rich, clear broth that had little pools of chicken fat floating on top.

So I figured that instead of throwing a whole chicken into the pot with a carrot and an onion, I’d do something differently. I used a chicken breast, a chicken leg, and a bone in, skin on chicken thigh. As usual, I tried to remove as much fat as possible. I also added a lot more to the soup. There is the typical carrot, however, instead of just halving it, I diced it into half moons and sauted a little. The onion also got the saute treatment instead of being just halved and thrown in. Potatoes and a bell pepper also made their way into the pot. I wanted to add some more veggies (of the frozen variety) but there was no more room in the pot. Oh well. Here is what I did:

1 large white onion (diced)
1 large carrot (diced in large half moons)
chicken (whatever you want, but I used cut-up chicken breast, thigh, and leg)
6 cups of water (pretty much the max for my pan, but you can use more if you’d like a looser soup)
2 small-medium potatoes (I use Yukon Gold)
1 bell pepper (chopped in large chunks)
1-2 bay leaves (optional)
Salt, pepper, turmeric, spanish smoked paprika, sweet paprika (all to taste)

1. Saute the diced onion and carrots for a few minutes.
2. Add chicken and cover with water.
3. Bring water to a boil and add the spices.
4. Add the potatoes and bell pepper. Add the bay leaves if you’re using them. Check the spices in a few minutes (potatoes tend to absorb a lot).
5. Let simmer on low heat for a half hour or so.


Soup veggies sauteing

Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup Cooking

Ella’s Borsch

Finally! A recipe!

My family has been blessed with phenomenal cooks.  My grandma and her sister make absolutely different but fabulously sumptuous borscht.  That’s right, borscht.  The funny thing is, as ubiquitous as borscht is and as fundamental to “Russian” cuisine, I’ve never made it before today.  Usually, this is how the conversation about borscht goes:

Me:  Grandma, how do I make borscht?
Grandma: When would you like it?  I’ll make some for you.
Me:  No, thanks Grandma, I’d like to learn how to make it.
Grandma:  Well, you’ll need beets and other things.
Me:  Ok, I’ll call you this evening for a complete list of ingredients and quantities.
… Later that evening…
Grandma:  Come by when you can, I have borscht for you.

But today, I decided to pick grandma up so we’d cook it at my place, under her supervision/guidance. Between bouts of laughter, spilled grated carrots, spilled bag of dust from the vacuum, and life advice, we ended up cooking her sister’s recipe (my great-aunt Ella’s recipe).

Though this soup is completely vegetarian, even vegan if you avoid the dollop of sour cream, it doesn’t taste “weak” or like it’s just water and a cabbage.



2 medium potatoes, diced in medium-sized chunks (I like Yukon Gold)
1 red bell pepper, diced in smallish-sized chunks (if you’d like to use 2, it would be great)
1 medium onion, diced
2 small beets, grated
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 head of cabbage
3 bay leaves
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced (if you like more, you can add more)
2 TBSP of tomato paste (I used catchup instead)
Salt and pepper to taste
2-2.25 cups of water

1. Cook the potatoes and cabbage in a pot of boiling water till just tender. About 10 minutes or so.
2. Saute all the veggies (onion, grated carrot, grated beets, and diced bell pepper) till just soft. About 5-10 minutes or so.
3. Combine the ingredients to one pot (whichever pot is larger). I had a cast-iron pot where I sauteed the veggies that had enough room to add the potatoes, cabbage, and the cooking liquid of those, so that’s what I did. I transferred the cabbage, potatoes, and water to the pot with the veggies.
4. Once combined, check the salt level, add the bay leaves, check the water. This is where we added 2 cups of water.
5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer about 15-20 minutes. Check water again. If it’s too thick, add more water. We added about a quarter cup at this point.
6. Add the minced garlic and minced dill (dill, salt, pepper are all to taste).
7. Turn off the heat and let the pot stand there for about 10 minutes.

Enjoy the rich deliciousness. This is typically served with a dollop of sour cream and everyone I know eats it that way. My preferred way is to eat it instead with a slice if somewhat crusty bread and a few cloves of raw garlic. No fear of vampires here. 😉


Veggies Sauteing


Cabbage and Potatoes cooking


Borscht cooking