Tag 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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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

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Spread

Thanksgiving Spread

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, in large part because I love all the cooking.  Most people dread all the cooking, but I even take Wednesday off so I can make a few “spares”, just in case something doesn’t turn out and people still leave with overstuffed bellies.  I still love the holiday, despite the mandatory family squabbling.  But without further delay, here is the menu I’m planning (and yes, I take help where I can):

Appetizers:

  • Chicken wings (not a Thanksgiving staple, but I love them and they seem to go over pretty well with the family).  See above
  • Seafood puffs (puff pastry stuffed with seafood, store bought, and I hope they’re good).
  • Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Pizza Bites
  • Smoked Mackerel (this can be found in most Russian food stores; ask for “skumbria”)
  • Baked Asparagus with Cheese
  • Shrimp with sauce
Whole fish

Whole fish

Fish in pieces

Fish in pieces

 

 

 

 

Salads:

  • Seafood salad
  • Olivie? (a French salad, and every cook in former USSR has her/his own twist on it. This one is a maybe since I don’t like peeling potatoes or cutting cooked potatoes.) I decided not to make it this time.
  • Egg salad and mushroom
Turkey

Turkey

Main Course:

  • Baked potatoes (my family is averse to mashed potatoes with skins and I am averse to pealing potatoes)
  • Stuffing (of the StoveTop variety. My family will accept no other.)

Dessert:

Zephyr in Chocolate

Zephyr in Chocolate

  • I bought two pies at Sweet Pies of Door County and we’ll have that. They’re yummy, try one.
  • I also bought a Russian-style dessert called Zephyr in Chocolate. I’m not exactly sure what’s in it, but it seems a marshmallow-type substance covered in dark chocolate.

Recipes and pictures for all these to follow.

Salad

In my family, there is really only one Salad.  Yes, with a capital “S”.   Certainly we eat other salads, but none of them would resemble anything an American would recognize.  None of our salads have lettuce.

Ingredients:
1 small onion
2-3 medium tomatoes
Salt, to taste

Steps:
Cut the onion into thin half-moons. If you want to reduce the bite of the onion, soak it in cold, salty water for a little while (in my case, as long as it takes me to cut the tomatoes).

Onions in stalted water
Cut the tomatoes in half and cut out the woody stem. Cut the tomato halves into somewhat thin slices. Sprinkle with salt, to taste.

Completed Salad

There are many variations on this salad. Some add cucumbers, or dill, or dress it with olive oil, or sour cream or a combination of those.