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Tkemali: Georgian Plum Sauce

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Tkemali is a Georgian sauce, as well as the name of the variety of sour plum from which it is derived. You can buy commerically produced Georgian or Russian versions of tkemali at Eastern European import stores, but since we’re boycotting Russian products, why not make it yourself?

It’s basically the Eurasian version of ketchup, served most commonly on meat, poultry and potato dishes, but really on anything. Much like ketchup, it’s tangy, tart, sweet, all-purpose, and will stain whatever you get it on, so don’t make it wearing your favorite hot-pink work shirt.

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I adapated this recipe from the New York Times and served it with oven-fried tofu ala Cameraphone Vegan, which seems to be the closest vegan version of Chicken Tabaka.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound plums (not too ripe)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar, or more, to taste — I used a TBS
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (I left this out — you can use fenugreek too)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or 2 tsp dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Blanch the plums in boiling water for 30 seconds, then rinse under cold water. Peel (confession: I didn’t peel mine) and remove the pits.
  2. Simmer plums in water with lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and peppers, coriander and cumin/fenugreek for about 5 minutes or until plums are soft.
  3. Transfer to a blender and blend until well blended. Worst. sentance. ever.
  4. Bring back to saucepan and add dill and cilantro. Cook about 5 more minutes until thickened.
  5. Chill it or serve hot.

Morel sauce for crepes or pasta

Russian food has a reputation for being boring, but the 10 pounds I gained when I studied there back in the day hints that I think otherwise.

I’ve been fond of Russian cuisine ever since. I love it. The comforting heaviness. The reliance on fat and starch. The dominant flavors of onion and garlic. The national obsession with mushrooms. Dill.

This was supposed to be a super-duper elegant Russian-inspired topper for asparagus-filled blini (Russian crepes), which are pretty fancy even without morel sauce, but my stubborn batter had a total crush on the bottom of the pan and would not part ways with it, even though this meant its own demise.

WHAT TO PUT MY MOREL SAUCE ON?!?!

I panicked — nothing says “kitchen disaster” more than wasting $10 of fungus — until my eyes settled on a package of fusilli on the counter.

Whew. Pasta saves the day again.

Morel sauce

Modified from a recipe from New Pioneer Coop — makes 2 big servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cippolini onion, diced
  • olive oil, for sautéing
  • 6 oz morels, sliced into rings
  • 4 TBS sherry
  • 1/2 cup soy creamer
  • 1 TBS nooch
  • 1 TBS chopped fresh dill
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 4 oz pasta, for serving

Very rough instructions:

  1. Saute mushrooms in oil until starting to brown. Add morels and saute for a few more minutes.
  2. Add sherry, and allow to cook for a few minutes. Add everything else, except flour.
  3. Whisk in the flour. You probably should take some of the juice out, whisk the flour in, and then pour it back into the pan and stir, but I’m lazy.

Basic stir-fry sauce

I really like this simple, Asian-influenced sauce on a package of tofu, cubed, and a few bunches broccolini or rapini. Serve over rice. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Pretty basic, right?

Basic stir-fry sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbs sherry
  • 1 tbs peanut butter
  • 1 TBS potato starch
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced (which I usually saute separately)
  • whatever flavors you think are missing (more ginger, sesame oil, etc.)

Instructions:

  1. Whisk together all ingredients.
  2. Saute veggies and tofu (or whatever) until almost cooked and then pour sauce over. Let thicken and warm, then serve.

Crock pot spaghetti sauce

David gave me a crock pot for my birthday.

Not long after, my coworker Angelo vacationed in Mexico and returned with the desire to replicate the food he ate there. He too bought a crock pot.

We’ve been talking crock a lot lately. Well, not a lot, but probably more than typical 20-somethings do.

Angelo shared with me his mom’s ridiculously easy, ridiculously tasty spaghetti sauce recipe. I wrote it down on a post-it note.

It’s actually his dad’s recipe, but something inside me loves the image of a plump Italian mother standing over a simmering pot. (For the record: his mother appears to be actually quite fit.)

My version calls for fancy San Marzano tomatoes (grown domestically) just to be posh and Italian-like, but you could use whatever.

Put it the sauce on when you leave for work, let it simmer all day long, and the aroma of heaven will greet you when you enter the door 10-12 hours later– your olfactory glands will thank you, as will your taste buds.

Seriously. You will swoon.

Mama Carosio’s Spaghetti Sauce
makes many, many servings — at least 8-10 cups

  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 28-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 small can (6 oz?)  tomato paste
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • “a bunch of garlic”
  • “Half a bottle of wine — well, more like 1/4 to 1/3 bottle, but a lot of wine.” (1/4 bottle)
  • “Italian spices” — 2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp dried thyme, 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 TBS or so (I eyeballed it) olive oil
  1. Mix everything in a Crock pot.
  2. Cook on low for 10-12 hours.
  3. Serve over pasta, polenta, etc. — anything you want to be delishified.

Enchiladas Veganos

Corn tortillas + sauteed onions + sauteed spinach + mozzarella Daiya + slivered almonds. Smother in sauce. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Pat yourself on the back for making such a good decision.

Enchilada sauce (adopted from Foodista)

  • 1 medium tomato
  • 2 small dried serrano peppers
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Thyme
  • 1/2  teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 Clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon Lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon Flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Olive oil
  1. In a vita mix or powerful blender, blend tomato. Add pepper and blend until well mixed.
  2. Add oregano, cumin, garlic, cocoa powder, lime juice, salt and broth. Blend.
  3. In a large skillet, saute the flour and oil over medium heat for 1 minute.
  4. Add blended mixture. Raise heat to high and boil, stirring constantly until thickened.
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