jmerar Profile - (16608265)


Home Town: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Living In:
Member Since: Oct. 2010
Cooking Level: Intermediate
Cooking Interests: Baking, Stir Frying, Slow Cooking, Asian, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Healthy, Vegetarian, Quick & Easy, Gourmet
Hobbies: Wine Tasting
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Bulgarian Musaka
Bulgarian Musaka
Kiselo Mlyako
Chicken Liver Soup with Pasta
About this Cook
My grandparents and great grandparents came here from Eastern Europe, bringing with them many culinary traditions. My parents were adventurous eaters, with my mother being an avid cook ... I first ate sushi when I was just six. Growing up my friends were mainly Korean, and my sister's best friend was Indian. Before I even knew how to toast bread I had a diverse palate and a strong want to discover new foods. Toss in a husband from the Balkans and what you get is a pantry that looks like an international market and a woman that can cook anything you throw at her ... as long as there is a recipe to follow.
My favorite things to cook
I love cooking ethnic foods and making everything from scratch including spice mixes. There is no specific ethnic cuisine that sends me over the moon more than another, but I am a sucker for soups. Russian, Bulgarian, Italian, French, Asian, Indo-Chinese, African ... it really doesn't matter. If I can slurp it with a spoon it gets my attention.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Gefilte fish is an acquired taste. I grew up with it and love the dish dearly. One of my fondest memories is of my mother clamping the meat grinder onto the kitchen table and grinding up the fish she brought home from the butcher. When that happened I always knew that 24 hours later I would be eating homemade gefilte fish with horseradish.
My cooking triumphs
My mother is a fantastic cook. Some of my fondest memories growing up were of her winter soups and stews, specifically oxtail stew. So when I changed her recipe and added my own twist, it was a major triumph for my father to say, "Don't tell your mother, but this is better than her oxtail stew."
My cooking tragedies
Along with all of the cooking genetics passed down to me, somehow the baking gene got lost. Pie crusts escape me, dough never has the right feel and homemade pastas and pierogis are always just a little to thick and slightly chewy ... sigh, I push onward regardless.
Recipe Reviews 29 reviews
Pasta Primavera with Lemon-Caper Sauce
This recipe was fast, simple and tasted ah-mazing! My husband said it was better than any restaurant pasta we've ever had, and we've eaten all around Italy. I used fresh zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli and carrots as that's what I had in the house. We generally don't eat frozen vegetables. So the only adjustment was to add the carrots, finely chopped, in with the vegetables at the beginning. Also, I used homemade chicken broth and pasta. This will definitely make it into our spring/summer meal rotation!

4 users found this review helpful
Reviewed On: Jul. 25, 2014
Mediterranean Meat Pies (Sfeeha)
Yummy little packages bursting with flavor! The combination of lamb and beef brought a really nice depth of flavor to the dish. I went a little heavier on the lamb since my meat from my CSA was already weighed out at 1lb. I made the pies with phyllo dough since that's what I had on hand, and just doubled the layers to get a sturdier outside. I served with Leshta ( and yogurt on the side. My husband loved the dish and we will definitely be making these again.

2 users found this review helpful
Reviewed On: Jan. 2, 2013
Solianka or Russian Beef Soup
This soup was really tasty. The dish is a winter soup with all of the pickled and marinated ingredients ... as throughout the year veggies and such are pickled and marinated to eat during the winter when fresh food sources dwindle. The flavor was really nice and balanced, and the soup itself was filling. I used fresh made kolbasa, which is a Russian version of kielbasa, and served with homemade black bread. My husband's only comment was that he didn't like having a bunch of olives in the bottom of his bowl when he was near the end of the meal. Next time I will chop the olives up a bit.

1 user found this review helpful
Reviewed On: Dec. 15, 2012
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