Tomato, eggplant and bell pepper salad

Growing up in Azerbaijan, our summers were spent outside the city, in our “summer home.” I say “summer home” because it’s not like the house you are imaging (no Hamptons or Cape Cod like). But what it lacked in amenities, it more than made up in fresh air, proximity to the Caspian Sea and family getting together. A meal we’ve had at least three times a week is kebab (or shashlik), basically beef, lamb and chicken skewers over open fire in a “mangal” which is a very simplistic grill using wood chips (a lot of the time branches found by kids aka me and my cousins). I unfortunately don’t have a photo of it, but just google it and you’ll see.

As delicious as the meat and potato over open fire was (and I will still take that meal any day over any pizza or steak), my favorite thing was a very simple salad made from charred tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplants. The beauty of this salad is the ingredients cook at the same time as the main dish, so no time lost. It is refreshing, simple and healthy. I make it as an accompaniment to a roasted chicken or steak. Since I live in an apartment and don’t have a grill (YET), I char the eggplants and tomatoes over my gas burner, just like that. Believe it or not, charring the vegetables is the hardest part of this salad. Well, you’ll see.

Tomato, Eggplant and Bell Pepper salad,

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  • One large eggplant, charred or grilled. You can also poke holes in the eggplant with a fork, and bake for 45 minutes, until soft. Do not peel the eggplant.
  • Two or three beefsteak tomatoes, roasted or grilled.
  • One bell pepper charred or grilled. You can also roast the pepper in the oven for 30 minutes or so. Just rub the pepper with sunflower oil.
  • One medium sized white or red onion, chopped.
  • A handful of cilantro or parsley.
  • Salt and pepper.
  • 2 tbs sunflower oil.
  1. Char all the vegetables, over open fire/ grill, or gas burner. You can also roast all in the oven, each will require a different amount of time.
  2. Keep turning the vegetables until all sides are grilled. If you see char marks on the tomatoes, don’t worry, that’s ok. You can tell the tomatoes are done when they are soft on all sides. The eggplant will “wrinkle” and be soft when squeezed. The vegetables will leak, but that’s normal too.
  3. Once all vegetables cooled, peel the meat of the eggplant best you can from the skin. You can cut it in half and use a spoon to scoop the eggplant out.
  4. Peel the skin off tomatoes.
  5. Chop the eggplants, tomatoes and the peppers roughly. Don’t worry about the cuts being the same size or neat. It is a “rustic” salad.
  6. Place all in a large bowl.
  7. Chop the onion and add to the vegetables.
  8. Roughly chop the cilantro and add to the bowl.
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Add sunflower oil and mix the salad.
  11. Let sit for a while, in the fridge so it absorbs all the flavor.
  12. Enjoy with pita bread, or as a side to any protein!

Golubci (stuffed cabbage)

I have only recently perfected my stuffed cabbage recipe…I tell ya, cabbage is really hard to work with. For a newbie especially. Having the perfect consistency of the leaves is crucial: you need to be able to tear the leaves off the cabbage and wrap your meat in it. Finally, I found a solution: savoy cabbage. The leaves are loose enough to come apart and soft enough to wrap. Of course, boiling is still required for the added softness. This dish requires butter, or meat with higher content of fat, because otherwise you have boiled ground beef with boiled cabbage. Not good. Adding “fat”, will ensure the flavors are great. This dish is best served with yogurt or sour cream. And bread, lotsa bread for dipping.



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  • 1 medium head of cabbage (savoy works best for me)
  • 1.5 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/4 cup of rice
  • Dried Oregano
  • Dried Mint
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tbsp tomato paste and 1 cup of hot water
  1. Onion: Finely chop or process in the food processor
  2. Add the onion, salt, pepper, oregano, mint and rice to the beef and mix well.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  4. Separate the leaves from the cabbage, gently and carefully and place 4 or 5 at a time into the boiling water, carefully.
  5. Let the cabbage boil for 5 minutes, then remove the leaves and drain.
  6. Let the cabbage leaves cool
  7. Scoop 1-2 tablespoons of meat mixture into each cabbage leaf and wrap like an envelope.
    1. place the mixture in the middle, then wrap the sides, then the ends and place seam down into a deep pot.
  8. Repeat until you are out of either cabbage leaves or meat
  9. Place the tomato paste into a bowl and pour hot water over it and mix until tomato paste has dissolved
  10. Pour the tomato mixture over the cabbage rolls, cover and bring to boil
  11. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for about 30 mins.
  12. Enjoy with a dab of sour cream or Greek yogurt



Fragrant Pot Roast

So I deviate a lot from plans. Mostly when it comes to food. I mean, I think I know what I want to make, plan the menu, but then something happens, like I come across an ingredient in a store that I just have to make, or something like and event throws the whole menu off. So where is this going? Very simple, I made an addition to my last week’s menu: I made pot roast. Initially, I made it for the wrong reasons: it was easy to make, it was not a lot of prep, I had little time blah blah.HOWEVER, it was the coziest, most satisfying dish to have on a December afternoon. Also, I love nothing more than a good piece of meat (true story).

So what makes it “fragrant” (sounds weird, but I could not think of a better word), is the herbs. Make sure they are fresh, not dry. It really makes the world of difference. Ultimately, you can also use any vegetables you’d like here (zucchini, squash) or omit the vegetables all-together and serve it with rice (but then make sure you add more broth to the pot, because it’s the vegetables that release some the liquid when they cook).


So the roast: it’s pretty simple and full proof (you could also do this in a slow cooker, hence no oversight at all). For me, the most important is to first fry the roast on all sides to add some crust and color.



Fragrant Pot Roast


All the main characters (minus the veggies)

  • 2-3 pound Chuck Roast
  • variety of herbs: rosemary; thyme; tarragon
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 bag of fingerling potatoes
  • 2 medium sized carrots
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 cup of sliced/diced mushrooms
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 300F
  2. Liberally salt and pepper the roast.
  3. Chop the herbs, and rub them all over the roast. Make small cuts in the Roast and stuff the garlic cloves into the holes. Let the Roast rest.
  4. Chop/dice the vegetables and place them in a separate bowl
  5. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven (or another oven safe pot/cast iron pot)
  6. Brown the roast on all sides until brown in color (not too long, about 2-3 minutes each side)
  7. Remove the roast; in the same pot add more oil and toss in the vegetables and sauté
  8. Once the vegetables are done, place the Roast in the pot, moving the veggies around to surround the Roast.
  9. At this point, if desired, you can add a bit of wine and/or beef broth (don’t overdo it, because you don’t want your vegetables to be swimming in water).
  10. Place the pot in the oven and cook for about 2.5-3 hours (depending on the oven you have, mine is electric and cooks things a lot faster, if you have a gas one, it may take longer so the time is an estimate, use your judgment)
  11. Take the Roast out and let rest for a bit. The meat should be falling apart when pulled by a fork, that’s how tender it should be (and it obviously should not bleed).
  12. Use lotsa bread to dip, and enjoy with a glass of wine!



Weekly Menu: Christmas Edition

Sorry for being behind. I just finished finals for Law School and will get back to recipes. Here is the menu for this lovely Christmas Week.


Feta and Ricotta tomato Tart (excited to try this recipe, will give you the link in my next post)

Leg of Lamb (or a roast, haven’t decided yet) –> special edition Christmas Dinner

Belka Tort (the “Squirrel cake”)

Stuffed peppers

Yarpag dolman (grape leaves stuffed with ground meat)

“Italian” salad (like a panzanella salad)

cranberry scones

Holiday Mule cocktail (love it)

Happy Holidays!

Weekly Menu: week of December 12

Here is my menu for this week: I like giving myself more than would need, so I have room to play.

Weekly menu:

  • chicken marsala
  • meat patties with cabbage (“kotleti” and sautéed cabbage)
  • grape leaves stuffed with meat (“dolma”)
  • oven roasted bronzini 
  • meatloaf (modern delicious) 

Pelmeni – Russian version of Tortelini

There is nothing more cozy on a cold December day than a bowl of hot soup. To me, even cozier is a bowl of Pelmeni (or Dushbere in Azerbaijan, except back home we serve it as a soup, with the water). These are pieces of heaven (ok fine, dough) stuffed with a delicious meat mixture, boiled in hot water, served with butta (ha ha), sour cream or yogurt and just a tad of herbs. If you can get past the annoying process of making the dough and stuffing each little circle and wrapping it, then you are in for a delicious meal. Sadly, I cannot get over it so I only make it once in a blue moon. Like today. I should have bene studying for my law school finals, but alas, cooking seemed like a better way to spend my day (don’t you worry, I will pay for this).



This recipe makes about 50-70 pelmenis

For the filling:

  • 1-1.5 lbs of ground beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Handful of Parsley (you can add Dill also, I didn’t have any)
  • Salt, pepper
  1. Peel and cut the onion into quarters
  2. Peel the garlic
  3. Wash the parsley/dill
  4. Add everything into a food processor or blender and blend until becomes mushy.
  5. Add everything to the ground meat and mix; the mixture should become soft and watery
  6. Set aside


Herb and onion mixture


Meat mixture ready to go

For the dough:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 cup of cold water
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  1. Add the flour and salt to a food processor and mix
  2. Add the egg and the water and process some more
  3. if the mixture is too watery, add more flour little bit at a time; be careful not to over-flour
  4. Alternatively, dump everything on a board or counter covered with flour and knead until the dough comes together and is soft. Be careful not to add too much flour, the dough will become hard.
  5. Let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes.


This is what the dough should look like

Assembling Pelmeni:

  1. Divide the dough into 4 parts
  2. Take each part and roll out as much as you can, not too thin, you don’t want the Pelmeni to rip
  3. Take a class or anything else you have at home that can cut out small circles and press it into the rolled out dough over and over again.
  4. Take the circles, roll it out again (just run a rolling pin over it once) and put about a teaspoon or so of meat filling into it.
  5. Now close the circle, pinch the corners very well
  6. You should now end up with a half moon shape; now take the ends and pinch them together.

At the end your Pelmeni should look like this:


Finished pelmeni


Cooking Pelmeni:

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil; salt it, add a little bit of olive oil to it
  2. Slowly submerge Pelmeni into the water.
  3. As soon as they come up to the top of the pot, they are read. If you are hesitant, wait about 5 minutes and take out with a slotted spoon carefully or drain the whole pot.
  4. Once in your plate, top the Pelmeni with butter, sour cream or yogurt and any herbs you wish (dill, parsley, garlic).
  5. As always, enjoy!



See how the dough is not too thin or thick, it cooked through and held the meat in. If you made too much and feel that you won’t eat it all in one sitting, don’t boil it all at once. Put it in the freezer and save it for next time. No such luck for me, my husband devours food so I had to play it safe and cook it all -_-

Here is two ways to eat it: with butter and herbs, or butter and yogurt. You can go crazy and do all three: butter, herbs and yogurt. I promise you can’t go wrong!

New Category – Weekly Menu

I am adding something new here. I always struggle during the week with what to cook. One thing that has helped me is creating a menu that I can follow. This lets me add items that pop into my head that I would want to cook and also gives me an easy reference list when I am out of ideas. I will be posting my “weekly menu” items here every weekend and each week you will get one of those recipes here on the blog. Here’s to hoping it sticks 😀

Menu for this week:

  • Oven roasted salmon with mashed potatoes
  • Chicken roasted with green beans and couscous
  • Pelmeni (sorta like tortellini)
  • Cake “Belka” (Squirrel) -this one is a hard one to make, so hopefully I have time sometime next week. Also dawned on me that I have not posted a Dessert item to this date, so this would be a good opportunity for that .

Happy Saturday!

B.F.T (a cousin of B.L.T)

I was at a restaurant the other day for lunch and saw something extremely interesting on the menu: Bacon Feta and Tomato sandwich (B.F.T). Now come one, I had to try it. I mean, I love bacon. I love sandwiches. I love love love Feta. Done deal. And so it was probably one of the best sandwiches I have ever tried. The bacon was smoky beyond belief, the bread was sourdough and toasted and the tomato honestly just got lost in the mix, but added a good palate cleanser. So of course, after having an almost orgasmic sandwich experience, I had to try one at home. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s easy to make. All you need to cook is the bacon. And since I love bacon, I piled it on high. It ended up being more of an open faced sandwich with lotsa bacon, but still worth it.




and Yum

Beautiful right. I know. I suppose you could also put some Arugula on their for even more freshness. Oh and those are heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe’s. Not sure how I lived this long without them in my life.


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  • Bacon
  • Mayo
  • Bread (sourdough, ciabatta)
  • Tomatoes
  • Feta Cheese (any hard white salty cheese will do; also the best feta cheese (and white cheese) comes from Turkish stores-like the one pictured)
  • Arugula (optional)
  1. Cook the bacon. I don’t like mine to be super crunchy, makes it harder to eat.
  2. Toast the bread (i did not, but if I wasn’t so lazy, I would spread just a little bit of butter on it and toast it in a pan)
  3. Cut the tomato into circles
  4. Mayo the toast/bread; add tomato circles; then the bacon strips; and finally crumbles some feta on top (or a lot); and add arugula if desired.
  5. Now eat. All of it.

“Goodbye Summer” salad

When I think salad I don’t necessarily think “entree”. That’s not true thought, is it. Many restaurants serve salads as entrees and done right, salads can be filling and satisfying. For me, the most important part of a salad is the PROTEIN. I am biased, because I cannot go one day (or one dinner) without protein, be it chicken, beef or fish. It’s a must for me, as simple as that. My whole family is like that. We are meat eaters. So when I found this recipe I was delighted.

Don’t get me wrong, I love eating salads for lunch. But I always put either chicken breast, tuna or eggs in it. It’s just not satisfying to me without it.

This is really a very simple recipe. Minimal cooking (if you go the rotisserie chicken route that I do everytime), just some chopping and mixing.

Chicken Salad

1 rotisserie chicken

1 large cucumber

1 green or red bell pepper

1 can of corn

1/2 cup mayo

1/2 cup greek yogurt

3 green onions (scallions)

Dill (handful)

salt, pepper

Chop everything and toss in greek yogurt and mayo.


Mix. Cover and refrigerate. That’s it. No fuss, no cooking. Easy and delicious.