Food & Fragrance: 174 posts

Articles about the gourmand pleasures, flavorful cooking, scent and taste experiments and tested recipe ideas

Syrnyky, Ukrainian Fried Cheesecakes Recipe

Syrnyky is a dish I order anytime I see it on the menu. Traveling around Ukraine, I ate these small fried cheesecakes at canteens in Odesa, diners in Kherson or fancy restaurants in Lviv and they have always been satisfying. In Kyiv, a restaurant chain called Puzata Hata, “pot-bellied hut,” has a wonderful oven-baked version of this popular treat. Syrnyky can be a great breakfast option or a luscious dessert, depending on what toppings you choose. Whatever way they are served, this dish is the ultimate comfort food.

Syrnyky are made from a fresh cheese called syr in Ukrainian. It’s a type of farmer’s cheese, with small, fairly dry curds and a sour flavor reminiscent of yogurt. The closest substitute is any soft white cheese, like tvorog, twaróg, quark, or even well-drained cottage cheese. Since the flavor of syrnyky is dominated by cheese, with flour being used merely as a binder, pick your favorite variety.  

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Sindh: Recipes and Stories from a Forgotten Land by Sapna Ajwani

My travels in Pakistan started in Sindh, the third-largest province of the country. The ancient Persians referred to the land east of the river Indus as hind and the word Sindh was their variation on the Sanskrit, Sindhu, meaning ‘river.’ Wherever you are in Sindh, you’re conscious of the great river that still defines the place, its geography and mindset. I would follow the Indus throughout Sindh, and when I finally deviated from its course, I missed the river and its mighty presence. It cast its spell on me as surely as it did on Alexander the Great who conquered Sindh in 325 BCE and referred to the river as Indós.

I miss many things from Sindh besides the river: the friendly disposition of its people, the stunning historical sites that make ancient Greek ruins seem modern, the bejeweled shrines, the sandstone temples. I also missed Sindhi flavors, the unique combination that reminded me more of refined Persian cuisine than the earthy flavors of the neighboring Punjab.

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How To Preserve Sakura Blossoms and Leaves : The Scent of Almonds

It’s almost the sakura season here in Brussels. While sakura blossoms don’t have much fragrance, their petals and leaves contain coumarin, which smells wonderfully of toasted almonds. When the leaves or petals are lightly crushed, you can smell this delicate scent, but it becomes much more pronounced once the flowers and leaves are salted. Drying concentrates the coumarin content and makes its aroma more prominent.

In Japan, salted sakura blossoms are used for various desserts, but I especially like them in tea. The leaves can be used when steaming or roasting fish to lend it an almond scent and I also use them in marinated cucumber salads. You can find great ideas on using salted sakura via Just One Cookbook, a great source for Japanese recipes.

Most Japanese stores, in brick and mortar and online, carry salted sakura flowers and leaves all year round, but if you have a sakura or a sour cherry tree, you can make them yourself. In Japan, Oshimazakura is preferred for its leaves, while Yaezakura for flowers, which are full and have many petals. However, you can experiment with any cherry variety you have in your garden.

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Chocolate and Honey : Vietnamese Snow Mountain Pai Hao Tea

Snow Mountain Pai Hao black tea (Trà Shan Tuyết Pái hảo) is a rare tea variety harvested from 300-year old tea trees in the central Vietnamese province of Ha Giang at an altitude of 1,300m above sea level. The tea is harvested in the “one leaf, one bud” fashion, which makes it one of the highest grades that you can find. The processing is mostly manual, which is becoming rare in tea-producing countries. Although fine teas can be produced with mechanical methods, a human touch makes a difference. This tea is not only one of the most beautiful black teas I’ve encountered, but also one of the most fragrant.

Fragrance is the main reason I wanted to share this tea with you. It has a rich chocolate nuance, with an undercurrent of caramel. The chocolate is complemented by a malty note, and the aftertaste is that of honey. Despite these voluptuous notes, the tea is not heavy on the palate. It remains refreshing and sparkling.

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Grandmother’s Marinated Sweet and Sour Tomatoes

I was enchanted by the premise of “Grandmas Project” as soon as I read about it in the New York Times. It is a web series in which film directors document their grandmothers as they cook. The women also share their stories, dreams, aspirations and give advice, and these short 8-minute films are so tender and heartwarming that watching them makes me feel as if I’m cooking with my grandmother Valentina. Although my cooking lessons come from diverse sources, learning from Valentina gave me a deeper understanding of food as a way of connecting with others, and that’s exactly what makes “Grandmas Project” so compelling.

Valentina learned cooking a young woman married to an army officer and stationed in a military town in eastern Ukraine. Living in the shared housing, she met other “army wives,” who hailed from different parts of the Soviet Unions and whose lessons gave her cooking a multicultural flair. Some of Valentina’s signature dishes were Georgian spicy soups, Armenian stewed vegetables and Tatar meat pies. She also had a big collection of pickled vegetables, which in her recipe books were marked as “from Zulia, Dagestan” or “Natalya, Saratov.” When we prepared these pickles together, Valentina told me about her friends, and even though she had no news from these women for many years, it felt as if they were present.

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Latest Comments

  • Valentina in Recommend Me a Perfume: July 2024: Ok, can anyone pretty please recommend a perfume which smells like fog, mist, rain, maybe a little dusty, soapy, white floral, transparent and ethereal, but most importantly NOT sweet at… July 25, 2024 at 7:58am

  • Hamamelis in Recommend Me a Perfume: July 2024: Hi Laura, what about Andy Tauer’s L’air des Alpes Suisses? A real mountain scent, but it may lean masculine though. Another outdoorsy fragrance could be Parfum d’Empire Mal-aime, a unique… July 25, 2024 at 5:43am

  • Aire in Recommend Me a Perfume: July 2024: Sisley Eau de Campagne might be nice. July 24, 2024 at 7:49pm

  • Aurora in Recommend Me a Perfume: July 2024: Hi Emi: two pine scents with sweetness: Annick Goutal Nuit étoilée, very outdoorsy and for a richer, more Christmassy pine, Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles. July 24, 2024 at 2:59pm

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