For What to Cook this Week, I’m sharing recipes for everything from a Greek salad bruschetta with olive sourdough, as it takes us back to our days of languid lunches barefoot at a beachside taverna to a sopa de tortilla learnt at a Mexican cooking school in San Miguel de Allende which we’ll enjoy as we reflect upon Diana Kennedy.
It’s been hectic here in our Siem Reap kitchen-studio – which is what our apartment feels like, with dishes piled up in the sink from recipe-testing and cooking food for photo shoots and the myriad tripods and reflectors permanently stationed in the living room where we style and shoot dishes on the coffee table. Pepper, our cat, has taken to sleeping on the folded gold reflector sleeve on the sofa.
We shot in the actual kitchen for the first time recently when Terence photographed me making pelmeni, varenyky and salads for this Al Jazeera story on my Russian-Ukrainian culinary heritage and my meditative dumpling making ritual and how it’s gone from bittersweet to heart-breaking since Putin invaded Ukraine.
Learning from mum that my grandmother, if she was still alive, would have identified as Ukraine rather than Russian (unlike papa, who was proudly Russian) is a new thing that I’m still coming to terms with, having been told I was “half-Russian” or “Russian-Australian” when I was growing up as a child in Sydney.
Mum’s revelation made sense. When Terence and I ate at a Ukrainian restaurant in Poland some years ago I wrote in my notebook that the food was exactly like my grandmother’s. After travelling to Russia with mum and Terence after dad died, I realised Baba’s cooking was a fusion of Russian and Ukrainian.
That confirmation explains why I’ve felt so torn apart since this war started. I explain more in the story and hope to tell you more in a cookbook cum memoire of family recipes and culinary history of the Russian and Ukrainian communities in Australia one day. But first to get these Cambodian cookbooks published!
Terence and I never put ourselves in front of the cameras, but realise it’s something we have to do more, and we don’t shoot in the kitchen as it’s just too dark most of the time. Plus, there’s such limited counter space – it all gets covered in food and dishes, and unless we’re shooting a salad, there’s no time to clean and style between cooking and photography.
In an ideal world, we’d rent the apartment next door for a test-kitchen and photo studio, but as we’re still trying to get a contract for the Cambodian cookbooks and culinary history that dream is still a long way off. Incidentally, you can show your love for Grantourismo and what we publish here, with a small one-off donation or monthly pledge toward that Cambodian cuisine history and cookbook on Patreon.
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What to Cook this Week from Greek Salad Bruschetta to Mexican Tortilla Soup
Greek Salad Bruschetta with Olive Sourdough Bread
I’ve been dreaming of the Greek Islands and not even the summer crowds are deterring me from a Greek holiday, as it’s a flight of fancy after all. So I’m making Terence’s Greek salad bruschetta with olive sourdough bread, as it takes me back to our days of languid lunches barefoot at a beachside taverna where a Greek salad was the first dish ordered.
Pile the classic salad ingredients atop toasted slices of homemade olive sourdough, heady with the aromas of olive oil, Kalamata olives and herbs, and you’ve got a snack you’ll want to eat in the sun after a swim.
This lovely light meal came to Terence after he pulled his first loaf of olive sourdough bread with rosemary, thyme and sweet red capsicum out of the oven. It made him want to take a slice and throw some feta cheese on it.
That was thanks to the aromas of what we call a ‘Greek salad’ or what the Greeks call a horiátiki or village salad – a salad served through to the end of summer when the ingredients are at their best.
In winter, you could go with eggplant instead of cucumber and slide it under the oven grill or broiler, as our American friends call it, to melt the feta.
Mexican Tortilla Soup Recipe
I often try to share at least one Mexican recipe in our What to Cook this Week round-ups, because Tuesday, best known by food lovers as Taco Tuesday, is a good excuse to cook Mexican food or Mexican-American food. Not that we need an excuse.
Like many in the food world, I’m feeling sad at the loss of legendary cookbook author, culinary anthropologist and respected authority on Mexican cuisine, Diana Kennedy, who died at her home in Mexico on Sunday, so I thought I’d share this traditional Mexican tortilla soup recipe.
This is not Diana Kennedy’s sopa de tortilla recipe, it’s a tortilla soup recipe Terence learnt to make at a cooking school in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, but it’s the kind of traditional home-cooked Mexican recipes that Kennedy collected, cooked and documented in her many tomes.
Terence and I fell in love with real Mexican food on our first trips to Mexico in the early- to mid-1990s and were blown away by how different it was to the Tex-Mex food we’d been eating in Australia. We bought Kennedy’s The Art of Mexican Cooking upon our return from Mexico and it sparked a lifelong love of Mexican cuisine.
I’m going to write more about Kennedy here and share, but in the meantime, why not join us in making this tortilla soup this week? I also recommend this very traditional homemade guacamole and washing it down with micheladas or margaritas.
Thai Chicken Skewers with Authentic Thai Satay Sauce
David Thompson is to Thai food what Diana Kennedy was to Mexican food, having spent much of his life mastering Thai cuisines from his home in Thailand, from learning recipes from elderly palace cooks to cooking dishes from the old cookbooks and memorial books that make up a collection he’s planning to digitise and make available to the public.
David Thompson’s Thai Food was the inspiration for the epic Cambodian cookbook and culinary history I’ve been researching since 2013, and it’s been responsible for Terence pounding countless spice paste on the mortar and pestle over the years as we’ve cooked our way through the hefty tome.
If you haven’t yet made my easy Southern Thai chicken satay skewers recipe, which were just like the satay sticks we used to buy and eat on the streets of Bangkok when we moved there over a decade ago, then make those and make David’s authentic Thai satay sauce recipe from scratch to go with them.
It’s a slightly tweaked recipe from the chef’s Thai Street Food cookbook, and while I do share some short-cuts, if you make it how it’s meant to be made, it is a bit of a cooking project. You’ll be soaking chillies, pan-roasting spices, pounding a spice paste in a mortar and pestle. It’s completely worth it, so put on some music and open a bottle of wine.
Shan Vermicelli Salad Recipe
Myanmar has been on my mind this week, following the tragic events in Yangon of recent days. I’ll be publishing a post soon on what our readers can do to help the people of Myanmar.
In the meantime, you can cook the wonderful food of Myanmar and cook it for people who haven’t tasted it before, and use that as an excuse to raise awareness of the suffering of the people since last year’s military coup.
One of the things I love most about Southeast Asia’s cuisines is its countless salads and Myanmar makes some of the best salads in Southeast Asia. I dare you to tell me you don’t agree after trying them.
Visitors to Myanmar would often complain about the oily curries, not understanding that they’re not meant to be eaten alone, but with rice and salads, which provide a refreshing contrast.
This Shan vermicelli salad recipe is one of my favourite salads, and while you can eat it as one of an array of dishes that comprise a typical sharing-style spread – along with a Burmese curry or two, this Shan tomato salad and Burmese raw cabbage salad; not traditional, but I also love it with this Burmese fried chicken – it’s also fantastic as a single-bowl meal.
Another thing I love about this salad is that you can eat it warm or cold, making it a terrific year-round dish.
Thai Rice Soup Recipe for Khao Tom Gai
Last week I wrote that I liked the idea of Friday night being Fried Rice Night, as I rarely feel like cooking on Friday night and want something easy to make, I love fried rice, and it’s such a good opportunity to use up leftover steamed rice, along with other leftovers in the fridge.
If you like that idea, do browse our ever-expanding collection of fried rice recipes from around the world. I’ll be adding a Thai chicken satay fried rice this week.
But I think I might be in need of some serious comfort food by the time Friday comes around, which for me means a big bowl of dumplings, pasta, noodles, rice soup or rice porridge with loads of condiments.
So I think I might be making this Thai rice soup recipe for khao tom gai again, although I also have a Vietnamese rice porridge recipe on the cooking schedule…
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make any of our What to Cook this Week recipes as we always love to hear how our recipes turned out for you.