Ukrainian dumplings and cocktail shrimp
plus a ton of brand new content coming your way (!!!)
The moment is finally here: Welcome to FLD content 2.0!
It’s a big week over here at FLD headquarters (and by headquarters I mean my dimly lit kitchen and a dining table that doubles as a desk where I currently sit writing this) because I am launching a bunch of new stuff that I’ve spent the last month working on!! There will be brand new IG things and Tik Tok things and, for you awesome Substackers, extra exciting paid subscriber content including an interview series *and* Zoom cooking classes! But more on that later. For now, let me break down the new FLD universe:
Subscribe to FLD below! Both free and paid subscriptions are available but paying allows you access to bonus content like Zoom cooking classes (coming soon) and exclusive interviews with industry greats. Plus, it allows me to continue creating and sharing my work. Either way, I’m happy to have you.
Mondays are forevermore dedicated to dumplings: The Dumpling Diaries is an exploration of the vast world of dumplings in NYC, one culture at a time, beginning with the dumpling that started it all: the Ukrainian varenik (more on that below).
Wednesdays are for shrimp: each month I’m choosing a different ingredient to focus my energy on starting with one of my all time favorites: the shrimp. Today’s shrimp du jour? Cocktail shrimp with old bay aioli. Because we’ve got a few hot days left and cold shrimp are perfect. Welcome to The Shrimp Series.
Friday is for happy hour. Because, obviously it is. Every Friday I’ll either share a cocktail recipe OR a bangin’ happy hour in NYC. This week’s cocktail is a tropical spin on the drink I couldn’t stop ordering during last month’s trip to Dewey Beach: the orange crush.
I hope you enjoy this new setup because I’m having a BLAST filming it (I hate using the word “blast” because it makes me feel like a ‘90s mom but it’s true). Let me know what you think!
Where I’m Eating
Is anyone here surprised that I decided to launch a series dedicated to dumplings? Everyone please extend a warm, heartfelt welcome to The Dumpling Diaries, my new series dedicated to the multi-cultural world of things wrapped in dough!
Back in 2020 I wrote a digital cookbook, Dumpling Lover’s Diary, with the general premise that every culture has their version of a dumpling. It seems the pervasive need to wrap some kind of filling in some kind of dough spans all cultures and continents and that has always been a source of fascination for me. I’m hoping to expand on that concept using New York City, home to almost every culture under the sun, as my dumpling playground. And what better way to kick off my journey than with the Ukrainian varenik, dumpling of my people? My Babushka Lola made the best vareniki ever and I credit them with sparking my dumpling obsession – more on that origin story in the excerpt from my e-book below. As my Babushka is no longer with us, I had to locate some vareniki that would hold a candle to hers and I found them in the basement of a church in the East Village.
Streecha is one of those hidden restaurants that you’ll only visit if you’re specifically looking for it. Located on East 7th street and 2nd avenue in the basement level of a church, Streecha is a humble Ukrainian restaurant serving the classics: vareniki, golubtsi, borsch, etc. Everything is good but the vareniki are truly just like my Babushka’s: filled with creamy mashed potato, encased in a soft but stretchy dough, and topped with caramelized onion and sour cream. They’re hearty and delicious and they taste like home.
To read more about my dumpling obsession, check out the below excerpt from Dumpling Lover’s Diary.
Streecha: 33 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003
From Dumpling Lover’s Diary:
I’ve spent a good majority of my years here on earth seeking out the best dumplings around: I was introduced to kimchi mandu in LA’s Koreatown, romanced by the hot sauce-drenched momos in Jackson Heights, obsessed with finding the crispiest pork & chive dumplings in Chinatown, and mind-blown by most exquisite xiao long bao in Taiwan. But if I’m going to do this topic justice, I have to trace my dumpling obsession to one specific dumpling in one specific place back to its inception; back to where it all began: in the tiny kitchen of my Babushka Lola’s modest apartment in the Bexley Plaza, making and devouring vareniki. Let me paint a picture for you. Vareniki are Ukrainian dumplings stuffed with mashed potatoes and caramelized onions. I can picture it perfectly: Dyedushka Feema and Baba Lola would be having a conversation with each other in Yiddish while simultaneously force-feeding me and my twin sister whatever food had been made earlier that day. My sister and I would be focused on the task at hand: using little mugs to make circular cut outs in the supple dough laid before us, placing a teaspoon of filling inside the rounds and carefully pinching each varenik shut.
The entire apartment would be filled with the scent of cooking onions, garlic and smoked meats. Jars of pickling cucumbers and tomatoes, grown in my grandpa’s magical backyard garden, had completely taken over their second bedroom which now doubled as a food storage area. There was almost always a dripping cheese cloth hanging from the sink because my grandpa made his own tvorog (farmers cheese) and it wasn’t uncommon to see a large cow tongue resting on the kitchen counter, ready for smoking. The walls of the apartment were adorned with stern-looking photos of my grandparents and relatives.
When I was little, I wondered why no one was ever smiling in the photos. When I was older, I learned about The Holocaust, an atrocity that all but took the lives of both my grandparents, and never had to ask again.
My beloved Babushka and Dedushka - they’re not here anymore, a fact that pains me everytime I stop to dwell on it. But their recipes are. And every time I eat vareniki, I’m transported to the rickety kitchen table at my grandparents’ humble apartment. I can almost smell the fried onions.
What I’m Cooking
This September I am soaking up every last bit of summer with a series of recipes dedicated to my favorite summer food: the humble shrimp. Welcome to The Shrimp Series.
I’ve been obsessed with shrimp ever since I was a little girl. True story: I once ate about 40 cocktail shrimp that my mom was planning on serving to guests. I was 7 and she was not pleased.
This super easy dish is a combination of 2 of my favorite summer foods: shrimp cocktail and old bay peel-n-eat shrimp. I will always love a classic shrimp cocktail served with the traditional cocktail sauce but I generally find ketchup and ketchup-based foods to be…uh, not something I ever want to eat. Regardless of your stance on ketchup, I think we can all agree that in the world of condiments, aioli ranks well above ketchup and therefore above cocktail sauce. Separately, if ever there was a person who was excited about getting down and dirty with a bucket (or bag) of old bay peel n eat shrimp, it would be me, and even I can admit they have a time and a place. Peeling every single shrimp you eat and smelling like old bay for two days is simply not always the vibe. That is why this Cocktail shrimp served with old bay aioli is the best of the both worlds. Full recipe below.
Cocktail Shrimp with Old Bay Aioli
WHAT YOU NEED
1 lb shrimp
2 egg yolks
1 cup neutral oil
1 garlic clove, microplaned
1 tsp old bay
½ tsp grainy mustard
¼ cup finely chopped parsley (optional)
Salt to taste
2 bay leaves
1 sprig parsley
1 sprig tarragon (optional)
3 garlic cloves
What you do:
Fill a large pot up with water and add all the ingredients listed. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks, garlic and grainy mustard in a mixing bowl. I like to anchor the bowl with a wet paper towel underneath so it doesn’t move around when whisk. Slowly whisk in your neutral oil to form a thick aioli. If it’s feeling to thick you can always whisk in some water – I actually prefer it on the runnier side. Add the old bay, chopped parsley and salt to taste. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Prepare a large bowl of ice-water for the shrimp. Remove the pot with water from heat. Add the shrimp and close the lid. Allow them to cook for 3-5 minutes.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the shrimp to the ice bath. Once they’ve cooled down, peel the shrimp and serve with the old bay aioli.
What I’m drinking
I spent a glorious August girls’ weekend in Dewey Beach where, among many other pivotal happenings (such as my first scrapple experience), I was introduced to the town’s signature cocktail: the Orange Crush. I had my first crush at The Starboard, courtesy of Matt Hesseltine, brother of Ashley Hesseltine, our ring-leader/local Delawarean/half of the Girl’s Gotta Eat duo. Matt is a longtime Starboard bartender – an icon, really, so I should have trusted him but when I heard the words “orange crush” I was just like…here we go, I’m in for some gross, sweet, artificial-tasting thing. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The cocktail is traditionally made with orange vodka, fresh-squeezed orange (like literally, it happens in front of you), and Sierra Mist but if you order it “skinny” (which I did because I know in bar talk this means “less sweet” and that is always my move) it’s topped with club soda instead. It was *delightfully* refreshing and just sweet enough and tangy and super simple! The entire weekend I kept thinking about how badly I wanted there to be a passionfruit version because passionfruit is an elite flavor and the most refreshing. So, I made one! It’s barely a recipe and I have little-to-no experience crafting cocktails but if I were handed this drink at a rooftop BBQ, I’d be pretty freaking pleased.
WHAT YOU NEED
(makes 1 drink)
2 oz vodka
Pulp of 1-2 passionfruit, depending on size (you can replace with about ¼ cup of frozen puree or juice)
1ish oz agave (omit if using pre-sweetened juice or puree)
Club soda OR grapefruit-flavored La Croix to top
WHAT YOU DO
Add all ingredients besides soda to a shaker along with several cubes of ice. Shake, pour into a glass, top with soda and add more ice if you’d like. That’s it!