06 June


(Czech Fruit Bubble Sponge Cake)

June: National Fruit and Veggies Month

During the coronavirus quarantine, Islander and two of her foodie friends, Karen B. and Yukiko H., tried a Zoom session and baked a cake “together apart” (even though they live within 30 minutes of each other). Since Karen is a Czech-Texan, they decided to bake bublanina, a type of sponge cake with summer fruit “bubbling” on top (hence, the name). Not having all the same ingredients on hand at the time, they made do with what they each had in their pantry. From one recipe, they got three different yet interesting results! They are noted below. Bake a bublanina during National Fruit and Veggies Month—the fun is in seeing how your results might be different from theirs, too! Dobrou chuť!


(Adapted from Tres Bohemes-Everything Czech)


  • 2-3 cups fruit (such as pitted cherries, strawberries, blueberries)
  • 2 cups flour (or 1 cup cake flour plus 1 cup all-purpose flour=pastry flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup plus 3 tablespoons plain kefir, sour cream or yogurt


Wash and dry fruit; if using cherries, pit them, and toss in a little bit of flour right before using in the recipe (optional). In a small bowl, combine the flour(s) with the baking powder. Set aside.

Melt and lightly cool the butter. Mix in vanilla. Combine the butter-vanilla mix into a large bowl of powdered sugar. Stir until smooth.

Add the eggs and kefir/sour cream/yogurt and stir until smooth. Gradually fold in the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until the batter is well combined and moist (there may be lumps but do not overmix or the dense cake will not bake up as light). Pour into a greased baking pan.

Sprinkle fruit on top of the pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes, testing for doneness (the cake bakes up pale and not really brown on top). Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Slice and sprinkle powdered sugar on top before serving.


  • On using and choosing the fruit for this recipe: Islander used canned tart cherries in water (dull colored, soft and mushy and too sour); Karen used frozen defrosted dark sweet cherries and tossed them in a little bit of powdered sugar and flour; and Yukiko used fresh whole strawberries. Verdict: fresh fruit is best to enjoy the natural sweetness and flavor. At the time we all made this bublanina in May, fresh cherries were just starting to be in season; they were overpriced and not as sweet. But Islander bought one small bag and used a few cherries for the final photograph above.
  • On using flour: Islander and Karen used equal parts cake and all-purpose flour and Yukiko used only all-purpose flour because she did not have cake flour. Verdict: Mix cake flour and all-purpose flour to make this dense cake lighter. But it is still fine to use all all-purpose flour.
  • On using eggs: Islander and Karen used regular large eggs while Yukiko used organic eggs. Verdict: Yukiko’s cake turned out more naturally yellow in color.
  • On using kefir, sour cream or yogurt: Islander used kefir, Karen used sour cream and liquefied ¾ cup of it with three tablespoons of milk and Yukiko used yogurt. Verdict: it was easier to stir the batter with kefir while sour cream and yogurt were thicker to mix.
  • On using different pans: Islander used a 10×10 inch square pan; Karen used a 10×10 inch round pan; and Yukiko used an 8×8 inch round pan. Verdict: use larger baking pans so the fruit is not so concentrated. A 9×13 inch pan also may be used.
  • Islander’s bublanina final food photo was shot on top of a 100% wool vintage Czechoslovakian scarf.
  • Here are what Karen and Yukiko’s cakes looked like after our Zoom baking session.

Cucumber-Cilantro Raita

June 14:National Cucumber Day

Our Indian friends, Govind and Vathsala S., cook hot and spicy vegetarian foods. While tasty and delicious, Islander cannot take the heat so they serve her raita to cool off her burning mouth (Highlander says she is a wimp)!

Raita is a creamy condiment that includes a mixture of yogurt or curd with fresh chopped vegetables (savory raita) and/or fruits (sweeter raita). We are more used to the savory version with cooling cucumbers to offset the fiery curries and dishes that our friends cook (even though they tone it down somewhat for Islander, she still thinks the food is too spicy for her).

As the weather heats up and the summer season approaches, keep cool as a cucumber with a raita recipe on National Cucumber Day.


(Inspired by Govind and Vathsala S.)


  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2-3 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped


Wash, dry, peel and chop the cucumbers. Chop the tomatoes and onion. Place all in a large bowl.

Stir in the yogurt. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix in the cilantro. Cover and refrigerate for an hour to allow the flavors to blend. Serve as a side dish garnished with a sprig of fresh cilantro leaves.


  • There are different variations of raita. Some recipes call for scallions instead of round onions, mint instead of cilantro and cumin or coriander instead of garlic powder. A few raitaare sprinkled with red chili pepper, which Islander thinks would defeat the dish’s cooling properties.
  • Eastern Europeans have a similar recipe to raita. One Polish recipe, mizeria, uses cucumbers mixed in sour cream instead of yogurt.
  • Search our blog for other cucumber recipes.


June 12: International Falafel Day

Falafels are one of our all-time favorite Middle Eastern foods! We eat them at ethnic festivals and Mediterranean restaurants around the United States. But when we visited Egypt and United Arab Emirates, we were able to taste a variety of this vegetable-based appetizer. They were served during breakfast buffets at the finest luxury hotels as well as on the roadside as street snacks and at fast food courts. We prefer them plain with a dipping sauce but falafels may be eaten as a filling in sandwiches. Either way, cooking and eating falafels are a fabulous way to observe International Falafel Day!


(Adapted from Sol. S.)


  • 1 ¼ cups dried chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • ½ sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼tsp. ground cardamom
  • ½teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoons sesame seeds for coating (optional)
  • 3 cups oil for frying (vegetable, sunflower or other light oil)


In a large bowl, place the dried chickpeas and immerse them in water about twice as much their volume. Soak overnight to soften. Drain and rub off any leftover skins.

Chop the onions, crush the garlic cloves and chop the parsley and cilantro leaves. Zest the lemon.

In a food processor, grind the chickpeas with onion, garlic, parsley and lemon zest until fine and grainy but not mushy and pasty.

Place the mixture back in a bowl and mix with cilantro, spices (salt, cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander and cardamom). Add the baking powder, water and flour. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour to allow the flavors to blend.

Use a scoop to form 2-inch balls. Press gently so the mixture holds together. Flatten slightly into patties.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds if using. Deep fry in hot oil for 3-5 minutes until golden brown (make sure the centers of the falafels are cooked through). Drain on paper towels. Serve while still warm.


  • We like to freeze the uncooked falafels to hold their shapes better. On a baking sheet lined with waxed paper, put the uncooked falafels in a single layer. Freeze until firm. Transfer frozen uncooked falafels in a container and seal well until ready to deep fry.
  • Some people make falafels in mini sausage shapes or balls. Keep the mixture small so they cook through better and are crisp on the outside instead of bread-like (larger and thicker falafels might not cook all the way in the center).
  • Serve falafels warm with tahini, hummus or spiced yogurt dipping sauces or in a pita pocket with vegetables as a sandwich.


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