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Russian, Eastern European and international cuisine brought to you by a mother and a daughter

Zephyr Strawberry/Cherry Mousse

Easy Zephyr Strawberry/Cherry Mousse

Strawberry season is in full swing here; soon Mom will be making her delicious strawberry jam. The freshest, local strawberries are finally here since last week, and we’ve been sampling different varieties almost every day. My favourite is called Zephyr. It’s a kind of strawberry that tastes much better than it looks. A real gem among strawberries, it’s so delicate and fragile that you’d better buy it in small batches (we usually take a kilo or two) and eat it on the same day. The small berries of irregular shape are immensely tender and have a brightly pronounced flavour of wild strawberries. They have no chewy core at all, and after you rinse them in water (with the most care of course), they will probably lose their shape completely, turning into luscious, sweet, fragrant morsels suffused with June sunshine. That’s why I love them. They are absolute summer.

With these Zephyr strawberries and with some cherries that arrived from Hungary I made a few glasses of light mousse. Unless you’re opposed to raw eggs, it’s a foolproof and quick recipe which might come in handy when you have unexpected guests. I believe it’s also a good way to have your daily protein, together with your vitamins. I just pick the freshest eggs of a trusted brand and wash them with a sponge and dishwashing liquid. As for the remaining egg yolks, why not use them in eggnog, omelette, or cookies?

It’s interesting how the texture of this mousse varies slightly depending on the type of berries. My cherry mousse came out very smooth, glossy and thick like a cake icing; after taking the photos I found out it was quite impossible to sip it through a straw, so sorry for misleading you. The strawberry mousse, however, was kind of airier, lighter, and runnier. I can’t wait to try this with blueberries and raspberries and see what the texture will be like.

UPD A cherry/raspberry mix works out particularly well!

Zephyr Strawberries
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Garlic or Cheese Crescent Rolls for Midsummer (Slovak-Latvian fusion, sort of)

Garlic/Cheese Crescent Rolls for Midsummer

Midsummer (Līgo/Jāņi) is probably the most favourite and significant holiday for Latvians. It’s celebrated on 23/24th June when the night is so short that there’re only a couple of really dark hours. It’s not as evident as the famous Saint Petersburg’s “white nights”, but still enough for birds to confuse day and night: sometimes you can hear them sing or make noise after midnight. I’d say it’s even a little bit disturbing that the sky almost never turns black in June – I keep waking up at night because of that eerie blue glow coming through the curtains.

On the shortest night of the year, everyone heads out to the countryside, drinks gallons of beer, barbecues, eats traditional caraway cheese (Jāņu siers, see picture), makes (or tries to make) bonfires and almost certainly soaks in the rain, because it typically rains on Midsummer. The cities become absolutely deserted! All guys named Jānis wear heavy oak leaf wreaths and all ladies named Līga wear wreaths of flowers/oak leaves. If you see an oak leaf wreath on a car – there’s certainly a Jānis in it! Oh and there’s also that ancient tradition of searching for the mythical fern blossom, which is believed to have magical powers. Actually the fern blossom quest means more than just that – to give you a hint, a lot of children are born 9 months after Midsummer night :)

Latvian Midsummer Cheese

Even though I don’t celebrate Midsummer, I couldn’t miss the chance to buy some of that special caraway cheese and use it for some crescent rolls. I first saw garlic crescent rolls on a Slovak Christmas table and copied the recipe from Stano’s Mother. With some tweaking and the addition of some fresh dill this could make a lovely Midsummer snack, I figured. And with caraway cheese these rolls turn into a truest Midsummer treat! They pair perfectly with beer, cider, and fresh vegetables, and they’re easily transportable, in case you’re going to have a picnic. For the garlic version, there’s a lot of garlic odour while baking, but ready crescent rolls are just slightly garlicky. And they look so plump and appetizing!

Slovak Garlic/Cheese Crescent Rolls

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Strawberry Apricot Semolina Pudding

Strawberry Apricot Semolina Pudding

I never count calories, so be warned: when I make something light and low-calorie, it is by pure accident. Because if I want something, I will have it. Be it healthy or guilty. But I think this pudding with fresh fruit counts as a low-calorie dessert… doesn’t it? It includes no cream, eggs or soft cheese, just milk. The percentage of milk fat can be adjusted to individual taste. I believe it’s also a fun and healthy way for kids to have their semolina. Food tastes so much better when it’s bright-coloured!

The pudding is very similar to Cranberry Semolina Mousse, but its obvious benefit is that it’s made with fresh berries and fruit – no heat treatment this time. The bright fragrance of apricot blends nicely with the classic flavour of strawberries, and semolina adds a pleasant grainy texture. All you really have to do is cook semolina and wash your blender after you puree the ingredients. Couldn’t be any easier!

Strawberry Apricot Pudding
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Fried Eggplant with Sour Cream Garlic Dip

Fried Eggplant with Sour Cream Garlic Dip

Although fresh eggplant season hasn’t yet started and we still get these perfectly shaped, smooth supermarket-style eggplants, I decided to fry some for Saturday’s dinner – they’re so good with local baby potatoes and a sour cream&garlic dip! I like to have something garlicky on a weekend, when I’m not going out, hehe. Oh why do all the best things in the world have side effects? Mascarpone and whipped cream are not good for your waistline, garlic makes you unsociable, and too many mojitos make you way too sociable :) Life is complicated!

But anyway. I thinly sliced the eggplants and fried them without any extra condiments salt apart, to keep them as natural and plain as possible. Then I whisked some thick sour cream with mashed garlic – and voila, a simple snack with a slight Ukrainian accent is ready! Add some tender and waxy baby potatoes roasted with fresh dill, some fresh radishes, baby cucumbers and other seasonal vegetables, and enjoy the simple, basic flavours of summer!

Fried Eggplant with Sour Cream Garlic Dip

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Strawberry Cake for My Sister’s Birthday

Strawberry Glazed Sponge Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

My sister turned 21 on Saturday. Isn’t this a lovely age? I remember I graduated from University at 21 and went to Denmark for an internship. There I met all my new colleagues, while back home I had my wonderful family, my fun-loving classmates, and friends from University. Plus I had 30 penpals all around the world – from Lithuania to Indonesia. That’s so many people to love and admire! It felt absolutely like the whole world was in front of me… 21 - that’s when you’re a grown-up and yet very young, and your own achievements are making you proud and happy, and if anything ever goes wrong, there’s always another chance. I think 21 is one of the very best ages ever!

Of course a lovely occasion like my sister’s 21st birthday required something super-lovely for dessert. Something sweet, festive, and fluffy. Something like whipped cream and fresh aromatic berries between layers of a light and sweet sponge cake. Something that would smell of freshness and summer and would be candy to the eye, and would make that tiny “shhhhh” sound when you cut it with a knife, because it’s airy and fluffy like a cloud.

We thought all this pointed clearly to a strawberry&whipped cream cake glazed with strawberry jelly and decorated with fresh lemon balm.

The whole concept of this cake belongs to my Mom. I mean, I know this is not the first strawberry cake in the world, we just didn’t stick to any particular recipe – just our intuition and inspiration. We made a pretty huge cake (28 cm in diameter), because you see, we had guests. I’m quite sure that half as large would be enough for a normal dessert. This strawberry cake somehow reminded me of that gigantic Walnut Meringue and Chocolate Mousse Cake we made for New Year’s. When you make huge cakes like that one, at some point they start to live their own life – asking a pinch of this and a bit of that, more sugar here and less cream there, needing to be constantly under control, finally making you worry through the night – how will the frosting come out?! Haven’t you noticed this with your large cooking projects?..

Sponge Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream
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Are you curious to learn more about Eastern European cuisine?
RussianSeason.net is a food blog run by two Russian-speaking women - a mother (Natalia) and a daughter (Alina) - living in Latvia. Natalia is a professional artist and Alina is the co-owner of a web directory of Russian-speaking businesses in Europe. We both cook and Alina writes posts and takes photos.
In our blog you'll find a range of (mostly tweaked&adapted) recipes from Russia, Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and former USSR. But we can't restrain ourselves from experimenting with other cuisines too :)
Stano is the guy behind the Slovak version of this blog. He is currently living and working in Latvia and is also known as the Man Who Makes Alina Eat A Lot Of Cakes, because he hardly ever eats cakes or pies she bakes. He doesn't have a sweet tooth, you see. Stano also provides us with traditional Slovak recipes - such as Halušky that he's been promising to make for 7 months now :) Just be patient - we're sure he will eventually do it!
Ivanka is the largest cross-cultural project Alina and Stano have been ever involved in:) We hope she will be a foodie too when she grows up!
Our email address is: russianseason@gmail.com

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