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

Happy Birthday to Ivanka and Roxana’s Brownie Bottom Cheesecake

Brownie Bottom Cheesecake with Fresh Berries

Ivanka has turned 2. Times flies? Just the opposite, it feels like she’s always been here with us, and I can hardly remember life without her. And compared to little Milena, Ivanka seems so grown up and clever that I probably expect too much from her. But she really does a lot! She can draw a face with eyes, nose, mouth, and a funny tuft of hair on the forehead. She watches the Swan Lake ballet every single day (!) and dances along (sometimes I just can’t fall asleep at night as the music keeps on playing in my head - I guess I know the entire ballet by heart now). She says funny things, for example ipk for the Russian word chleb (bread). She loves “totik” - “cake”!

Brownie Bottom Cheesecake with Fresh Berries for Ivanka's Birthday Read the rest of this entry »

Guest Post: Chocolate Chip Cookies

American Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hello Russian Season readers!

This is Amanda. Since Alina’s been busy these days with redesigning her other website, I offered to do a guest post for her. Before I go any further, let me introduce myself: I am 15 and live near the American capital – Washington D.C. I have a huge passion for food too. Whether it’s baking, cooking, eating, or anything else that deals with food, I love it (okay, maybe except for dishwashing). I also have my own food blog – softandstiffpeaks.blogspot.com.

Without further ado, let me introduce what I’ll be blogging about today: the chocolate chip cookie. Yes, this usually is not found in Eastern European cuisine, but Russian Season also covers international foods as well. The chocolate chip cookie is the quintessential American comfort food. These are extremely popular – grocery stores sell different varieties and brands of this cookie (original, double chocolate chip, chewy, etc.); they can also be bought during lunchtime at my school. Also, they are enjoyed as an after-school snack for many school children. Perhaps what makes it so popular (besides how delicious it is) is that it is commonly associated with grandmothers, family, and warmth. It is common for young children to bake this cookie with their grandma over summer vacation or during the holidays. To some, these cookies evoke nostalgia.

Chocolate Chips

A bag of chocolate chips

The story of how these popular cookies originated goes like this: Ruth Wakefield was baking chocolate cookies for her restaurant, but she ran out of baker’s chocolate. So, she substituted chocolate pieces in. However, the chocolate pieces did not melt and incorporate into her cookie like how the baker’s chocolate would have. Instead, the chocolate pieces stayed intact. This was how the chocolate chip cookie was born. From an accident. A yummy accident, I might add.

Creaming the butter and sugars together

I have used this recipe (found below) for several years now. It is originally from my middle school Family and Consumers Science (also known as Home Economics) teacher. Every time I make these, they come out perfectly. It’s slightly crisp on the edges, and soft and chewy in the center. Studded with chocolate chips, these light brown cookies are delish! And when the cookies are baking, your entire house will fill with a glorious, glorious smell. Chocolate, brown sugar, sweet oatmeal, and vanilla all combine together to form a wonderful aroma. Best of all, after you have popped these in the oven, you can lick the remaining cookie dough off the bowl and whisk. (Of course, there is the risk of salmonella from the raw egg, so do what you think is safe. You may use pasteurized eggs as an alternative or forgo it all together.)

Shaping and flattening the dough with plastic wrap

After they are baked, let them cool a tad bit before biting into them. These cookies can be enjoyed both warm or at room temperature. Whichever way you choose to enjoy the cookies, make sure to dip them in a glass of milk – it is simply the best way to eat these. Read the rest of this entry »

Almond Cranberry Biscotti

Almond Cranberry Biscotti

The Italy issue of Bon Appetit was splendid. I’ve bookmarked about a dozen recipes and already made Pasta al Pomodoro twice. Now I know how to make a smooth and silky pasta sauce :)

From this BA issue, I also learned that making biscotti is a doable task. Biscotti are one of my favourite Italian sweet treats, but I’ve never thought of making them at home. I thought I would need tons of almond flour or other ingredients that I would have to hunt for all around the city, while all I needed was a dash of almond extract. And almonds :) The BA recipe called for dried cherries and pistachios, but I opted for dried cranberries and almonds instead, because the pistachios they are selling here at the moment look ugly.

Surprisingly, my own biscotti looked and tasted quite similar to what I usually get as a gift for Christmas and Easter! The blend of almond, citrus zest, and cranberry flavours was divine! The only thing I did wrong was slightly over-bake them. They looked too moist all of the time, and then suddenly oups! they got over-baked. Next time I bake biscotti I will remove them from the oven while they still retain moistness, for they will harden as they cool. I’d like to try to make them with AP flour next time as well. I couldn’t find unbleached flour so I used 3/4 AP flour and 1/4 whole wheat flour, which  tinted the biscotti golden brown. I guess with 100% AP flour, they would have been even crispier and airier. But anyway. I’m very content with this recipe, that’s why I’m sharing it with you (with my tweakings), even though it’s not Eastern European :)

Almond Cranberry Biscotti Read the rest of this entry »

My Mom’s Paintings

Unicorn 2 by Natalia Petropavlovskaya
Unicorn 2

Some time ago I mentioned I was taking pictures of something beautiful, that I would show you later. Today I would like to finally present my Mother’s paintings that I’ve photographed. We had a kind of a catalogue with printed photos of her works before, but it was rather out of date. We have also opened a new Page on Facebook, so if you like the artworks, please give her a Like :o)

My Mother, Natalia Petropavlovska, is a professional artist. She studied Graphic Art in the Latvian Academy of Arts. The  techniques she has mastered include various Etching techniques such as Mezzotint, Aquatint, and soft ground etching, as well as Woodcut, which she has used for creating bookplates. Her favourite printmaking technique is Mezzotint, because the prints resemble pencil drawing that she likes so much. She has always enjoyed working with colour however, so soon she developed her own watercolour technique, which she uses nowadays. It involves vibrant, almost psychedelic palette with light highlights that add volume to shapes.

Speaking about classic art, she admires Gothic miniatures, Early Renaissance (Giotto and Botticelli in particular), and Pre-Raphaelites, especially Dante Rossetti. Her favourite Russian painters include Vrubel and Somov.

Here I am posting some of my Mother’s paintings from various years, including the Italian series from 2011. I’ve never been to Italy, but I’ve seen the photos and I believe these works really recreate the clear air and the tranquility of the Italian lakes.

The Sphinx series is one of her own favourites.

Lake Como
Lake Como

Lake Lugano
Lake Lugano

Sirmione
Italian Switzerland

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | Sirmione
Sirmione

Natalia Petropavlovska | Summer Dream | watercolour, 26.8x18.9"
Summer Dream | watercolour, 26.8×18.9″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | Winter Dream | watercolour, 26.8x18.9"
Winter Dream | watercolour, 26.8×18.9″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | Palma Cathedral At Night | watercolour, 27.6x18.9"
Palma Cathedral At Night | watercolour, 27.6×18.9″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | Mallorca Beach | watercolour, 27.6x18.9"
Mallorca Beach | watercolour, 27.6×18.9″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | Still Life Under Palm Trees | watercolour, 27.6x18.9"
Still Life Under Palm Trees | watercolour, 27.6×18.9″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | Sphinx And Anubis | watercolour, 26.8x21.7"
Sphinx And Anubis | watercolour, 26.8×21.7″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | Egyptian Sphinx | watercolour, 26.8x21.7"
Egyptian Sphinx | watercolour, 26.8×21.7″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | Evening In The Park | watercolour, 25.6x19.7"
Evening In The Park | watercolour, 25.6×19.7″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | A Morning In Balaklava | watercolour, 23.6x18.9"
A Morning In Balaklava | watercolour, 23.6×18.9″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | At Dawn | watercolour, 18.5x19.7"
At Dawn | watercolour, 18.5×19.7″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | Still Life With Tulips And Herons | watercolour, 17.7x23.6"
Still Life With Tulips And Herons | watercolour, 17.7×23.6″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | Still Life With Blue Chrysanthemums and Partridges | watercolour, 17.7x23.6"
Still Life With Blue Chrysanthemums and Partridges | watercolour, 17.7×23.6″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | Still Life With Radishes | watercolour, 25.2x18.1"
Still Life With Radishes | watercolour, 25.2×18.1″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | Still Life With A Vase | watercolour, 19.3x23.6"
Still Life With A Vase | watercolour, 19.3×23.6″

Natalia Petropavlovskaya | Hoopooe
Hoopooe

Natalia Petropavlovskaya
Natalia Petropavlovskaya in Venice

Banana Chocolate Swirl Muffins

Banana Chocolate Swirl Muffins

I came up with the idea of these muffins when I wanted to bake something as a little “Thank you” gift for a friend of ours who is helping us with choosing and buying a car. Of course the idea of banana chocolate swirls is not new, but I didn’t really follow any recipe except for using my Chocolate Marmalade Candy Muffin recipe as a reference for making chocolate batter. I generously complemented the banana batter with vanilla in order to enhance the contrast between the moist, sweet banana swirls and the dark, rich and dense chocolate swirls. The batter was very quick and easy to make, although of course adding mashed banana and melting the margarine involves some extra bowls. I haven’t actually tried to just cream margarine instead of melting it - I suppose the batter would be  plastic enough with creamed margarine, so if you don’t want to wash an extra saucepan, try using creamed margarine at room temperature.

I was very content with the result and was happy to give these muffins away as a gift. I also gave a couple of them to my parents and left two for me and Stano to sample. I am trying to follow a healthier diet these days - five months of breastfeeding are making themselves felt and my skin and hair are starting to suffer (although I’m still getting off lightly I believe!).  One of my latest hits is an easy salad made with arugula, baby spinach, canned cannellini beans, walnuts, and blue cheese (yes, blue cheese again!). I’ve also bought a pack of organic wheat, so soon I’ll be able to jazz up my salads with wheat sprouts.

Banana Chocolate Swirl Muffin

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Green Bean Avocado Arugula Salad

Green Bean Avocado Arugula Salad

I lied to you.

I am not making anything Eastern European this time. I have an excuse: to make something Eastern European, we always join with my Mom. She’s been planning to come over today, but it’s -18C/-0.4F outside and we had to cancel our cooking session. I could not believe it was so cold outside until I read about it in all news. Central heating is set to its fullest and we have blooming flowers all over the apartment, which sometimes makes Stano start to rummage in the wardrobe in search of  his spring jacket because he thinks it’s warm outside :)

So, I’d like to post my recipe for a salad I made yesterday for my friends. I wanted something filling (that’s why I chose green beans and avocado) yet refreshing (the crisp and watery Chinese pear) and very green (arugula, my favourite salad plant!) and flavourful (black olives and blue cheese). Stano said he could not stay in the same room with blue cheese and ostentatiously lit an aromatic candle in the living room. What’s so wrong with blue cheese?! I love it in salad dressings. And I loved the Chinese pear. Of course I drizzled both the avocado and the pear with lemon juice, but anyway the pear kept very well without darkening at all. I also cut the avocado in larger slices, so it was my first avocado salad that didn’t come out mushy. Some of the ingredients can be made ahead: I cooked the beans the day before and sliced olives and crumbled cheese in the morning, so half an hour before the guests arrived, all I had to do was to slice the pear and avocados and assemble the salad.

P.S. Happy Valentine’s! My Valentine’s gift for Stano will be that I won’t take the remaining blue cheese out of the fridge today :)

Green Bean Avocado Arugula Salad

Read the rest of this entry »

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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

Priyatnovo appetita! (Bon appetit!)

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