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

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 »

Bryndzove Halušky

Bryndzove Halušky with Chives and Bacon
So our summer vacation is coming to its end. Someone whose name starts with S took only two weeks off work, although he could have taken more, and tomorrow we’ve got to start packing our bags to go back to Riga. We’ve spent two wonderful weeks in Slovakia with Stano’s family and friends. I had expected a sunnier weather though; it’s been raining since the beginning of the week, so Ivanka could hardly play in the garden. Last week, she spent hours and hours in the garden playing, picking currants and learning to walk - something she’s deprived of in the city.

Trenčiancky hrad - the Trenčin Castle

Trenčiancky hrad - the Trenčin Castle

As always in Slovakia, I’ve been eating like crazy. Fruit, sweets, cakes, and megatons of delicious and fluffy multigrain-sprinkled bread. I’ve tried Žinčica - a fermented sheep milk drink that is left from making Bryndza cheese, and Parenica - rolls of mild string cheese, and Oštiepok - formed smoked sheep cheese that has been steeped in salted water. I’ve drunk fresh, full-fat milk that can be turned into creamy, rich home-made cottage cheese. And of course we’ve had Bryndzove Halušky by Stano’s Mom. Fianlly I had the time to take photos and to write down the recipe. Now I think it’s time to update our blog author info in the right sidebar of the site :)

Me by Krater - a mini lake of mineral water in Eastern Slovakia

Me by Krater - a mini lake of mineral water in Eastern Slovakia

Bryndzove Halušky is a staple of Slovak cuisine. That’s a food it might take you some time to get used to, because it’s very heavy. Halušky are small potato dumplings mixed with Bryndza cheese sauce and flavoured with bits of fried bacon. Something you need before a physically exhausting day in the field or on the farm. Halušky are traditionally served with Žinčica, Kefir or any other fermented milk drink.

To make Halušky, you will need a special perforated tool called Haluškaren. Now we’ve got one too, but before Stano has used a sheet of perforated cardboard that he had prepared himself :) Using some kind of a colander with large holes is a possible alternative.
Haluškaren - a perforated tool for making Halušky
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Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake (Post by Stano)

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Hi, let me introduce myself. My name is Stano, you can read about me on this blog from time to time. Alina is busy these days… weeks… months, because we are preparing for holidays in Slovakia plus of course she has to take care of our little Ivanka. Our plan is to come to Slovakia, relax and do nothing, just visit new places, swim and eat :) I hope we can take some photos of my Mum’s dishes, and Alina can learn more about our traditional Slovak recipes.

I have to let you now that I am cooking every weekend, and yesterday I made Bryndzove Halusky. I have some friends here in Latvia and I made them 2 servings of Halusky and they were very happy. I came to their home as a courier from food delivery, wearing a red T-shirt, a red bag and a red cap. They laughed, but then they had their Halusky and they said they were tasty. If you would like to know more about Bryndzove Halusky, visit our blog later. In short, it is a traditional Slovak meal made of potatoes, egg and wheat flour cooked and mixed with bryndza, and on the top we put bacon :) I also made garlic soup, but we don’t have a photo of them either. I promise I’ll make it in the future and we will publish it on this blog.

Alina made this cake I think two weeks ago, but she was too busy to publish the recipe. She loves rhubarb and is making beverages, cookies and everything that’s possible to make with rhubarb all the time. These cakes and cookies are so yummy, a little bit sour, so it fits very well in the summer season.
Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

 

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Strawberry Sponge Cake

Strawberry Sponge Cake
It’s been a while since I last viewed my own blog - been working on my primary website day and night again! Two to three times per week, Stano drives me to my parents’ place, which gets divided into a “home daycare area” (where my Mom plays with Ivanka) and a “home office area” (which is actually a desk with a PC in the centre of the daycare area). I get some chance to work, still staying within reach for Ivanka - good for both of us. Of course it’s a little bit difficult to concentrate on things like testing and adapting new plugins or translating European Commission press releases,  so the hardest tasks are left for late nights. Yesterday however, Ivanka got up at quarter past midnight to “dance” and “sing” in her crib for almost an hour. So, late nights are not always mine either :)

The daycare/office facilities I’m using provide free dinners as well:) My Mom has become a true Babushka who always has something yummy in her pantry. At home, I’ve been making lots of rhubarb preserves: compote, jam, and frozen rhubarbs. I actually came to conclusion that freezing this wonderful plant is the most rewarding option, because I don’t like the extra sugars you’ve got to add if you want your jam to keep until winter.And what can be simpler than cutting rhubarb stalks, freezing them on a large plate, and then transferring into a plastic container… that’s it!

One of the main culinary delights I’ve indulged in recently is my Mother’s strawberry sponge cake. She made me two cakes already and I hardly shared them with anyone. It’s made without butter, so it doesn’t leave a heavy feeling. It’s simple. It’s summery. Fragrant strawberries sinking in a fluffy sponge cake under a sugary, crisp, thin crust - that’s what the first steps of a cool Latvian summer taste like.
Strawberry Sponge Cake
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Cheremsha (Ramsons, wild garlic)

Cheremsha (Ramsons)
In a cold country like Latvia, Cheremsha (Russian name for Ramsons, or wild garlic) is one of the earliest sources of vitamins. Cheremsha grows in shady woodlands and its green parts resemble garlic by scent and flavour. The smell can be pretty long-lasting, but it’s worth it, for each leaf is packed with vitamin C and minerals. I prefer to eat Cheremsha on its own with coarse salt, but it’s also a great and healthy addition to any spring vegetable salad. Some other uses for fresh Cheremsha include soups, sandwiches, and pie fillings; it can also be pickled, but not dried.

Do you have/eat ramsons in your area?

Ramson flower

Rabarberu Rausis (Rhubarb Cake With Streusel Topping)

Rhubarb Cake with Streusel Topping

Rhubarb is one of the foods that I can eat every day once their season arrives. And it seems like all of our family is sitting on a rhubarb diet. Ivanka in enjoying her daily rhubarb drink, Stano’s asking for more rhubarb cordial, my Mom is making a rhubarb crumble, and I have three different rhubarb cakes plus preserves in my plan. We’re a kind of a rhubarb family, aren’t we! :) Maybe this is just an effect of rhubarb being the first spring fruit plant that can be eaten as a fruit. I guess most of you are already enjoying fresh strawberries and other gifts of summer, but here up North, we’re still stuck in the rhubarb season (imported strawberries don’t count). And I love it! The tart stalks that turn so tender when baked or simmered, the bold play of green and red colour that turn amber and translucent when heated, the glossy skins and the firm, watery flesh. Oh, rhubarb!

This cake, topped with streusel, is my attempt to recreate the most common Latvian rhubarb cake - a simple, lovely, habitual cake. I’ve compared about half a dozen recipes (that sometimes were pretty controversial) and compiled them into one recipe with my own amendments included. First, I used 1/4 whole wheat flour, as I frequently do these days. It’s healthier, it gives extra taste, it provides pleasant moistness. Second, I used a mix of white and brown sugar for the filling, and I think I could have used brown sugar only. The original recipes called for plain sugar of course, but I thought brown sugar was a better match for the tart rhubarb. Third, I incorporated a little starch into the filling, just to prevent it from leaking. And that’s it. I thought of playing with walnuts in the streusel, but then I decided to keep it simple and traditional. Sometimes I succeed in holding back from too much tweaking ;-)
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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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