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

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 Glazed Cheesecake

Strawberry Glazed Cheesecake
This was our first attempt at cheesecake ever, so please don’t judge too strict. You know, things like cheesecakes, carrot cakes or pizzas might seem pretty ordinary for a lot of you, but they are not too common in home cooking in this part of the world, so this was quite a challenge for us.

So, this was our first experiement with a cheesecake. In fact we had a jar of strawberry preserves and two packages of Philadelphia cheese that I had bought at a discount and the idea of making a cheesecake was obvious. I checked Love My Philly and found a recipe for a cake that looked beautiful, mouthwatering, perfect!.. A little problem was that we didnt want a large cheesecake, because ever since we started this blog, everyone in the family has been continuously overfed:) We didn’t have a small springform pan so we had to use a regular baking pan instead. Yes I know a cheesecake should be round-shaped. So ours was… unconventional, to begin with :)

Another thing I’d change next time I cook this would be the crackers. The original recipe called for some Honey Maid graham crackers, but for some reason we thought chocolate cracker crumbs would be cool too. Which was a mistake, as the chocolate flavour turned out too overwhelming (so was the colour, in fact). I also overdid it with pressing the crumbs onto the pan :D the crumb layer looked thin in the beginning, but it kind of increased in volume in the oven and resulted in a too thick crust.

And yet another departure from the rules: a much thinner layer of batter. We just feared that it wouldn’t bake through, but this was a needless precaution – the cake baked through perfectly in an hour and 10 minutes. So, next time we’re also making it taller.

Despite the mediocre looks of our cheesecake, I can eventually rate its taste and texture very good. It was moist, airy, and creamy. The strawberry glaze added a note of freshness and fruityness (I think I’m falling in love with gelatine: it can turn ordinary things into shiny, colourful lolly-pops!). The chocolate cracker crumb crust… err… could be better :)

But we still have dozens of cheesecakes ahead of us, don’t we?
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Cheese Pancakes and Celery and Walnut Salad

Cheese Pancakes and Celery and Walnut Salad

These cheese pancakes are one of our family recipes – I loved them when I was a kid, and not just because they were quite a rare treat on our everyday menu – yes there were times when eggs and cheese were considered expensive products that couldn’t be wasted just like that.

While some magical childhood memories about certain foods die as you grow up and try those foods (my Grandmother, for example, cherished memories of beetroot leaves soup that she once had during the war, until she finally made it many years later and… the dream got ruined: the soup was not too edible), but I have to say these cheese pancakes taste just as good now as they did in my childhood. They look good, too – golden brown on the outside, fluffy and yellow on the inside. The eggs in the batter make them taste a little bit omelet-y. Well, I think there are some flavours that are just impossible to resist – the flavour of melted/fried cheese is one of them, to me.

But, obviously you will want a counterbalance to these pancakes - something green and fresh and preferably crunchy on the side. From the limited choice of fresh greens and vegetables that we have in this time of the year, celery looked like the perfect candidate. Green, fresh and crunchy. We added some chopped parsley leaves and tossed it all with some minced walnuts and garlic. The walnut-garlic-oil paste is close to what you could find inside Georgian eggplant rolls. I found out it could serve as a standalone dip for crackers/tortillas as well.

The salad came out so good that we thought we’d make it next time we have guests. As for the pancakes… isn’t it great we always have enough cheese and eggs to make them nowadays?

Celery, Parsley, and Walnut salad
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Carrot, Cheese and Garlic Tartlets

Carrot, Cheese and Garlic Tartlets

After the New Year’s bustle was over, we agreed that we were not going to make anything sweet until weekend. Tired of cooking, sated with our multi-layer cake, Austrian chocolate maroons and sweet sparkling wine, I spent the New Year’s morning fishing in the large can for lovely pickled baby cucumbers, reading and watching the lights twinkle on our Christmas tree.

This time-saving recipe has lived a long life in our family. I call it time-saving because we use store-bought tartlet shells. They are made of savoury pastry with a hint of Cheddar-like cheese and paprika. Of course you can make your own tartlet shells by your favourite recipe, or use our pastry for Cheese&Rosemary Halfmoons. Then fill your tartlets with the mix of sweet carrots, mild-flavoured cheese, and tangy garlic. Decorate with black olive rings, fresh herbs, or slices of pickles.

One more thing before we go to the recipe itself: we have launched a Slovak version of our blog! Please meet Stano (see picture on index page), who joined our “editor team” a few months ago and translated all of the posts from my questionable English to correct Slovak.

Carrot, Cheese and Garlic Tartlets

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Cheese&Rosemary Halfmoons

Cheese&Rosemary Halfmoons

These pleasantly salty and buttery Cheese&Rosemary Halfmoons are perfect to serve with root vegetable soup. They are made with a semi-soft to firm sort of cheese with a mild flavour – something like Havarti, for example. We used a sort which is called Russian cheese here. And the fresh rosemary that I bought comes from Israel. This rosemary grew on a sunlit land and made such a long way to be eaten here, in this small Northern country! Poor herb. I cherish the hope of planting my own tiny herb garden next year, although I’m not sure the delicate herbs would stand the Latvian weather. There’s a joke about Latvian weather which explains the difference between winter and summer: you wear your coat fastened in winter and unfastened in summer. That’s true. Not that it’s so freezing cold in winter - but it’s almost equally mm…fresh outside all year round. I’m very picky about choosing a coat for myself because I know I’ll be wearing it October to April. And April to June I’ll be wearing a jacket :) Then I’d be off to a warmer corner of the world - I hear, however, that some people go swimming here as well, in mid-July, when the temperature of water in the sea reaches whole 18C. Haha!

Cheese & Rosemary Cookies

 

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Sunny’s Mushroom and Mozzarella Toasts

Mushroom&Mozzarella toasts

As soon as I saw Baby Portabella & Mozzarella on Mini Toasts at Sunny-side Up Recipes, I knew I would be making these. The recipe seemed perfect: golden-brown mini toasts topped with melting mozzarella and mushrooms sautéed in rose wine, seasoned with Italian herbs… just perfect! I really wanted to share this treat with somebody, so when Grandmother said she was going to visit us, I know what we’d offer her as an appetizer ;-)

Of course I had to alter Sunny’s ingredient list a little bit – for example, I couldn’t find any Portabella mushrooms, so I took plain champignons. The bread slices I used were bigger in size (I wish they sold such mini-toasts here!), and I removed the crust as it seemed to be too coarse for such a delicate dish. But the bread was really flavourful and I even ate almost all of the crusts while cooking, hehe. 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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