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

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

White Bean Soup

Cannellini Soup

This simple and budget-friendly soup used to be a frequent plat du jour in our home when we were children. Of course, Mom used to make it without Parmesan cheese; we first heard about Parmigiano-Reggiano about ten to twelve years ago, I believe. Like a lot of kids or teenagers, I was not crazy over soups back then; sometimes I succeeded to talk Mom into adding some Vegeta-type-of-thing to my chicken soup, that was deliciousness!! :) It was quite impossible to sprinkle Vegeta into white bean soup that was always served with sour cream, so why would I like it as a child?

And, like a lot of adults, I enjoy a bowl of warming, filling soup these days. I like to make cannellini soup by my Mom’s recipe. And Mom has found out that a handful of grated Parmesan cheese lends this light soup some pleasant sharpness, which blends harmoniously with the aroma of garlic and the flavour of full-fat sour cream. A fresh twist on a basic dish from my childhood.

Sorry for the lame pictures by the way, I was in a hurry as always :-p
UPD: Check out our recipe for Kulich - Russian Easter bread - featured on The Hungarian Girl, the great web guide to Central and Eastern European travel, wine, and food. You might be also interested in reading about Easter traditions in Hungary, Ukraine, Poland and other countries here!
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A Few More Words On Borsch

Vegetarian Russian Borsch

I already wrote about  Borsch, but we had very few readers at that time, so I thought it would be nice to highlight this awesome soup once again. It’s one of the pillars of Russian/Ukrainian cuisine, so you can never have too much Borsch! Made with juicy and colourful sauteed vegetables, complemented with freshly squeezed garlic and fresh chilli, and tinted with tomato paste, Borsch is such a universal kind of soup - I don’t associate it with a certain time of the year, for example. It’s equally good in summertime, when all you need for dinner is fresh vegetables, and in winter, when a bowl of comfortingly warm soup can bring you out of hibernation. This time vegetarian Borsch served as a detox meal to me - remember I was going to eat healthier after all the cakes I had been baking? I also made a polenta, and of course I’m still the terror of chickens as I’m still going on with my increased protein consumption.

Do you think I have deserved the right to bake a batch of pumpkin muffins tonight?.. :)

 

Borsch: Click here for our recipe with step-by-step photos (check out the secret ingredient of Borsch and the trick to intensify the colour of beets!)

In the pictures: serve Borsch with a spoonful of sour cream and a slice of rye bread with hot Russian mustard!

Vegetarian Russian Borsch

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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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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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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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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