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

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

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Cheese&Onion Chicken Rolls with Vegetable&Dried Plum Salad

Cheese&Onion Chicken Rolls with Vegetable and Dried Plum Salad

I haven’t eaten meat or poultry for many years now, and even when I HAD to try some chicken recently (I really HAD to), I was surprised how different the taste and the texture were from what I had in my memory… Perhaps I had some idealistic impression about chicken meat in my mind, which didn’t match my current sensation. So I’m not going to become a carnivore in the nearest future… expect for fish, which I can’t resist. But, there’re things you can know and feel even if you can’t try them. I’m talking about these chicken rolls now. Stuffed with mild cheese and golden-brown onions, they’re so simple and appetizing – even to me. Like most chicken dishes, they’re quick to prepare and attractive. This recipe has been one of our family favourites for many years now. Mom also used to make similar rolls of beef, but nowadays my parents prefer poultry. Besides, thanks to that golden crust chicken rolls look much much more attractive than meat rolls.

While the rolls were cooking, we quickly made some a salad with fresh vegetables, apples, and dried plums. Who doesn’t love dried fruit in a salad? I’m convinced that adding a handful of chopped dried plums, dried cranberries or even figs is the easiest way to add some special twist to a mix of fresh vegetables and greens. I also love some pine nuts in this salad, but we didn’t have any at hand this time.

And hey, we have first strawberries from Spain here already. They taste almost like local summer strawberries. First strawberries are such a delicacy that you don’t even want to cook anything with them, they’re perfect alone. Weeks pass before you start thinking of some strawberry parfaits or shortcakes or crumbles… and then there’re endless possibilities… I can’t wait to cook with strawberries this summer!

Cheese&Onion Chicken Rolls with Vegetable and Dried Plum Salad

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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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Mimosa Layered Salad

Mimosa Layered Salad

Doesn’t this salad look like a work of abstract art?

The name Mimosa (wattle) comes from the colour and texture of this salad. Bright orange carrots and egg whites with mayonnaise are topped with small yellow grains of egg yolk, which look exactly like fluffy mimosa flowers. Yes, yes, I know mayo would put off many of you. But, there are solutions. Use light mayonnaise that is low in fat, or make your own! I haven’t tried preparing my own mayonnaise yet, but I’ve seen the process of making it and that didn’t look like anything too complicated!

We also like our Mimosa salad with canned saury fish instead of tuna. It’s not as fancy as tuna, but it has a richer, smoky flavour and it’s more salty.

Oh and I am already thinking of a menu for my birthday, which is at the end of the month (I wonder how many Aquarians are reading me by the way?!). I’ve found these Italian White Wine cookies which I might try – they look very simple and light and airy. I don’t feel like baking any great pies or cakes (like we did for New Year’s), rather something petite and feminine. But I really don’t know what… I mean I can’t choose. I have so many bookmarks of fantastic recipes I’ve found online, that I guess I’ll have to close my eyes and click on two or three random recipes!

Speaking about bookmarking recipes, how do you manage your online culinary archives/discoveries? Do you use your RSS reader, or your browser bookmarking system, or an external social bookmarking service? I’m curious as it’s been only half a year and I’m already desperate to keep my favourites in order…

Mimosa Salad with Tuna fish and carrots
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Russian Vinegret

Russian Vinegret

Russian Vinegret is a type of salad made with beets, potatoes, carrots, pickles and onions. The word derives from the French vinaigrette. This might be because a typical Russian salad dressing is made with sour cream, while for Vinegret you use vegetable oil (which relates to vinaigrette). This is just my guess, however.

Like anything containing beets and root vegetables in general, Vinegret is a healthy salad. It’s also very easy to prepare, but of course you’ll have to be patient about boiling beets. Or, you can find packaged boiled beets in the supermarket.

Vinegret goes along perfectly with salted or smoked salmon.

An important note is to combine the vegetables right before you serve your Vinegret, and toss the beets with oil first. This will prevent beets from staining the other veggies. Potatoes turn red almost immediately anyway, but at least carrots, onions, and pickles will be saved. So be sure to cool your vegetables well before you dice and mix them together.

Russian Vinegret
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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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