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

Zephyr - A Sweet From Post-Soviet Countries

Zephyr

Zephyr is a very common sweet produced in Post-Soviet countries. Outwardly it’s similar to marshmallow, but it’s made with pureed apple (or other fruit), egg white, and pectin. It’s considered to be very healthy, as it contains a lot of pectins and almost no fat (the varieties of Zephyr I’m showing you today contain 0.2% fat). You can see that it’s recommended by the Latvian Dietitian Association:

Zephyr is a sweet recommended by dieticians

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Chocolate Butter

Chocolate Butter

Along with boiled condensed milk, chocolate butter is one of the simplest - and the most nostalgic - home-made sweet treats of the Soviet period. Under conditions of total deficiency*, you had to be thrifty and creative. You know what we sometimes did with chocolate sweets? We spread some butter on a piece of bread, then cut a chocolate sweet into slices and put it on top of the bread. Or sometimes it was just bread, butter, and sugar on top. These simple pleasures were not as miserable as you might have thought - as everything was organic and natural. You couldn’t store products in the fridge for weeks and weeks and weeks like now: they spoiled. Butter was extremely thick, rich and… yes, buttery: the quintessence of butter. Bread was always crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, somewhat similar to ciabatta; the crust was slightly salty and pale golden. Another thing is that sometimes you could notice dirty fingermarks on a loaf of bread, so a common practice was to quickly roast each loaf over a fire in order to disinfect it, hehe.

This morning I spread a spoonful of chocolate butter on a slice of a multigrain bun and meditated about my childhood and all the flavours that are gone for good. But back then, how could I think that I would ever try mascarpone, and wasabi, and arugula?.. And that I would discuss all that with people from all around the globe? All changes are to the good…

*A riddle I invented as a child: “It’s round, green, and grows in Moscow. What is it?” - the right answer is orange, hahaha.

Chocolate Butter

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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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Anchovy Stuffed Eggs

Anchovy Stuffed Eggs

Eggs stuffed with cream of anchovies is a dish my Grandmother always makes for her birthday. This year she also made these for Russian Christmas, although I’d certainly relate this dish to Soviet traditions. Personally I don’t like boiled eggs, but I took step-by-step notes and photos as Granny prepared the eggs today. I thought that those of you who eat hard-boiled eggs, might like the combination of spicy anchovies, egg yolk, onions, and mustard on an egg. Besides, this is one of the key dishes in the Soviet cuisine, so in case you’re interested in cooking traditions of the former USSR, here’s the recipe!

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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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