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

Blackcurrant Cherry Sorbet

Blackcurrant Cherry Sorbet

As I’ve already mentioned, blackcurrants are not just a fount of vitamin C; they are supposed to improve heat tolerance. So in hot weather, it’s a good idea to include blackcurrants in your daily menu. Of course it’s a yet better idea to bake a delicious pie with them, but I chose the easiest way: pureed some fresh blackcurrants and sour cherries and made a sorbet. And it came out so good, I’ve got to say! As you know, I still don’t have an ice cream maker (I’m not ready to invest around $100 in a device I’d use 2 months in a year) and I’m always on the quest for ice cream maker-free frozen desserts. The pectin in blackcurrants helps the sorbet mix gel as it freezes, which results in a nice smooth texture. The ice particles in blackcurrant/cherry sorbet are so tiny that you can hardly feel them. It also melts gracefully, turning into a sort of smooth cold berry sauce. In a word, I’m quite excited about my new discovery! Oh and just to mention, I made it from scratch without any reference to existing recipes – so it’s totally the way I like it: sharp, tangy, concentrated, rich in colour and flavour.

Blackcurrant Cherry Sorbet

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Yogurt Summer Berry Muffins

Yogurt Summer Berry Muffins

I never stop wondering why everything is so disorganized in local kitchen equipment stores. I’ve been looking for a very simple thing – muffin tins with matching paper liners. As a result, I’ve got tins of three different sizes (and all of them are too shallow) plus two packs paper liners that match none of these tins. Great. I’m hoping that if I continue collecting mismatched moulds and paper liners, someday one of the liners will fit in one of the moulds. Until then, I managed to squeeze some very nice liners with floral pattern into my six medium-sized moulds. That looked far from perfection, but better than nothing. The rest of the forms I just greased with butter. So in the end I got a batch of cakes of assorted size and style… and I liked it! Looked kind of informal. A friend of mine once said that although I try hard to put things in order, chaos is my true element. So this time I was in my element, you know :) Now I’m thinking of baking this as one big cake. I think it should look lovely with that colourful marble pattern inside.

I’ve got to say huge thanks to Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen for her post on Apple Yogurt Muffins, which inspired me to make yogurt muffins with fresh summer berries. The recipe worked out great for me, I just substituted margarine for oil and added more sugar (the original recipe highlights that the muffins are meant to be not too sweet).

Aaand then I had fresh berries in my muffins. Two handfuls of tiny sweet strawberries, juicy blackcurrants and tender raspberries that swirled into a beautiful pattern of pink, red, and purple inside these moist, buttery cakes. I loved how the heavy strawberries sunk to the bottom of my mini muffins and coloured them fluorescent pink. The muffins tasted best about an hour after I took them out from the oven – still warm and spreading a lovable sweet smell all around the house, but they were also good this morning when I grabbed a couple before going to the swimming pool. I’m definitely going to bake this as a single loaf on the weekend, when my sister returns from her trip around Central Europe! Thank you Patricia for the great recipe and inspiration!

Yogurt Summer Berry Muffins

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Yellow Wax Beans and Cauliflower with Cashew Nuts

Yellow Wax Beans and Cauliflower with Cashew Nuts

So jam/preserve season in officially open in our house. We’ve started off with 9 liters of strawberry freezer jam and 5 liters of black currant. That’s just a warm-up before tons of strawberry, raspberry, and plum jam, black currant marmalade and maybe apricot confiture. Fruit preserves are eaten in enormous quantities in our family, while two or three boxes of chocolates we got for Christmas are still collecting dust in the pantry. Fruit preserves are so much healthier than candies, aren’t they? And making them is healthy too: my arms got some extra workout today!

Between hulling and pureeing berries, we sometimes make meals for the family too, although the air is hot and humid outside (our small Cambodia, as I call it), and nobody feels like eating a lot, let alone cooking or (God forbid) baking. As I’m writing this however, it looks like it’s finally going to rain, so if the rain brings us some freshness, I might finally test my new muffin forms tomorrow!

As a compromise with the heat and sultriness, we made these beans and cauliflower today – they may be served lukewarm and they don’t require a lot of cooking. Yellow Wax beans, or Butter beans as they’re called here, turned out to pair extremely well with slightly fried cauliflower. Toasted cashew nuts bring some pleasant crunch to the tender vegetables, and shredded Parmesan adds a sharp, salty note. It takes minutes to boil the beans, and then you just cook them and cauliflower in a pan until they’re as golden-brown as you like.

Yellow Wax Beans and Cauliflower with Cashew Nuts and Parmesan

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Chanterelle Soup Revisited

Chanterelle Soup with Sour Cream

Chanterelles being one of my very very very favourite foods ever (they’re definitely in my Top5 favourite foods, even though I’m not sure what other 4 foods make the Top… I guess lemons and… what else..?), I couldn’t resist highlighting this recipe again. We wrote about Chanterelle soup as one of our first blog entries a year ago. We’ve already made it twice this summer, with a few tweaks, and I thought this lovely summer mushroom soup was worth mentioning once again.

Another super-addictive food I’ve had today was wild strawberries. I’m a wild strawberry maniac. Their scent, one of Nature’s sweetest and daintiest perfumes, makes me tremble. Unfortunately these tiny gems are quite expensive, so I don’t think I’ll have more wild strawberries this year… we’ll see. Perhaps it would be a sacrilege to, say, bake with them, but I’d love to try. I’ve had those delicious wild strawberry and cottage cheese tarts at a French bakery near my office, and they were oh so good!

Wild Strawberries

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Zephyr Strawberry/Cherry Mousse

Easy Zephyr Strawberry/Cherry Mousse

Strawberry season is in full swing here; soon Mom will be making her delicious strawberry jam. The freshest, local strawberries are finally here since last week, and we’ve been sampling different varieties almost every day. My favourite is called Zephyr. It’s a kind of strawberry that tastes much better than it looks. A real gem among strawberries, it’s so delicate and fragile that you’d better buy it in small batches (we usually take a kilo or two) and eat it on the same day. The small berries of irregular shape are immensely tender and have a brightly pronounced flavour of wild strawberries. They have no chewy core at all, and after you rinse them in water (with the most care of course), they will probably lose their shape completely, turning into luscious, sweet, fragrant morsels suffused with June sunshine. That’s why I love them. They are absolute summer.

With these Zephyr strawberries and with some cherries that arrived from Hungary I made a few glasses of light mousse. Unless you’re opposed to raw eggs, it’s a foolproof and quick recipe which might come in handy when you have unexpected guests. I believe it’s also a good way to have your daily protein, together with your vitamins. I just pick the freshest eggs of a trusted brand and wash them with a sponge and dishwashing liquid. As for the remaining egg yolks, why not use them in eggnog, omelette, or cookies?

It’s interesting how the texture of this mousse varies slightly depending on the type of berries. My cherry mousse came out very smooth, glossy and thick like a cake icing; after taking the photos I found out it was quite impossible to sip it through a straw, so sorry for misleading you. The strawberry mousse, however, was kind of airier, lighter, and runnier. I can’t wait to try this with blueberries and raspberries and see what the texture will be like.

UPD A cherry/raspberry mix works out particularly well!

Zephyr Strawberries
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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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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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