Thursday, February 25, 2010

Russian interior

The Vogue issue for January 2010 had featured this wonderful New York house . Its owners were inspired by the 19th centure Russian interiors and famous Tolstoy 's estate in particular, to create this vibrant and warm place.
Enjoy more details here.

Farmer cheese cake ( Zapekanka )

I should be writing about Russian blini's (pancakes) right now since Maslenitsa is being celebrated throughout Russia nowadays. I promise I will take a picture this week-end and I will post my recipe for blini. But for now I will try to tell you about beautiful and easy breakfast cake. It is not really a desert though it is sweet. It is traditionally served for breakfast or 'Poldnick'- Russian 4 o'clock tea.

The main ingredient here is tvorog- a fresh cheese. The closest match to it that I was able to find in America is a farmer cheese. (You can easily spot it in the cheese section of you supermarket). Oh how much I miss Russian tvorog form the Sunday farmer's market. You just sprinkle it with sugar and your best breakfast is ready. It is reach and tender. It has some hints of salt and that little sugar brings the flavor to the unbelievable heights. You've got to try it if you ever find yourself in Russia. The best part is that every woman that sells her cheese at the market will let you try her tvorog. And they all would taste different. So you just pick the one you liked the most. It cannot get any better then that!
So let me get back to the recipe. You will need:

1 package of Framer cheese ( 1lbs)
2 eggs
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbs semolina
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375F.
Beat the eggs and sugar together. Mix in gently all the other ingredients. Grease the 9" round baking dish and pour in the batter. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden.
Serve with fresh berries and sour cream

Monday, February 8, 2010


I've started thinking about it a while ago. I guess right when my mom went on to become a vegetarian. She was committed to believe that humans were not meant to be carnivores. I disagreed with her. And I still do. I believe that most of our ancestors had to rely heavily on farm animals in order to survive long winters and poor harvest. But still even back then they ate meat occasionally. What we do now is crazy! Just think about how many times a day we eat meat/poultry products nowadays? Sandwiches for breakfast with cold cuts, grilled chicken with salad for lunch, some meatball for dinner? I do not believe we were meant to consume THAT amount of meat we are eating today. It is neither healthy for us nor for our planet.. That is why I love this campaign lead by Sir Paul McCartney. Please read his message here and see some great menu options from Gwineth. Let's make at least our Mondays meat free.

This is the way we cook our veggies

It all started with asparagus. You see we do not have asparagus in Russia. Once in US I tried to find a way to cook these funny-looking guys in a way that would make me like them right away. Somehow roasting it with olive oil and salt/pepper sounded great. So that's how I did it. And ever since I would always use this method for asparagus. Later something made me try to do zucchini the same way and I was in love again. A few days ago I was trying to look up some recipes for cauliflower. Something new you know. Something I did not do before. So imagine my joy when I discovered this at 101 cookbooks. I can roast cauliflower too! Still having a zucchini in a fridge I combined it with my leftover cauliflower for the quick and easy veggie side dish for our dinner. And man did it taste amazing! The other vegetable I've tried so far are beets and eggplants. They all come out fantastic! Roasting just makes all the flavors pop out in a most delicious sweet way! Occasionally I would try a different oil (almond or grape seed), or add some garlic or fresh herb to the mix. Just use what's on hand. But the basic approach is still very good. The only rule is to make sure you cut your veggies evenly and spread them over on a baking sheet in one layer. I like roasting my veggies at 375F with my convection setting. It takes about 15 minutes or so but you have to keep an eye on them depending on how thin you have cut your beauties.
Let me know if you tried roasting your veggies too.

Friday, February 5, 2010

New comfort food

I knew I had to act fast if I wanted to have a picture of this Bulgur pilaf for my blog. This whole pan was consumed in no time right after this picture was taken. There is never a leftover of this dish in our house .
You see I had no clue about bulgur until I started eating often at my in-law's house. Bulgur is widely used in Turkey and other Mediterranean countries instead of rice for pilaf. More fine version of the grain is often used for baking, stuffing (think dolma) or kisir ( Turkish version of tabouleh).
Come summer and I will definitely make a lot of kisir and I will show you how. But for now as the weather is still chilly let's eat something more hearty. Bulgur pilaf....You will need
1 pound ( 0,5 kg) lean ground beef
1 Tbsp butter
1Tbsp olive oil
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 heaping Tbsp of tomato paste
1 heaping Tbsp of pepper paste (optional)
1,5 cups of bulgur
3 cups of chicken broth
3-4 spring of fresh scallion
spicy red pepper ( optional)
1 Tbs of dry mint or more
salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter and olive oil in a big pan with tall sides and saute onion for about 5 minutes. Add crushed garlic and saute for another minute. Now the best here would be to remove onion mix and brown the beef separately returning the onions back afterwards. But I do not always do it. Too lazy, hehe. So you brown the beef until all the liquid evaporates. Return onion and now add the tomato and pepper pastes and saute everything together mixing well. Time to add bulgur and broth. Lower the heat, cover and cook until bulgur is ready. About 30 minutes. You might want to steer it a few times to make sure it cooks evenly. Now add scallions, adjust salt to your liking, add mint and pepper. You may find that you need a little bit more of the broth. Cover again and let it finish for another 5-7 minutes.
P.S. As you can see from this picture above this dish can be taken further by adding sauteed vegetables or greens. That day I had a gorgeous bunch of Kale that I did not want to wilt . I cooked it separately and just added to the bulgur at the very end. This way it kept all its amazing flavors.
To do this you remove all the stems from the bunch of Kale leaves. In a pan heat butter and olive oil. Saute briefly a crushed clove of garlic without burning it. Now add your chopped kale to the pan. And about 1/4 cup of chicken broth. Cover and saute for about 5 minutes. Adjust salt and freshly ground pepper to you liking . At this point you can eat Kale as it is or add it to your bulgur.