Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blackcurrant cheese cookies

Today is the last day of the year. If I only knew how each of you is going to spend it I would perhaps get enough celebrating ideas for my whole life. As you can imagine I'm spending it at home, slowly preparing a New Year dinner, decorating a christmas tree, watching old movies and smiling to my lovely family.

If you are also in the mood for home cooking, let me show you these cookies. They are so simple and so tasty that it is hard to find a better fit for such a day. Have a bite and let a miracle happen to you. I believe they do happen if you let them do so. But whatever you believe, be happy tonight.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cottage cheese and apricot cookie rolls

Did I say already that in Russia we do not celebrate anything on December 25-26th and all the important things happen on December 31st? The thing is that we actually keep baking Christmas cookies even longer - till January 10th or so because that's our favorite home activity on New Year's eve vacation. From all the cookies we bake these are the oldest. While some other cookies come and go these stay with us since (hard to believe...) 1991.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ginger bread house making at Taste of Russia (Moscow)

Till the very last moment when I was holding the walls waiting for the icing to set I couldn't believe the house will materialize. It is like a little miracle. You do some casual baking, cutting and mixing et voila you end up with this beauty in front of you. More than that, you find yourself actually trying to look through the door and windows, as if you were really wondering what's in there. Coming back to earth, I finally visited Victoria Agabalyan at Taste of Russia cooking school in Moscow and I can't tell you how happy this makes me.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Quinoa with smoky eggplant and roast pepper

I finally got some quinoa. I tried this grain twice before - at Terresa's class in Paris and in Corner Burger in Moscow. Both times I found it completely amazing so I cooked it at home to share the finding with my family. Yes, they did indeed like it. But as soon as I set down and started eating I realized I was making it just for myself.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A very special red lentils soup

I would never think that a soup made of these simple ingredients can be that delicious. However once my mom threw it together and since then we are making it virtually every week. Everybody loves it including my little brother and when I eat it I think I do know why. It is just one of those dishes that are truly good for you. It always leaves you with a deep feeling of satisfaciton and comfort.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Quince marmalade

That's the second autumn when my mom made quince marmalade. Last year the stocks lasted till late winter. It suddenly became so deeply imbedded in the family eating that we can't imagine our mornings without it any more. Sometimes we have it on toasted bread with fresh cheese, other times - on its own with tea. When I started inquiring it turned out that this marmalade comes from hispanic cooking and the particular recipe - from an amazing mama-fenix - Russian food blogger living in Barcelona.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Florentine cookies

Last Monday was my mom's birthday. She went for a MacBook (yes, she does listen to me sometimes) but I still wanted to present something hand made. So on Sunday my little bro and I got together at the kitchen to make her favorite florentines. They are continuing the series on Christmas baking.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cooking buckwheat

Buckwheat is one of my favorite grains and something I closely associate with home and Russia. It has a lot of character. When cooked properly it is absolutely delicious on its own. No adds or toppings are necessary. In this sense it is similar to rice. The right way to cook it is nothing complicated, but it really makes a difference.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dinner at Uilliam's restaurant (Moscow)

Since my colleague told me about Uilliam's I was looking for and occasion to try it myself.  A tiny supper popular new place near Patriarkch ponds with open kitchen occupying half the dining hall and with home style Italian food. A very personal (it seems) creation of Uilliam Lamberti.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rice with green lentils (inspired by Kitchari)

I don't really have a name at hand for this dish, but the idea comes from Indian kitchari. Last weekend I tried kitchari for the first time at a vegetarian cooking class by beautiful Moscow food blogger Natasha at Sok cafe. Now if I think about feel-good-food kitchari comes to my head as the first idea. I just love the whole idea of combining rice with a legume in one dish. Vegetables add lightness and flavor to it and a touch of hot spices really makes it shine.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ukrainian granny's vareniki with mashed potatoes (vegan version)

It is hard to believe, but I made my first conscious vareniki (Ukrainian dumpling) just a couple of months ago. I pretty much grew up wondering around them being cooked at the family kitchen helping to make them here and there, but never really did the thing myself from start to the end. The tradition comes from my Ukrainian grand grandma. She cooked beautifully and she taught me a few things. The one I'm most proud of is this vareniki seal, which makes them look so pretty.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Escribà pastry shop in Barcelona

Sweets in Barcelona often go unnoticed. If you don't get to spend much time there it easily overloads you with its amazing seafood, paella, wine and tapas. But this would never happen to such a sweets junky like me. Barcelona has its own beautiful culture of sweets and there is so much to try there! Escribà is one of the oldest and most famous pastry shops in the city, which I was lucky to visit during my last trip.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lemon and caraway biscuits

Now when everybody is not as busy with halloween I can clearly see that it is not only me who is impatiently waiting for Christmas. My first Christmas cinnamon roll cookies this year were baked on October 1st and here comes the second batch. Every time I bake these lemon biscuits they surprise me once again with their depth and intensity. And almost everybody who tries them asks me for their recipe.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tamarind and fresh ginger cake (vegan version)

This time of the year I constantly feel like something spicy. This cake came out very Asian - with intense sweet dark muscovado sugar and sour tamarind. Fresh ginger, cinnamon and black pepper create a spicy explosion, but there is almost no texture, it disappears right after it gets into your mouth.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Perfect risotto at l'Osteria restaurant (Paris)

I got to visit l'Osteria during my last trip to Paris. It's a tiny Italian place hidden in one of le Marais side streets who's chef, Toni Vianello, is famous for revolutionizing risotto. Yes, the saint-jaques risotto we had there was in fact beautiful and different from everything I tried before. But even if we leave the risotto aside, it was just a perfect evening I got to spend with an old friend in the atmosphere of almost family hospitality.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Apple and walnut muffins (vegan version)

There are definitely nice things about starting autumn. My dad came home with a case of Antonovka apples he got at the farmers market. I could tell what was in his bag standing 5 meters away from him. The apples instantly filled the house with their strong aroma. I couldn't help baking apple something. Not that I don't like them fresh, but I can't stand cold food this time of the year. These apples beautifully develop their flavor when baked and they are strong enough for you to taste them in muffins.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cooking with class in Paris: Terresa on Organic Vegetarian


I unexpectedly got an amazing present – one day and one night in Paris. With its lovely weather, clear sky and morning sun. In this city more than in any other one I just had to spend it either shopping for food, cooking or eating. Even more luckily – I got a last minute reservation at Cook’n with class for that day. This was where I met Terresa and tried unbelievable organic vegetarian food she taught us to cook. It was like nothing else, sparkling with colors, flavors and freshness. I couldn’t possibly find any better way to spend that day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dinner at Corner Burger (CBBG 76) Moscow

I never even thought about coming to Corner Burger (CBBG 76) before I saw this picture of their veggie burger. When at Bolshaya Gruzinskaya street, 76 I’d just always go to Upside Down Cake, sure that my door is "to the left" and the one "to the right" (Corner Burger) is for those who like meat. But once I got into this album and started flipping through the pictures – oh my! – these amazing salads, the blueberry pie seemed to be waiting just for me. The veggie burger picture closed the deal – I knew I had to come and try this myself.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dinner at EspaiSucre dessert restaurant (Barcelona)

I can't help wondering how all the important things seem to happen to me just by chance. While I was preparing for my last Barcelona trip I digested many restaurant guides, blogs about the city etc., but never saw EspaiSucre restaurant mentioned. That was Ferran: The inside story of elBulli book, where it was hidden somewhere in between the lines, where I could easily miss it. And yes, it turned out to be the most intriguing night of the whole trip.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cinnamon roll cookies

I'm one of those people who start impatiently waiting for Christmas as soon as the weather turns cold. In Moscow this happens in September so it's two weeks already that I'm thinking about all the Christmas magic. Candles, Christmas tree, mulled wine and baking Christmas cookies. This year there was no way I could make myself wait till December, so with the cinnamon roll cookies my Christmas started tonight.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pumpkin and ginger cream soup

Lately I make this or that vegetable cream soup every weekend. I like this kind of food, especially if they are made of vegetables only - cream or other thickeners make them a bit heavy for every day food. Many vegetables work well in them, but pumpkin and ginger is one of the most powerful combinations.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Home made apricot jam (varenie)

Apricot jam (varenie) is something we make at home every summer since I remember myself. I am a crazy apricot lover always waiting for the season to start after the long winter. However as soon as August is over apricots are gone again. The apricot jam is an attempt to keep them with me till the next summer and I must say it works. With its mind blowing aroma and deep flavor it's like little magic in a jar.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A walk around La Boqueria Barcelona market


Before our Catalan cooking class at the cook&taste Barcelona cooking studio we went to a Spanish chef guided tour around La Boqueria, the most famous Barcelona food market. La Boqueria is a place where one can find almost anything. Everybody seems to like it - city restaurants, home cooks, tourists - all shop there for ingredients, enjoy great tapas bars and the energetic buzz of its crowd.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Basil and olive oil muffins (vegan version)

In my series of vegan muffins I had to come up with something savory sooner or later. My dad is especially fond of low sugar food, but everybody else also seems to enjoy savory cookies, pies etc. That's why quiches got so much traction with us. Anyhow one day I thought about something like pesto muffin. Intense green and with mind blowing basil aroma.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Barcelona Catalan cooking class at Cook&Taste

One more brilliant thing I discovered during my last trip to Barcelona was the cook&taste cooking studio. I was looking to insert some cooking class in our trip and found them. Cook&taste offered a 3-4 hour class where we would be able to not only watch, but cook ourselves. The menu gathered the most internationally known dishes (gazpachotortillapaella and crema catalana). At first I got worried - the menu looked somewhat "touristy" to me, but then I found that I shouldn't have. In addition to that there was a guided market tour available (at La Boqueria of course) - this was the last thing to drive me completely crazy about the class and I booked 2 seats.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cañete Barcelona tapas bar


Besides getting to understand the New Nouvelle cuisine, one of my ideas for the trip to Barcelona was to get a better idea about tapas. I always felt intrigued reading about the best tapas bars in Barcelona, where you start from queueing outside and then need to fight your way to the bar stand.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gelonch New Catalan restaurant in Barcelona


My recent trip to Barcelona was so full of gastronomic impressions that it will take me many posts to express in full. This fist one is going to be about Gelonch restaurant, an haute cuisine experience that really impressed me.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Steamed lemon puddings


I used to be averse of making steamed puddings before last week. Even despite how much I adored eating them. To me there was always some magic about their moist texture, which is so dense and soft at the same time. These lemon puddings changed this and I can't tell you how happy it makes me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pumpkin and walnut muffins (vegan version)

It looks like there is a pattern in my vegan baking. Things work out exactly from the second attempt. That was the case with banana upside down cake as well as oatmeal cookies. Now the pumpkin muffins did the same and I can’t tell you how happy I am at breakfast time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gorgonzola and spinach risotto

That weekend I really didn’t feel like going anywhere out. Even out of my bed, I’m not even talking about restaurants. It felt very strange, given that I’d normally wake up on Saturday thinking about where I should now go. Is it Upside down cake or Coffee bean? Coffee bean or Upside down cake? This time however, I needed to stay in my shell. That’s how I ended up actually cooking food (not usual sweets or snacks) at home.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ginger tea with orange and raisins

Ginger tea is something I picked up when I lived in Singapore. In the city or if you are traveling around to Indonesia, Thailand etc. ginger tea is something so casual that you bump into it in almost every menu. When shopping you also get to see those little packets of instant ginger tea powder. Exactly like those with 3 in 1 coffee you get in Europe.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Chewy oatmeal cookies (vegan version)

The crispy oatmeal cookies I got last time were fine, but I’ve always been much bigger on soft and chewy cookies. So since then I’ve been thinking about developing a chewy version. These chewy (almost gooey) cookies worked right from the first attempt. This must be because I finally got a good book on American baking.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Polish style szarlotka (apple pie)

I used to think I’m not someone who easily gets provoked. However after this article in NY Times Dining made me cook I’m not that sure any more. The result was that I discovered a delicious apple pie which is very different from whatever I tried before. Given that I’m a complete apple pie freak and try different apple pastry wherever I find it, I feel impressed and simply happy about it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Broccoli and Brie cheese gratin

This broccoli and Brie cheese gratin came to mind spontaneously last weekend. Unlike many "on the go" simple foods I make for myself this I don't want to go unnoticed. It made a beautiful, simple and delicious dinner. Together with a glass of cider it even made me nostalgic about France. You just need to like both broccoli and cheese to enjoy as much as I did.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My cookbooks shelf

My birthday of this year turned out very happy. I did have to realize I wasn't 25 any more but that didn't matter because when I woke up my inbox was full of warm greetings. I came to work and saw beautiful smiles of my colleagues saying happy birthday. Three red roses appeared on my kitchen table and they are still there getting more and more pretty each next day. And on top of all that my lovely parents presented to me three precious new and shiny cookbooks I kept dreaming about for months.

These were Joy of Cooking, Ready for Dessert and How to Be a Domestic Goddess and they now got their places on my cookbooks shelf, which is my best source of cooking guidance and ideas. There are not many books on it. Somehow I happen to look at many, but only few stay with me for a long time. These days they make me so happy, that I just can't help writing a couple of words about them.

These two Le Cordon Bleu books are an absolute necessity at my kitchen. I started using them some 7-8 years ago and I still am. It is a careful description of techniques and recipes with great firing pictures. They are very comprehensive in terms of French cooking and also give good overview of the dishes and pastry that have become international classics.

I just started using the book but it's already hard to imagine how I would do American baking without it. It is very different from the illustrated cookbooks I'm used to. It is a heavy encyclopedia, the ultimate source for correct formulas. I started from the pastry part of it and everything I baked so far worked perfectly. It is not surprising given that its recipes have been tested by generations of cooks already. The cooking part I still have to get to.

The Scandinavian Cookbook (Trina Hahnemann)
An incredibly beautiful collection of homey Scandinavian food recipes. All based on local traditions and products, structured according to the seasonal rhythms of Scandinavian climate. All are bright, inspiring, easy to follow and accompanied by lovely family life stories. From world known gravlax (Swedish marinated salmon) and meatballs to less known treasures like cardamon buns with hot chocolate, mouthwatering sandwiches, stews, home made cereal breads and Danish pastries.  

Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes (David Lebovitz)
I got to love David's writing from his Sweet Life in Paris. Then I started reading his blog. I keep reading it not just because it's impossible to stop after you start. To me it is the best example of personal writing, which brings the content (whatever the post is about) alive and makes it inspiring. Then I got The Great Book of Chocolate as a birthday present for my mom and enjoyed it till I moved to a new place. I wanted David's recipe book for myself. I often cooked by his recipes from the website and got to love his style. The Ready for dessert was the best choice for me as it has the widest selection of desserts (as opposed to, say, The Perfect Scoop, which is ice-cream focused). The ideas I see there are clear and original, the pictures are moving and mouthwatering.

I wasn't sure a book could make me happy given my strong addiction to Nigella's videos. It did. From the very first time I opened it. In addition to Nigella's warmth, simple and delicious recipes and amazing mouthwatering pictures it also gives me a nice structure. Cakes chapter starts on page 1, Chocolate - on page 163, Children - on page 207 and Christmas - on page 245. So it doesn't take me long to get into the smiling state of mind.

Jamie's Italy (Jamie Oliver)
Jamie is too popular to need extra comments from me. The book is about Italy, as he saw it wondering around the country in his old car. He was stopping over and getting to know small villagers and their home cooking traditions, sitting next to the old ladies at their street tables and learning to make pasta from them, buying street fried pasta from street stands at night markets. It is a delicious book which makes me smile at it's every page.

My favorite books about food

These are some of the food books I really love. Amazing life stories, food travel guides and fiction books that connect food to people's feelings in a way that I start believing these are not really separable. Be careful with them. You might end up believing it too.