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Archive for March, 2012

I spent my childhood years in Soviet Russia.  Back then most people practiced Communism as their main religion, and the cover page of our first school book had a large portrait of Dedushka Lenin.  People didn’t seem to be interested in church.

Unless it was Easter –  the most festive holiday of the year!  The preparations started way before the event.  Detailed house cleanings, taking care of graves, and cooking, cooking, cooking…

There are some similarities and differences between the way Easter is celebrated here, in the States, and back at home.  First of all, the dates.  Russian Orthodox Church is on Julian calendar, hence most holidays are 13 days later.  Sometimes Easter falls on the same day as here, and sometimes it’s a week or two delayed.  This year it’s on the 15th of April.

Traditionally Russian Easter eggs are bright red.  Most people boil them with onion shells collected over the year just for that purpose.   There are no Easter bunnies, and I don’t quite remember an egg hunt, but there were other games.  Nowadays there is a new brilliant invention in the field of egg decoration – egg labeling. You put an egg into a plastic shell, dip it into boiling water for a few seconds, and suddenly your shell takes the shape of the egg and sticks to it.   I got a few online and could not resist playing with them today.   

The highlight of every Russian Easter table is Kulich – sweet Easter Bread.  Light and fluffy, it has anything from raisins and dried apricots to almonds and orange zest inside; and a sweet dripping frosting on the outside.  It is usually decorated with letters “XB”, Russian abbreviation for “Christ has risen”.

This year we are planning to share our Kulich with everybody we know.  So, I made a practice run to make sure my old family recipe will do its miracles with American ingredients.  Oh, indeed, it was the sweetest most delicious bread I’ve ever made! 

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KULICH

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 cup milk, lukewarm
  • 25 g dry east
  • 1.5 cup sugar, divided
  •  1 kg unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 6 eggs, whites separated from yolks
  • 3 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 15 g salt
  • 250 g unsalted butter, melted, and cooled to barely warm
  • 150 g raisins, dried apricots, almonds (whichever you like, or all together)
  • 1 cup rum (optional)

FROSTING:

  • 400 g confectioner’s sugar
  • Orange juice (from 2 oranges)
  • 100 g hot water

Yields about 6 kuliches baked in 5.25” molds

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium mixing bowl combine milk, 1 tbs of sugar, and dry east.  Let ferment for about 10 minutes.  Add 200 grams of flour, mix well.  Cover with plastic wrap and let ferment.  Depending on the temperature around your house, it may take from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours for the poolish mixture to start heavy bubbling.

If using raisins, pour rum over them, and let soak while the dough is being prepared.

When the poolish is ready, with a hand-mixer beat the egg yolks with remaining sugar, salt, and vanilla.

In a separte bowl whisk egg whites so that they form a peak.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, butter,  poolish, egg yolks, and whites.

Cover with a plastic wrap, and let rise.  When the dough doubles in size (50 – 90 minutes), add drained raisins and/or other dried fruit and nuts.

Fill the molds with the dough, about 1/3 full.  Traditionally, kulich molds are very tall, lots of people actually use coffee cans. Panettone paper molds are the closest to the ideal that I could find in the States.  Cover the filled molds with a kitchen towel, and let rise for another 50-90 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, till golden brown.

Remove kulich from the oven, and let chill on a wire rack.

When the kulich is cool, prepare the frosting by whisking all the ingredients together into a smooth mixture.

Apply the frosting on top of your kulich, allowing it to drip.

Decorate your Easter Bread with “XB” and or other patterns, if desired.

Христос Воскресе!

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Since we stopped eating meat, our fridge changed drastically.  We always brought the majority of our groceries from the local farmers markets.  Now our fridge looks more like the farmers markets moved in!  We probably can easily feed ourselves, another family, a few neighbors, and a small cow. 

My men do most of our shopping.  It was only logical that they decided that a couple chicken breasts could be easily replaced with some extra fruit and vegetables… So, in addition to our usual stock, now every week I’m facing about 3 bonus bags of greens, 2 cabbages, 3 different kinds of kale, and a box of mandarins.  Seems sufficient…

The ladies of the house do their job too by filling up kitchen cabinets with grain.  Russian national diet is unthinkable without rye, wheat, barley, millet, or buckwheat; for some reason they seem even more important to me now… 

The idea of today’s dinner partially came from The Resilient Chef.  The post that inspired it helped me realize that by slightly adjusting the recipes based on what’s available in the kitchen, I can stop worrying about wasting food, and start emptying that overcrowded fridge… and , yes honey, the cabinets as well…

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INGREDIENTS:

ROASTED VEGETABLES

  • Various vegetables from the fridge (root vegetables work great)
  • 2 tbs rosemary leaves
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt

BUCKWHEAT PATTIES

  • 2 cups buckwheat cooked in salted water
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • ½ cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbs flex seeds, ground
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (optional)

CILANTRO SAUCE

  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 425⁰F /220 ⁰C.

Prepare the vegetables: cube the vegetables, considering the time it takes to cook them: larger chunks for fast-roasting items, and smaller chunks for longer-roasting stuff.

Prepare the dressing by combining lemon juice, olive oil, pressed garlic, salt, and pepper.  Coat the vegetables with the dressing, and sprinkle with rosemary leaves.  Toss everything well.  Place in a baking sheet, cover with foil, and bake for about 15 minutes.  Remove foil, and bake for another 5 minutes to get the crust.  Check the vegetables on readiness, and adjust cooking time and temperature if needed.

Prepare the buckwheat patties: combine all the ingredients but bread crumbs, and mix well.  Make patties.  If desired, roll them in the bread crumbs.  We like to use Panco.  Fry in olive oil on medium high heat for about 4 minutes on each side.

Make ahead: the uncooked patties could be frozen in an air-tight bag for up to 3 months.

Prepare the cilantro sauce: process all the ingredients in a food processor.  Adjust the flavors by adding salt and pepper.

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My dearest friend Alma and I went to the movies today to watch teenagers killing each other; enjoyed it tremendously and had some sodas and popcorn.  That soda (the ultra-enormous size “small” cherry coke) was the first chemical drink I’ve had in weeks.  The guilt level was so high – morally it almost felt like a hara-kiri sword going through my stomach.  The taste was so good –physically it almost felt like heaven… add Katniss Evergreen shooting everyone left and right – true paradise!

To prepare for this deliberately wrong (on so many levels) outing, I made a pretty healthy lunch.  This recipe is adopted from my bread bible, Tartine.  As a person, who grew up on semolina cereals, I was quite impressed – the loaf didn’t taste anything like those childhood breakfasts I’m trying to forget.  It was perfect for my avocado/sprout/goat cheese/sundried tomato sandwich!

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SEMOLINA BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 200 g leaven
  • 750 g + 50 g water (room temperature)
  • 700 g semolina flour
  • 300 g all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 75 g fennel seeds
  • 75 g sesame seeds
  • 20 g salt
  • 200 g mixed seeds (poppy, fennel, and sesame) for coating

Yields: 2 loafs

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare leaven a night before by mixing 1 tbs of mature starter with 200 g oof water and 200 g of all-purpose flour.  Leave at room temperature loosely covered.

Test the leaven for readiness by dropping a spoonful in a glass of luke-warm water.  If the leaven is floating, it’s ready to be used.  If it drops, you need to give the leaven some more fermentation time.

Pour 750 g of water into a large mixing bowl.  Add the leaven, and mix it so it almost dissolves.

Add the flours and mix well till incorporated.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20-45 minutes.

In the meantime toast and process the fennel and sesame seeds in a spice grinder.

After the initial rest, add salt, remaining 50 g of water, and ground seeds to the dough.  Mix well.

Follow the instructions of the basic country dough recipe, starting with “Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 3-4 hrs.”   Divide the dough into two when first placing it on a floured surface.  Instead of sesame seeds, use the multi-seed mixture used in this recipe.

When baking two loafs, after the first loaf is finished, reheat the Dutch oven for another 10 minutes at 500⁰ F /260⁰ C before placing the second loaf into it.

Enjoy!

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If there was a CA (Carboholics Anonymous), I would have been a member. Perhaps I would have had a sponsor, who probably would have gotten a hundred calls from me today.  Alas, there was nobody to stop the vile addiction, and I was… oh, so naughty!!!! – white flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and the whole nine yards!

This Russian treat is called “Plushka”.  The dough is rich, the filling is simple, and your teatime is a guaranteed success!

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RUSSIAN PLUSHKAS

INGREDIENTS:

DOUGH

  • 8 cups all-purpose unbleached flour (divided)
  • 2 cups milk (lukewarm)
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 20 g active dry yeast
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 225 g butter, melted, brought to room temperature
  • ½ tsp salt

FILLING

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup of poppy seeds or cinnamon or raisins (btw, I usually get such things online – you save lots of money buying in bulk)

EGG-WASH

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbs water

Yields: about 24 buns

DIRECTIONS:

Make poolish: whisk 2 cups of flour with milk and sugar with yeast, cover and let raise for about 1 – 1,5 hours.  The poolish is ready after it reaches it’s peak height and drops.

Mix the dough: whisk eggs, sugar, salt, and butter together till everything is dissolved.  Add the mixture to the poolish.  Slowly add sifted flour.  Mix till all ingredients are incorporated.  Place the dough on a floured surface and knead (adding flour, if needed) till the dough stops sticking to your hands – for about 10 minutes.

Place into an lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rest for another hour.

Make the filling: mix sugar with poppy seeds or other ingredients on the list.  Set aside.

Make the plushkas: line a baking sheet with parchment paper and apply cooking spray.  Take enough dough for six plushkas.  Keep the rest of the dough in the mixing bowl, covered.

Separate the working dough into 6 balls (mine were a little smaller than tennis balls).  Roll each into a flat circle (about 4 mm thick) and apply a filling on top of it, staying away from the edges.

Roll the circle into cylinder (like a sushi roll).    Take the edges of the cylinder, and press them together in the center of the roll.  Turn it around, the edge seam side down, and place on the baking sheet.  With a sharp knife cut the new edge in half, stopping about 5 mm away from the center. Spread the cut into a heart-shaped opening.  Repeat with the second edge.

After all plushkas are on the sheet, cover them with a towel and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375⁰F/190⁰C, position the rack in the middle.

Prepare the wash: whisk the yolks with water.

Brush the non-sugared edges of each plushka with the wash and place the batch in the oven.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden-brown. Let cool on a wire rack before serving.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

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Another day and another attempt at guilt-free desserts.  This little chocolate fella was found on Handle The Heat last Friday, and immediately got my attention.  Today I put my skeptic hat on and decided to try the recipe.   To be honest, I wasn’t really planning on making a pretty mousse; I didn’t even believe there is a slight chance it would end up tolerable: never had a tofu dessert before, and always thought there was a good reason for that.

I just wanted to experiment how much chocolate you really need to kill that blah flavor of tofu.  The fact, that my husband is obsessed with dark chocolate, and we have Endangered Species stashed in every corner of our house, helped a lot – I felt no guilt in wasting one bar on a potentially tragic dish.    

Surprisingly, the amount specified by the original recipe was quite sufficient!  Furthermore, the dessert quickly passed Milton test!   Even my men liked it (the 3-year old only after he was… misinformed… that it was ice-cream)!  This chocolate mousse was  super easy to make and even easier to devour…   Hope you give it a try!

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CHOCOLATE-ORANGE SILK MOUSSE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 (14-ounce/abt 400 g) package silken tofu
  • 4 ounces/abt 110 g extreme dark chocolate
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 oz/85 g chocolate wafer

DIRECTIONS:

Crumb the wafers in a food processor.  Set aside.    Using food processor’s grater attachment, grind the chocolate.

Boil the water.

Combine cocoa powder, grated chocolate, and water, mix well, till everything dissolves.  Add confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract and mix till incorporated.  Add orange zest (this ingredient was suggested to be left optional by the Awesomest Neighbor).

Puree tofu in a food processor till smooth.  Add the chocolate mixture and blend till everything is well incorporated.

Assemble the mousse by layering wafer crumbs and tofu mixture in a cup.  Decorate top with a few left-over crumbs and orange zest.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

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While researching my golubtsy recipe, I stumbled upon an article by Irakli Iosebashvili , that made me all excited about French cuisine.  The article said: “The differences between Russian and French cuisine are many, but here’s one of the most important: French food is urbane, beckoning you forward while staying a few steps ahead, like a mysterious, beautiful woman; Russian food is like your mother, smothering you with love.”

Smother with love we do, but it never hurts to spice up the things… in the kitchen… Fellow blogger Come Due Maiali, a.k.a. Natasha, put the idea of buckwheat galettes  into my head a couple weeks ago, and I knew we had to try them as soon as I saw this recipe in the latest Vegetarian Times Special.

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TWO-CHEESE BUCKWHEAT GALETTES

INGREDIENTS:

GALETTE BATTER

  • 1 ½ cups buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1tsp honey
  • 2 cups + ½ cup water, cold
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbs dry oregano

FILLING

  • 1 7 oz log goat cheese, cut into 16 rounds
  • 7 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 16 rounds

DIRECTIONS:

I modified the original recipe replacing 1 cup of grated low-fat Gruyere cheese (which I think would make the dish even more delicious) with mozzarella (since that’s what I had in my fridge)…

Make galette batter: whisk flour and salt in a large bowl. Separately beat egg, honey, and 2 cups of water.  Beat egg mixture into flour with electric mixer, let it mix for about 10 minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.

Preheat oven to 200⁰F /95⁰C .

Make galettes: thin galette batter with ½ cup of cold water by whisking it into the batter.  Heat skillet over medium heat.  Bake galettes by pouring about 1/3 cup of batter on a hot pan and spreading it over the surface.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes, place a round of goat cheese on the galette, fold it in half, place a mozzarella round, and fold the galette the second time.  Cook till the cheese melts.

Place the folded galette on a baking sheet, and in the oven to keep it warm while working on the rest. Sprinkle with black pepper and oregano. We served this deliciousness with fresh homemade radish sprouts.  Tout simplement fantastique!

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