Month: October 2012

Menu: Russia (with Double Giveaway)

There’s a Russian proverb which states “The appetite comes with eating” (Appetit prikhodit vo vremya yedy). Sometimes, when trying new foods, we just have to dig in (especially – oh goodness – when it comes to trying caviar the first time). Only then can we know if we have an appetite for the new dish. Thanks Russia! We definitely used this advice this week. All recipes and meal review will be posted throughout the week. Pumpkin Olad’yi [Recipe] This is Russian breakfast at her best. Think fluffy pancakes, but smaller. While typically made with buttermilk, these olad’yi also have a happy helping of pumpkin puree, which makes them perfect for right here, right now.  Served with honey, sour cream, and fresh berries. Russian Potato Salad | Olivier Salad [Recipe]  This classic salad contains everything but the sink: ham, peas, pickles, carrots,  hard boiled eggs, and potatoes. Welcome to the ultimate potluck celebration dish in Russia. “Egg, Egg, Caviar” [Recipe] This fun concoction is something saw on Andrew Zimmern’s show. Imagine a gently scrambled egg with cream, chives, and …

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River Angara at Talzy close to Lake Baikal. Photo by octagon.

About the food of Russia

Ava’s been pointing to the giant orange mass on our world map lately and asking “are we eating that country tonight?” Each time I know without looking that she’s pointing to Russia. She always is. To her little three year-old mind, there’s nothing more enticing than the biggest country on the map (Russia is literally 1/8th of the world’s landmass!). This week I can finally  tell her “yes.” Russian food is simplicity itself. We’re talking cozy staples designed to get people through long tough winters, like beef stroganoff and princess pink borscht, that traditional beet soup we tried with Belarus [Recipe] (Russia is home to a dizzying array of borscht.  Want it hot? No problem. Chilled? Sure thing. Inside a carnival colored cathedral? If you promise not to spill.) Then there’s the pickles. Pickles were a great way to preserve food in harsh weather, so it’s a standby from the old days. Pickles in Russia are not limited to cucumbers – you’ll find pickled garlic, tomatoes… even garlic shoots. I know, because I saw it on Andrew Zimmern’s show …

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Monday Meal Review: Romania

THE SCENE Pleasure is spread throughout the earth in stray gifts to be claimed by whoever shall find. (William Wordsworth) I spend hours daydreaming about other countries – about how beautiful they are, about the incredible food they eat. Every week I take my family to one of these countries via stovetop travel and we imagine the joy we’d have living life in those countries. But I’m increasingly uneasy with this set up. I’ve had trouble pinpointing my discomfort, until the other day when my issue hit me like a ton of bricks. Part of loving the world we are in… well… it’s loving the world right where we are, right now. To quote a lobster I know: The seaweed is always greener, in somebody else’s lake. You dream about going up there, but that is a big mistake. Just look at the world around you, right here on the ocean floor. Such wonderful things surround you, what more are you looking for? (“The Little Mermaid”) Truth is, I’m a lot like Ariel, more focused on …

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Romanian Easter Bread | Pasca

In my dream Romanian house I am surrounded by tall, sunny windows overlooking cobblestone streets and green, leggy hills.  As I sit in a velvet window seat, I nibble copious amounts of Pasca, a traditional sweet bread enjoyed on Easter morning. The bread is filled with sweet cheese (think something like cheesecake) and sometimes raisins. Between bites, I sip a cup of steaming, hot tea. The nearby oven radiates gentle heat that drifts through the house and takes the chill out of the air. In real life, my kitchen has no windows and, instead of warmth floating through the house, my stand mixer tosses my made-with-love Pasca dough off of the counter. Instead of daydreaming by the window, I spend my afternoon Googling what kind of mixer to buy this time. You see, as my stand mixer kneaded the soft dough, she shimmied off the table, crashed onto the tile floor and broke the arm mechanism for good. Even JP Weld wouldn’t put those pieces back together. I know because, love him, Mr Picky tried. The scene …

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Transylvanian Cauliflower Casserole with Cheese

I don’t usually give a lot of thought to Dracula, except for that one era in the nineties when several movies came out and I read “Interview with a Vampire” in two and a half late-night sittings. For a long time afterwards my brain bore the imprint of fear. Do not leave the windows open in the glittering, eerie night,  a little voice told me. Whatever you do, sleep with garlic in close proximity – preferably around the neck, the voice added. (I would have done so, if it hadn’t been so uncomfortable) So here we are – a decade and a half later – the week before Halloween, and we’re cooking Romania. All those old feelings have come back, jittering out from my psyche. To quell this nervous energy, I’m happy to report I found a recipe inspired directly by the cuisine of Dracula’s hometown: Transylvania. Perhaps the Count ate it himself. Dracula was a real man from the 1400’s (with an epic mustache), originally known as Vlad the Impaler because of the extraordinary punishments he doled …

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Romanian Stuffed Cabbage Leaves | Sarmale

Cabbage patch kids always seemed creepy to me when I was little. What kind of baby grows out of a cabbage? Could you still eat the cabbage once you harvested the baby? This doll raised lots of questions. Not to say this stopped me from wanting a cabbage patch doll more than Rainbow Brite leggings, because I did. The urge was major. Now that I am a couple (few) decades older, I know exactly what was going on – mostly because it’s starting to happen with Ava. I wanted those dolls because all the other kids wanted them. They were collected in the 80’s quicker than Michael Jackson gloves. As a rather “thrifty” family living in a “thrifty” part of Boston (I slept in one corner of our apartment’s living room while my brother slept in the other), I wanted nothing more than to play with these dolls that rich kids littered their deluxe playrooms with. It all seemed so fancy and grand. And I thought maybe having a doll would make me popular – like the kids who had them. …

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Menu: Romania (w/ Giveaway)

This weekend we bobbed for apples, did some yoga, and took a Sunday drive past acres upon acres of brown trees. They were mostly oaks, poised solemnly against the horizon, their branches nodding as if to say “It’s 80 degrees in October. We give up.” Other than a few spikes of golden yellow, fall seemed to have skipped over our annual 30 minute drive to the pumpkin patch. Considering we forgot to actually buy any pumpkins while there, I’m not sure what to make of our afternoon. One thing is for certain. Anytime I want to escape to the true crispness of fall, I simply have to whip this Romanian menu up. Designed for the fall and winter table, it has everything warm, gooey, and full of bacon. I’m not sure what else there is to life. Unless, perhaps, cheesecake baked into bread. All recipes and the meal review will be posted throughout the week. Transylvanian Cauliflower Casserole with Cheese [Recipe] Wave “Hello” to Dracula while you eat this favorite from his hometown. Steamed cauliflower is then enrobed in …

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About the food of Romania

Just two weeks ago our friend Marlin went to Romania, in a little spot near Transylvania. He came back with stories of a beautiful country working on unification. His words conjured up images of wagons, cobblestones, mud, and villages lost in time. In this country, one family might eat completely differently than another (surprisingly, there was no mention of vampire eating habits). Of course, it’s not all countryside – there are also stone cities which look out sternly upon the streets. Regardless of where you are, there are cultures from different backgrounds living side by side… trying to figure it all out. Later that night, as I lay in bed, it occurred to me that Romania is no different from the rest of us. From the smallest family, to the entire human race, this is our quest: how can we all come together peacefully? Some days go better than others. So let’s sit around the Romanian Global Table and see what we can learn. For starters, I noticed an old friend from our time cooking …

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Monday Meal Review: Qatar

This week we hosted a Fairies around the World party. There were two main reasons, only one of which had anything to do with fairies. First of all, the party was a way to quell my motherly distress over the fact that my husband, my daughter, and I all have birthdays in the middle of summer (which, in Oklahoma means suffering through 112 degree days). In other words, we have no other option than to spend our birthdays submerged in water (or suffer in air conditioning, which I have little interest in). As a result, I’ve not been able to provide theme birthday parties for any of us. Don’t get me wrong – at one time a regular birthday party with a few stray balloons seemed perfectly normal… but something changed post-Pinterest. Now everything must have a theme, even pencil holders. And the litter box (yes, really)… oh, and don’t forget about the cat bed. (p.s. none of these pins actually made it into my house). I’m so entrenched, I now create Pinterest boards like “rainbow birthday parties” …

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Cinnamon Buttered Dates | Al Rangina

I’m not a particularly picky person, except when it comes to dates and men. I lucked out in the man department when I married my best friend 4 1/2 years ago… but I’m still working on learning to love dates. While I certainly love going to dinner and a movie, taking long walks on the beach, and enjoying romantic hikes in the forest… I don’t much care for date dates. The black, oblong super sweet kind of date that one eats. Dates are one of the major foods grown in Qatar, so the time has come to challenge myself with this treat once again. I found today’s cinnamon and butter laden recipe in the World Cookbook for Students. In my adaptation, the flavors combine into a simple and straightforward treat – something for everyday living.  Also, the butter cuts some of the sweetness from the dates which is a definite plus in my book. P.S. Here’s how dates grow, if you’re curious… it’s a long road from these plump jewels to the wrinkly, black nuggets we find in …

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Cumin Seed Potatoes | Batata b’kamun

When I look up at the turmeric-colored leaves that dangle in our now somewhat skeletal trees, I know I need a change. I crave something warm, comforting and full of spice. But I need it to happen quick, so I can run back outside, lay on my back, and watch those leaves shimmy and shake on their way down to the ground. Unless, I can find a compromise. A quick recipe I can bring on a picnic. One that can stand up to a chilly autumn afternoon and a toddler who recently got a big girl bike. A recipe I can bring to a potluck… perhaps a potluck featuring fairies from around the world. Well. Turns out, thanks to Qatar, I can. Enter Cumin Seed Potatoes – a recipe that rocks my world. The origins of this dish are a blend of Middle Eastern and Indian sensibilities, which is just about the way things work in Qatar. For a fun and equally authentic variation, try substituting some or all of the potatoes for steamed cauliflower. Ingredients: 2 lbs small …

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Stuffed Grape Leaves | Warak Enab

Time and time again I’ve failed to entice Ava with stuffed grape leaves. I tried back when we cooked Armenia, when the grape leaves were laced with an intoxicating blend of cinnamon, allspice and currants and she was an innocent, unquestioning 8-month old. Let’s just say she wasn’t ready – neither for the somewhat chewy outer “skin,” nor the mystery of what was inside. Little kids like to know what mom is feeding them. Not one to give up easily, I spent the last 3 years casually pushing them onto her plate whenever we stopped by the Whole Foods salad bar for a quick meal. Even with her astonishing love of salads and most any stout vinaigrette,  Ava consistently turned her face away from the dark green dolma, dove her fork into a festival of lettuce and munched away without an iota of interest. But here’s the thing. I can’t leave well enough alone. For some ridiculous reason I want – no need- my daughter to love stuffed grape leaves. I suppose it is the same something that made me hope …

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