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Everything posted by Alinka

  1. Chufi Yum! After looking at this thread I made brownies yesterday, too. They came out looking fine but were too dry and not chocolaty enough to my taste. Seems I don't have luck with baking recipes over here, even when I use European recipes (as I did for these brownies). I wonder if sugar here being derived from beets vs. sugar cane is the reason .
  2. Meredithla, thanks! Emily_R, to be honest, this was not my favorite carrot cake. It was nice but too sweet and not carroty enough to my taste. I'd rather share the recipe of mine that I like next time if you don't mind.
  3. Alinka

    Dinner! 2007

    MobyP How elegant! Do people actually eat like this at home? MiFi That meat looks so delicious. percyn Eggs. Of course .
  4. Banana bread, instant coffee with milk (at least I'm honest ) -
  5. Alinka

    Dinner! 2007

    Hi everyone! Percy, Chufi, I'm so glad to see you guys! So, here's what came out of my attempt at osso bucco. It's not an authentic recipe, just a recipe a friend of mine shared with me, but we liked it; the meat came out incredibly tender. Served with polenta -
  6. Alinka

    Dinner! 2007

    Dinner is still in the oven (hoping to make osso bucco) but there are these khachapuri hot from the oven to snack on - They are pastries (pies?) made from yeast dough with brynza cheese inside. The cheese is salty and sharp and somewhat of fresh mozzarella consistency. Khachapuri comes from the Caucasus; this was my first time making them. I talked about them a little here.
  7. I know, I know! I even made that tart from her recipe . Delicious. I'm ready for rows and rows of cakes, pies, and pastries.
  8. And now, my favorite place in Moscow, as promised. It’s Volkonsky Bakery. The mechanical doll keeps kneading and kneading its dough… When I saw the book in the window I thought the name looked familiar. So I got online and read more about the bakery. Turns out that it’s a French bakery chain Maison Kayser (a little about it here). When you walk in, if you turn left, there is a nice little room where you can have you pastries with hot chocolate or whatever you prefer. The problem here is that there is only one table, and often there are no seats available. This is why we try to go there early in the morning. If you turn right, you get your bread Seen across the street: Italian restaurant Mama’s Pasta. We came across it by accident, but we will certainly come back to try their food. The restaurant’s deli located next door looked and smelled great, with a pizza oven and tables along the walls where you could eat the food you just bought. Well… I think our trip to Moscow has come to an end. Thanks for being with me! It was fun. I know we’ve only scratched the surface, there is so much to see and learn about in this great city and this great country. But I am sure we'll come back. See you next time!
  9. Pizza delivery This was the most delicious shake we’ve ever had: strawberries, raspberries, syrup, and whipped cream; no ice or anything else to dilute this flavorful goodness. This store downstairs is called “The store of real food and juice bar.” It sells organic food, and you can even get wheatgrass shots here. But it looks more like a fancy boutique than a messy health food store I’m used to. The cans with organic cannelini beans look like they’ve been polished, and health food cocktails have a bit of a steep price at around $10 for an 8-oz glass
  10. Thank you all for your kind words! I'm glad you enjoyed it. And thanks, Skinny Guy, for mentioning sushi. I never got around to that. But sushi is big in this town! I've even seen it on the menu in Uzbek and Italian places . maggiethecat: I'm glad I was able to disspel some of the stereotypes. Yesterday I picked up a copy of the English language newspaper The Moscow Times, and quite appropriately read there: "Analysts largely agree that foreign media tend to paint Moscow in less than a flattering light, reminiscent of the Soviet Era. Old stereotypes of the city focus on its cold weather; serious, communist-style demeanor; and Spartan accomodations, even though many of those impressions are no longer even remotely accurate." Have no fear though: Moscow is starting a PR campain to change its image . Before we finish here, allow me to take you on one more walk with me. I took these pictures yesterday, in my usual random fashion .
  11. Now, Pille earlier mentioned ikra that she liked. I misunderstood that she meant caviar or salmon roe. Turns out, she meant “poor man’s caviar”: the one made from eggplant. Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables, so I like eggplant ikra very much. I think it's a (very) distant relative of caponata. There are many recipes for ikra because it is a very forgiving dish. Here’s how I made it yesterday: Baklazhannya Ikra 1 onion, diced 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 carrot, grated 1 bell pepper, seeded, diced 1 eggplant, diced 2 large ripe tomatoes, or canned tomatoes 4 tablespoons oil Fresh herbs Saute onions in oil until translucent; add garlic, carrot and bell pepper and sauté until soft. Add eggplant, sauté, then add tomatoes, salt and pepper; cover and stew until eggplant is soft. By the end of the cooking add your favorite herbs. I personally like to add basil and parsley, but you can make it anything you want: cilantro, dill, etc. Once it’s done, I sometimes partially puree the ikra right in the pot with a hand blender or mash with a potato masher, but it is not necessary. Another dish that caught someone’s anttention in my dacha album was borsch. Actually, this was not borsch, but svekolnik ("svekla" means "beets" in Russian): I’d heard about the dish but never tried it before then. My friend’s mom made it. Basically, you make okroshka first. Then, you cook whole beets separately (with lemon juice added to the water to preserve color and give it some tartness), grate them, add to the dry okroshka ingredients and use the water the beets were cooked in for liquid. Here, you can see partially assembled svekolnik: Now, naturally the question is, what on earth is okroshka? Okroshka is this: I talked about it in more detail here. Right now, in summer, almost every restaurant I've been to has okroshka on the menu. One last thing before I leave you here to go out to explore the city on this (overcast) Saturday morning. This is the cabbage that my mom pickled before she left. Actually, I'm not sure whether she used any vinegar or just salt. I know she added grated carrots and some sugar to it. It is a popular way to preserve cabbage and use it winter in borsch, vinegret, or just by itself as a side to boiled or fried potatoes. Here, I added some oil (dark flavorful sunfour oil works best here) and thinly sliced raw onions.
  12. On the way home from work I saw something that got my attention: part of the street was blocked off, and a market was set up there. There were all kinds of stuff sold, not just food, but clothes, dishes, bed linens, etc. For the food items, it seems that only local producers were represented. Watermelons and melons are in season: Buying sweets. By the way, the word babushka means "grandmother" or "old woman" in Russian, and not a piece of clothing I see khalva here These photos are for our sweet-tooth Lorna: Russian sweets, cookies and pastries; sold by weight House wares were also sold. And here’s ikra, or salmon roe. I expect that when Russians do buy it, it’s usually at markets because it is expensive in stores. Various kinds of local honey These are smoked quails. They are so tiny that two would fit in the palm of one's hand. To be honest, I couldn’t eat these babies. These are pryaniki: Russian gingerbread. The city of Tula is considered home to the best pryaniki in the country. But these were made in Pokrov, and boy were they good! I bough one; traditionally, they do not have any filling, just sugar glaze. They are soft and very flavorful because of the spices that are added. These days, all kinds are sold, with chocolate glaze, fruit filling, etc. The one I got was filled with boiled condensed milk and nuts. Not bad, very sweet. I, however, would prefer just a plain pryanik.
  13. Okay… The end of the week has rolled around, and there is only one day left. Last call for questions! I’ve been trying to keep up with answering, but if I missed some, it was not intentional. So let’s talk about Friday. For breakfast, I made kasha again. It’s funny how tastes change depending on where you are. In the States I would eat hot cereal probably 5 or 6 times a year but here I make it a lot more often. This time the kasha was made from millet. Packages like this are popular these days: When we were staying with our friends at the dacha, their mom would cook us a couple different kinds of porridge for breakfast, and she preferred to use pouches likes this. You cook the grain right inside the pouch that floats in the water. Makes it easier to clean the pot. After the millet was cooked, I shook it out of the package into milk and cooked a little more because I like it when it’s mushy like this. Served with butter and sugar of course! Lunch was at the cafeteria again: nothing interesting there, sorry. I got buckwheat with a beef/vegetable gravy (very common in cafeterias) And also a syrnik: a tvorog patty with a filling of dried fruit, fried in butter. Served with sour cream and baked apple. Also very typical cafeteria fare. To drink, I got hot tea and ryazhenka, kefir-like dairy drink made from baked milk. So it has the consistency and the tanginess of kefir but with a more buttery flavor. I used to buy it at the Russian store or at Whole Foods or Central Market in Houston. Here however it tastes better, creamier and smoother:
  14. I’m glad you liked the photos . Moscow should be a European city – it’s located in Eastern Europe. But of course, I did not take you to the ugly parts of town, like those vast bedroom communities with nothing but rows and rows of huge apartment buildings. And restaurants here range from dirty “hole in the wall” places where they don’t even have running water or refrigeration (hate to think of what their hygiene is like) to sleek modern restaurants. I tend to frequent the latter . Hi Skinny Guy, join in! You know a lot more about the city and what it has to offer than I do . Enjoy .
  15. Now, photos. There will be fewer than usual today, sorry. In the morning I had to go to a meeting at an office several subway stops away, on Tverskaya street. So I just had lunch there. We went to a French café called Ле Гато. I think it’s a chain because I’ve seen the same sign on a restaurant on the Garden Ring. I’ve found their web site, but it’s all in Russian: http://www.legateau.ru/ Here’s what it looks like inside: Oftentimes in restaurants they have what they call “business lunches” – prix fixe menus. They are usually cheaper than regular entrees and include soup or salad, a main dish, and possibly a dessert. So as part of our business lunch, we both selected onion soup: For an entrée, I had salmon with potatoes au gratin And my companion had beef stroganoff and mashed potatoes The fish turned out to be cooked very well, tender and not dry yet not raw in the middle. On the way out I took a picture of heir chocolates and pastries:
  16. As Catherine pointed out, pelmeni have a meat filling: beef, pork, or lamb. I have not heard of buckwheat varnishkes. It sounds Polish?.. Surviving on a vegetarian diet in Moscow – you are a brave woman! Cold winters notwithstanding, Moscow is not exactly a vegetarian-friendly place. Although I have read about several vegetarian restaurants, and there are Indian places here as well that should have meatless dishes. I did not mean to offend you, sorry: I did not know “expat” has such a negative connotation for you. I have nothing against expatriate community; in fact, I consider myself part of it. Although not shying away from my Russianness, in a lot of ways I have more in common with Americans just because we have been exposed to the same things and see things in similar ways. Sure, come on over, to brush up on your language skills . I really don’t remember the price of eggs (not that ever paid attention to how much they are in the States, either ). On page 2 where I showed photos from the market I also talked about the prices and the exchange rate a little. I remember that the price of the cafeteria meal yesterday was about 80-something rubles (two salads, one cabbage roll, and a glass of kefir). It was lower than usually: a lunch of soup or salad, a serving of protein, a side, and a drink usual rings up to around 120-150 rubles at that cafeteria. That's interesting that you think it is sophisticated. To me, this is one of the plainest dishes. And I like it. Vinegret 2 medium potatoes or 1 baking potato, boiled, then skins peeled 2 small or 1 medium beet, cooked, peeled 2 medium carrots, cooked 1 cup canned or frozen peas 1 4-oz can sauerkraut (liquid squeezed out) 2-3 pickled cucumbers 3 tablespoons oil Dice vegetables; add oil, salt, pepper; mix well and let stand at least an hour. You may also add caraway seed for this Eastern European cuisine flavor . I remember there was a question about our jobs earlier, too. Shawn and I work for different companies. I work at a Houston-based company (before Moscow, I worked for it in Houston for 6 years). Also, you guys asked what my office is like since I have the opportunity to make salads there. We have a small kitchen with a fridge (European-size, i.e. small), a sink, a microwave oven, a table, a cupboard with some dishes, and even a hotplate which I doubt anybody uses. Now, Abra, back to your question about the cafeteria. This “tray system” has existed in Russia as long as I can remember. The food is also very traditional. When I first came to this cafeteria I had this strange feeling of being back in time: America has happened to me, and they still serve this institutional-type food I ate in secondary school and colledge! Thanks for the suggestion to run a separate thread or blog on the Russian cuisine. It is really exciting to see all the interest it generates. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to do it right now. Even with this blog I’m stretching myself too thin. Maybe when there is a slower time in my life!
  17. Hi again, everyone! It’s so nice to come back here in the end of the day and see your interest. And thanks for the compliments to my photography. Now, some Q&A time! Many kiosks advertise that they serve pastries hot out of the oven. What they do is that they have these little ovens similar to those at Quizno’s. There are many kiosks in the underground passes and metro stations (before you take the escalator to go down to the trains) so the smell of this freshly baked stuff used to make me salivate every time I went underground. But I’ve found that the aroma is better than the taste. These pastries taste ok, but nothing outstanding. As I’ve always been a health nut (although less so now) the taste is not worth it. I’d rather have a croissant or a brioche from my most favorite place in this town, Volkonsky Bakery. We stumbled upon it by accident, but it is now the place we go for breakfast every weekend. I will try to take you there on Saturday. No need to trepide (trepidate?) . You did great. It says “Priogi da sloiki,” which means “pirogi (which, as we have established, are pies) and puff pastries.” I just thought that the English phrase did not make any sense. You are so right! As I said, and Lena has confirmed, Moscow is like a different country. Even my 7-year-old nephew, after visiting us for a week and enjoying Moscow, said he did not want to “go back to Russia” . Congratulations! The Italian restaurant is called Vapiano; it is on Prospect Mira, near the Prospect Mira Metro station, in the Moscow University Botanical Garden. For the restaurants near the Bolshoi I would recommend consulting Frommer’s or Fodor’s. I myself like to use them for info on sightseeing. I would expect that their restaurant recommendations would be good, too. Just make sure you get the latest edition since things change so quickly here. Right!
  18. I have a couple of minutes to answer a few questions. Glad you enjoyed the photo . As Pan noticed, the signs at the Italian restaurant are in Italian, not English. But elaborating on your question: against popular belief, I have not noticed any difference in quality in the restaurants with an English language menu vs. Russian-only. Perhaps it is true for Europe that truly authentic and good restaurants only have the menus in the language of the country, sort of “hidden gems” unknown to tourists. Here, I’m actually glad when they happen to have English menus: the food is not necessarily better or worse, but it saves me the work of translating and explaining every menu item for my dining companions . I talked about my mom on page 1. My parents do not live in Moscow. I think Catherine and nakji gave very good answers to that question. Personally, I’ll have to wait until winter to see what’ll happen . Hi Lorna! Some of the popular Russian cakes are Napoleon (a version of mille-feuille), honey cake (multiple thin layers of honey dough layered with whipped sour cream); then there are variations of your basic sponge cake with buttercream. Actually, there are so many desserts and pastries that talking about them alone would take a whole blogging week . My personal favorite at this time (and my taste changes every now and then) is the honey cake. It is very labor intensive so I don’t make it very often. Plus, I don’t trust myself: I will not rest until I eat the whole thing! Why don't we ask Lena to tell us more about Russian pastries since she is our dessert lady? (Lenchik, hi! I'm so glad you joined!)
  19. Trying to eat more veggies, I got a salad called vinegret (very traditional; made with cooked beets, potatoes, carrots, plus canned peas, sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers, some vegetable oil and salt) Also, a salad of grated carrots and apples: For a hot dish I got one cabbage roll. I thought it would be stuffed with meat and rice as usual, but this one turned out to be with rice, carrots and mushrooms. Really hated this slippery gravy on top, so I just scraped it off. On of the guys got chicken and rice. Please disregard the fork: he kept sabotaging my photo session of his food because I was being “weird.” As I was walking home after work (two glazed syrki in tow) I was contemplating what to do for supper as there was nothing to eat at home. Then the phone rang and Shawn (who was already home) said he was going to cook up some pelmeni and whether I wanted some. How could I forget about our contingency box in the freezer?! Of course I wanted some. So here it is Some people like them with sour cream. I like them with adjika (spicy tomato sauce similar to salsa). This one is for you, Soupcon -
  20. Okay… picture time Breakfast was mannaya kasha – cream of wheat. It is always made with milk. Some sugar, salt, and a piece of butter… Every Russian who ever went to a daycare or elementary school remembers it. The word “kasha” means porridge in Russian. Kasha can be made from – yes - buckwheat, but also from millet, rice, semolina, etc. It is usually cooked with milk and is believed to be good for kids. For lunch I’m taking you to the cafeteria in our office building. See if it looks similar to the cafeteria at your place of work . You grab a tray and slide it along, getting food: Salads and appetizers: The cafeteria lady ladles you what you want (does this one remind you of YOUR hight school? No hairnet ). Today, there were two kinds of soup: mushroom noodle and borsch (geez, Russians do eat of lot of borsch, don’t they?!). Other offerings included chicken, fish roll, stuffed cabbage, and pork cutlets, to mix and match with sides – rice, pasta, or buckwheat. If you want some bread… …or one of those pastries we’ve been talking about: Moving along we have fruit, cakes, and drinks: kompot, kefir, juice, milk, water, etc. Pay at the register Sauces come free (ketchup, mayo, salsa, etc.) Going back to the register, do you see a box with teabags there? Here’s where you get your hot water. Russians are really big tea drinkers. For lunch I was accompanied by my two American co-workers. We were there at around 12:30 which is about lunchtime in the States. The cafeteria was almost empty because Russians usually eat lunch later, at 1 or 2. (I do hope I have not messed up the photos as they do not show up on my screen.)
  21. “Milky rivers” comes from the expression “Milky rivers and kissel shores,” meaning “the land of plenty.” Kissel, by the way, is this thick sweet drink, served cold. It’s an acquired taste actually: it is slightly slimy because it is made with starch. Oh, so that’s what it’s for! I was wondering why the boat was doing that . I’ve never eaten there, but it looks like an Italian chain. I’ve found this site for the restaurant. Also, interestingly enough, there is more information on chains owned by the company: http://www.rosinter.com/menu-chooser/ (must check out if interested what restaurants are available in Russia) It varies. Obviously, bananas were shipped from elsewhere . But wherever possible, locally grown produce is preferred. People see the difference between large shiny strawberries from Turkey that taste like nothing but have a long shelf life and small and maybe alreay slightly bruised berries (even though they were picked this morning) which are full of flavor. This is why at the market, you see signs on tomatoes, cherries, watermelons, etc. where they came from (usually advertising that they are from one of the southern former Soviet Union countries). I don’t know what the origin of these kiosks is. What I do know is that they look ugly and make the city look cluttered; like carnival, as you correctly noted. Not all of them sell food: some are newspaper kiosks, some sell cigarettes or calling cards, some are the places to print photos, some sell small toys and knickknacks, etc. I haven’t heard anything. I think we are deviating too far from the culinary topic . About 1 small or 1/2 medum. Well, I don't really read English books to get Russian recipes. To get a recipe, I usually ask on one of Russian cooking forums . As to kurnik, I don’t have a recipe, but I can ask. I know what it is but I’ve never had one. Speaking of recipes. Swisskaese asked for a recipe for a lemon shortbread pie. Several Russian friends of mine are following this blog (and providing moral support in the process ) so one of them helped me out with this recipe (thank you, Lenochka!). She is a great cake-maker, you should see her works of art! She says that this pie has always been popular with her friends, and even at her mom’s birthday recently people were fondly remembering it . So, here goes – Shortbread Pie with Lemon Filling Dough 2 cups flour 250 grams butter, cold, cut into pieces 4 egg yolks 1 cup sugar 1/3 teaspoon salt 1/3 teaspoon baking soda Filling: Process 2 lemons (with skin but without seeds) and 1 cup sugar in food processor. Set aside. Sift flour, soda and salt together. In food processor or using knives, cut butter into the flour mixture until crumbs form. Separately, beat yolks with sugar until sugar dissolves. Combine flour mixture and yolk mixture to form dough. Press half of dough on the bottom of a baking sheet. Spread filling. Crumble remaining dough over filling. Bake 25-30 min at 220-240C.
  22. Hi everyone! First of all, I want to thank you all again for your interest! I so wish I had more time to devote to the blog; I keep having this feeling that I could have told you and shown you so much more if only I had more time (for instance, if I didn’t have to come home so late ). Second of all, I’ve solved the mystery of the “Eskimo” bar! It is not the Eskimo bar at all (despite the fact that someone described it as “ice cream bars,” nakji ). I knew exactly what we were talking about after I read mukki’s words: So on the way home I bought a couple. They are made not from cream cheese, but from tvorog (I showed it on day 1) which lends them this slightly grainier than cream cheese consistency and slightly tangy taste. I bought two kinds: plain and with a filling of boiled condensed milk (which is used in desserts fairly often; it is similar to dulce de leche): Mmmm good . They are caloric bombs though: 1 such “syrok” contains almost 200 calories. They are somewhat similar to frozen Sara Lee cheesecake bars. I checked the ingredients: there are no yolks or cream cheese, but there ARE tvorog (farmer's cheese), butter and sugar. Okay, moving on… I’ve tried to answer this question earlier. I can’t think of anything in particular that I miss (and anyway, some co-workers of mine who have access to the Embassy store always offer to get me something) but I think I miss the general food culture. Being able to run out for lunch and get a turkey sandwich (I’m sure they have them here but it won’t be exactly the same) or something like that. Just generally, the way you get food here is different. I don’t know if I make much sense. But I guess that’s why we live overseas and not in the States: to experience something different. There still seems to be a problem with salesclerks having change. That drives me nuts. To the extent that a couple of times, when they demanded exact change, I just walked away rather than start counting my money to see if I do. It's funny: I speak perfect Russian but I still make mistakes like an ignorant foreigner . For instance, I did not know that before you take your produce to the register at the supermarket, you need to have it weighed by a special person unless it is packaged. Or, at the check-out I was expecting someone to bag my groceries for me until I remembered that when I traveled in other European countries, I had to do it myself. Or, I'd give money directly into the hand of the cashier as is customary in the States and get yelled at because "what do you think this special plate is for?!" And I don't get a break the way a foreigner with poor language abilities would . And just a general comment: I do not want to portray this rosy picture of the fully reformed Russia. There is still plenty of rudeness in stores (although waiters are always nice, perplexingly), and not everyone can afford going to restaurants we go to, for example. The contrast between the affluent and the poor is depressing. I know of Mama Zoya’s. It is really popular among American expats. I’ve never been there (only saw their Moscow river location) but Shawn has. He thinks that it is overrated and that Genatzvale is better. I wonder whether it is popular because it was one of the first restaurants that served good food in a good atmosphere – 10 years ago it was probably rare. I’ve been to the Starlite Diner (I think this is what you are referring to) – it’s a nice “greasy spoon” joint with the burgers of predictable quality I’ve had better burgers here, but that’s not the point, is it? By the way, if you go to the Moscow album I gave a link to earlier, you’ll see a photo of it there. And, Catherine, maybe it’s time for you to come back for a visit? We’d explore what new things the city has to offer together, I think it would be fun
  23. On the way home, by popular demand I photographed pastry kiosks. Here they are strategically lined along the street that leads to the metro station. So all these hungry office workers sneak a pirozhok or two before their long commute home. Anyone wishing to read what the sign says? Here these guys are eating blini at one of those blini kiosks I was talking about. Photographing the actual pastries turned out to be difficult because of the reflection. But I tried to take pictures at several kiosks: pies1 pies2 And since I had my camera out, I also snapped a picture of the outdoor area of a chain restaurant called Il Патио as I was passing it. Now, this one is especially for Wendy aka little ms foodie – a traditional store where you tell the saleswoman what you want, pay her, she gives you the check and your purchase: And this one is for MarketStEl – the inside of our fridge (by the way, that beer is non-alcoholic!): That's it. See you all tomorrow!
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