Russian food (maybe?) in Estonia

HI FROM ESTONIA! I got here almost a week ago and have been subsisting on: “Mexican” wraps from a very small store on the main square where they sort of speak English but which is also unfortunately frequented by loud American teenagers; cheese and Estonian black bread; Nutella, spread with a steak knife because my apartment came with all utensils except butter knives; frozen vareniki and smetana (well, I cooked the vareniki first and the smetana was not frozen); instant coffee (I will totally do a taste test sometime); and овсяная каша с малинами. I bought that last one over cheaper options because the main label was in Russian and I was homesick. Or something. In a land where the main labels are in Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Polish, Finnish, German, and Spanish (in more or less that order), anything Russian is friendly and comforting.

So now it’s a late Sunday afternoon, exactly cooking time according to my habits the last time I regularly updated this blog, and I have an Estonian cold or maybe allergies, and I finally finished washing the pots and pans that came with the apartment and the dishes I bought for fifty cents each from a departing graduate student, and I’m going to cook something.

My green kitchen!

My green kitchen!

I’m going to cook something my Russian host mother made for me at the beginning of the summer. Whenever she made something I really liked and I asked what it was, she would say, I don’t know! I just made it up. I haven’t even tried it yet. I don’t know if it will come out. And it always did; but I never got her to teach me how to cook. So I’m making it up, channeling my inner Russian babushka (who may or may not exist), and we’ll see. I thought during this summer that I wanted to cook more without recipes, just inventing with whatever vegetables I wanted to eat, so we’ll see how it goes.

This is going to be a vegetable soup/stew/mixture/thing of cabbage, beets (I like beets now!), potatoes, onions, and carrots, since that’s more or less what was in the one she made, as far as I remember; and I have some vegetable broth things (identical to the ones I bought in Glasgow except in Polish … so actually I don’t really know what they are); and I have salt and pepper, and that’s all. Oh, and some bread, and some cheese that’s in Estonian. It’s called maasdam. I would Google Translate it, but that’s not fun.

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BAGELS WHAT WHAT WHAT *INCOHERENT BABBLING*

IT IS HAPPENING.

BAGEL TIME.

AHHHHHHHHHH.

Since three people read this blog and they all know that I moved to Glasgow for grad school, I will not update you about how I moved to Glasgow for grad school. But I did. And THEY DON’T HAVE BAGELS HERE. They have most other things that are necessary, but I am, for lack of bagel, starting to become a small, weak, WASPy white-bread of a former human being. So this shit is happening.

me: should i make bagels
Jeff:  Absolutley.
Absolutely
why haven’t you started
me:  because of fear and also because the kitchen is cold and smells weird
OK I’M GONNA DO IT
Sent at 6:54 PM on Friday
me:  it’s happening AND I AM GOING TO BLOG IT.
Jeff:  “the relatively Jewish cook”

I am watching Master Chef Australia. It is Friday night, and I feel pretty good about that. Oh no, Master Chef Australia just stopped working. Pause. Never mind, it’s back. Anyway. I measured warm (???) water, barley malt (which I actually HAD IN MY POSSESSION ALREADY because the spirit of bagel is strong within me), yeast, and salt with my beautiful kitchen scale that came from home with me.

Bagelmaking commences. Master Chef Australia in background.

Bagelmaking commences. Master Chef Australia in background.

And it’s in my one and only pot (not even a bowl) because I just like didn’t buy cooking supplies when I moved here. And then I measured in the bread flour, and then I mixed it with my pink wooden spoon that is falling apart such that bits of things get stuck inside it and it’s disgusting. And now the dough is resting. Now it’s time to knead. Hold on.

Jeff: Oh, it would be very hard to deal with the shame of making bagels in front of 82 invisible people.

Under Pressure

In the spirit of the last few posts, tonight I’ll be going into a bit of minor detail on how to deal with a pressure cooker when making Indian style lentils. My household recently acquired one, after many weeks of deliberation over the huge range of styles, sizes, and brands. We were finally able to bust it out tonight and give it a spin. Luckily, it didn’t actually do any spinning, but we did duck for cover just in case.

Here is a picture of carrots, since it was requested of me to not include the picture of someone literally ducking for cover. I don’t like carrots, unless they’re candied, in pancakes, or, apparently, highly pressurized.

Our recipe for Curried Lentils came from a book we found at the NY Public Library called The Easy Pressure Cooker Cookbook. The ingredients were simple:
2 cups lentils (we used green)
1 cup coconut milk (we used light)
1 cup stock (we used vegetable)
2 tsp. madras curry powder (we used “hot curry” powder)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 tbsp oil (we used olive)

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Hello goodbye

Tomorrow I officially return to my academic cave of solitude. Some people may want to spend their last true day of vacation reading a good book, going on a fancy date, or even watching Star Trek (the one with Patrick, duh) in footie pajamas. Other people, myself included, might consider a trip to Staples and three hours in the kitchen way more relaxing. So that’s what I did, obviously. I also decided to start photographing my food with my fancy camera; it feels totes legit. But this is a food blog, not a life blog. So I should shut the poop up and share with all you five readers out there the wonders of baked ratatouille, courtesy of Deb Perelman’s chatty cookbook.

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Almost everything in this ratatouille belongs on the “Foods I Wouldn’t Have Touched Two Years Ago” list, aka the “Foods I Currently Can’t Live Without” list. Try to tell 23-year-old me to eat a zucchini cooked in onions and I probably would have spit in your face. Or at least wanted to. Ever since I’ve become the proverbial modern woman keeping up both a home and a budding career, however, I’ve realized that one cannot live on macaroni & cheese and chickenless nuggets with ketchup alone. Well, actually, one probably can. But that’s beside the point. Things that were once part of my life (like being a picky eater by trade) are gone, and others have taken their place.

The directions told me to slice the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, and onions into very thin slices, about 1/16 of an inch. Without a mandolin, however, this was impossible. I probably got everything down to about 1/8 of an inch and I assure you, everything tasted just fine. Better than fine, actually. Darn delicious, boyfriend-approved.

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Don’t forget to mix it all up before putting your sliced veggies on top.

Have you ever needed something from your freezer right now even though it really needs to defrost for at least 12 hours? Come on, you know it’s happened. Like when you need to make cookies but all your butter’s stiff as…frozen butter? Tonight I tried to microwave my frozen box of strained tomatoes without realizing the inside of the carton was lined with silver something. So I made a fire in my microwave. Pop pop shizzam! Luckily, I was able to salvage 1 cup of strained tomatoes, which I mixed with one thinly sliced sweet onion, 1 tbsp of minced garlic, a bit of salt, 1 tbsp oil, and some’o’that Bohemian Forest Rub I adore so much. Everything went right to the bottom of my oval stoneware.

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I didn’t get any tomato on my white sweater.

The best part about this recipe is that no matter what you do, it’s going to be beautiful. Yellow, green, purple, red all in a spiral of concentric circles. Top it off with more spices and oil, bake for 45-60 min at 350 covered with foil (the last 15 at 425 without the foil to crisp the top) and you’re good to go. I recommend serving it over toasted French bread with ample goat cheese. You really can’t mess this one up.

It’s a little bit like my last meal, right? Starting tomorrow I’ll be neck deep in the messy, muddy, processed-food-filled world of being a slave to academia. Goodbye, cruel world. Thanks for letting me hang out on this blog; it’s been fun, y’all. [Over and out]. Oh, and thanks Deb Perelman, for turning me into someone who knows how to make food.

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No-Knead Mushroom Pizza

Ugh, it is very early in the morning and this post might be extremely bad. So on Friday night, Jacqui and I made pizza. I made the dough Thursday night (through Friday), using Jim Lahey’s no-knead pizza dough recipe, which made my entire apartment smell wonderful and yeasty and bready. (However, it was supposed to rise for eighteen hours in a 72-degree apartment, which means whoever wrote this recipe does not live in a building owned by a slumlord. My apartment was maybe 64 degrees. Anyway, I put the dough in a bowl next to the radiator and hoped the cat would not eat it.)

Dough

Those little spots on the bottom of the coffee maker are yeast that spilled FUCKING EVERYWHERE when I opened the package. Yeast went all over the entire world.

The next day things took a potentially bad turn. Jacqui and I packed the bubbly dough in a not-big-enough tupperware and took it on a very long walk across Manhattan, through Whole Foods, to her apartment. At this point it had been in the cold for at least an hour, and it was not happy. Then we divided it into two balls (it was supposed to be divided into four) and I tried to shape it pizzeria-style. I was informed that I would not be allowed to throw it in the air and catch it. Then I rolled it out. Overall, I did such a bad job of this that Jacqui started over, this time using all the dough in one giant ball.

So she rolled it out again with the rolling pin, we topped it, etc., and baked it in a 500-degree oven for ten minutes.

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Then we broiled it a bit.

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Then we ate it and watched Elementary.

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As you can see, the pizza did not really form air bubbles. I think this is because we cooled it by accident and rolled it way too much, and only created one pizza out of the giant amount of dough that was supposed to be enough for four, so it was probably too heavy and couldn’t expand in the oven or whatever it’s supposed to do. And also, I am incompetent with yeast. The taste was REALLY good, though–it was all sourdough-y. So we ate it and then we were extremely full because we ate a massive amount of bread in a very small pizza package.

The end. Oh, and upon further reflection, I don’t think I liked Elementary. Sorry, Jacqui.

There are people out there who don’t know what quinoa is.

It is this. (What a truly brilliant website.) It is an ancient seed that the Incas used (possibly). It tastes nutty… and seedy. I usually use it in salad but this week, inspired by a Brown University undergrad I know, I’ve been eating it with shit tons of cheddar cheese. I also massively overcooked it because I decided it would be a great idea to rinse the whole pound first (you’re supposed to rinse it a few times to remove the bitter coating), but then I realized I couldn’t dry it and it would probably go moldy in some horribly fearsome way.

Anyway, so I cooked an entire pound of quinoa in a very small pot, thus burning the bottom to a coal-like mass. The rest of it got mushy. So overall, this quinoa-with-cheese thing is basically just cheesy mush, which I’m OK with.

Behold. (Ugh, I forgot to take an After shot. Well, I melted the cheese, and then I ate it.)

Anyway, here is my favorite salad recipe. (This is quinoa-related.) I think I invented it? Inspiration from Orangette and the Amateur Gourmet. Well, not inspiration from the Amateur Gourmet; I just stole his salad dressing recipe outright. Also, I once tried to fiddle with it by using apple cider vinegar, and it was vile.

Best Salad in the Known Universe:

-endive

-radicchio

-ugh how do you make the spaces between the lines smaller?

-scallions (preferably grown in a tacky pink Coney Island cup on your kitchen table)

-feta cheese

-other vegetables: cherry tomatoes, carrots, green peppers (not red peppers, as they are the scourge of the earth)

I think sometimes I also use regular lettuce. Anyway, the main point is the radicchio, feta cheese, and QUINOA. Then put the above-stolen salad dressing on it, and eat it. At work. While shoe-shopping.