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Open Fish Pie

Monday, August 29, 2011

Baking fish pies in winter was a tradition in our family. Fish was abundant and readily available, thanks to my father's rewarding occupation. He was a pilot of a small meteorological crew, and brought sacks of frozen fish and many other goodies from his flights to the north. The Soviet food industry was near to nonexistent, so all those things were very handy during harsh Siberian winters.

Looking back, now it seems unreal how we lived in those days. In our free-standing metal garage outside the apartment building we used to store a sack of frozen fish, a barrel of sauerkraut made in our kitchen, a bucket of northern cranberries, and other food that could stand the frost and retain its taste. We also stored meat and poultry in netted bags hanging outside the kitchen window, because our three fridges didn't have enough space to hold everything we needed to live through the winter. To survive nicely we had to stock up. And nice it was - I remember my childhood winters as full of delectable viands.

Now back to fish. Since we had plenty of fabulous fish of different kinds (pike, sturgeon, sterlet to name a few), mama made various fish dishes - ukha (fish soup), fish jelly, and certainly fish pies. The fish pie was the winner among all. After eagerly waiting as the wonderful aroma of the baking pie spread from the kitchen, - what joy it was to finally land at the table and indulge in this winter treat!

Classic fish pie is a closed kind of pie, where dough laid on top covers the filling. Today's fish pie recipe was actually the result of a mistake that often leads to a discovery. The plan was to make a traditional closed pie, but I suddenly realized that there was not enough dough (I used store bought dough). I thought what the heck, and made an open pie variation. Surprisingly, it turned out very tasty: not too much dough, with juicy delicate filling. Mama would approve. :)

Cocoa Raspberry Bread

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene is shuffling its way into New York City, and it's been raining like cats and dogs since yesterday afternoon. In anticipation of power outages, I decided to make a good use of my electric mixer and bake a cake. Raspberry puree with cognac, brown sugar and cocoa powder is what came to mind. I did not use an existing recipe for the dough, but concocted my own. The result is a delicious rustic cake with a rough bread-like texture.

Seeking a home remedy for the bad weather blues? Come along!

Shiitake and Lentil Pilaf

Friday, August 26, 2011

Today's recipe is a vegetarian pilaf as satisfying and rich in flavor as mom's Lamb Pilaf. Imagine the aroma of mushrooms and garlic, the rich taste of lentils and the nuttiness of wild rice punctuated by tiny nuggets of spice stored in the green peppercorns.
You have to pay for this richness, though, by using every one of the four stovetop burners, because mushrooms, lentils, white rice and wild rice all have to be cooked separately (else, you'll get mush). Cook and prep time? About 1 hour 30 minutes.

This recipe is all my own, and I'm proud to present it. Give it a try!

Red Radish Salad

Thursday, August 25, 2011

An advocate of minimalism in life, which unfortunately is possible mostly theoretically in our world of consumerism, I adore simple dishes that do not involve many ingredients. Some of those dishes come from my childhood in Russia, where minimalism was dictated by permanent deficit. Our memory carries on all our life impressions including food, and these simple things we experienced in early years are remembered as good. What could be better than bread and butter and a green onion with coarse salt? You might be surprised, but this is one of my favorites since I remember myself. Mama used to give this  to her starving kids waiting for dinner to be ready. And what would you say about steaming boiled potatoes with dill and butter? It comes from the same land of my past experiences. When I am tired of fancy stuff, I eat my childhood simple food with real pleasure and gratitude.
Red radish salad is one of those dishes. To me, it's mostly a summer salad when radishes are in season, sweet and juicy, without a tinge of bitterness...

Black Currant Ice Cream

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Buckets of free black currants is what we were used to. Every summer we picked them in our own garden, ate them with relish (until our tongues ached) and preserved them to last through the long Siberian winter. In America currants are not easy to find, and when you do find them be ready to shell out. This unfortunate scarcity was caused by a national ban on black currants that lasted nearly a century and came about through no fault of the berry. Black currants are not only lush, extremely aromatic and unique in taste, but are also loaded with antioxidants and an array of vitamins.

This weekend, after 14 years of estrangement we got to have some. The Russian supermarket we went to happened to have tiny containers filled with black currants still holding on their fragile clustered pedicels. What a find! We grabbed one at almost $6, and hurried home in anticipation of nostalgic treat.

Fried Smelts

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Do not panic - this fish will not eat you. Just kidding...:) But you will definitely eat it with great pleasure, nibbling on crunchy tails and fins, savoring the tender meat drizzled with lemon juice, and following all this by a couple of cherry tomatoes and a sip of chilled white wine... Sounds good? I hope so. The best part - it's pretty easy to do. See how...

Stuffed Tarragon Mushrooms

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Summer calls for salads, frosty drinks and fruit, but sometimes the body craves grilled cheese and protein, no matter the heat outside. These are easy-to-make, delicious stuffed mushrooms, with a couple of unique touches and the intense flavor of tarragon.

Craving melted cheese? Here is your chance...

Beet Smoothie Soup

Saturday, August 6, 2011

This recipe has been brewing in my mind for awhile  - a smoothie and a cold soup in one. The best part - it is almost no-boil, where most of ingredients are fresh vegetables. And the best best part is - the proportions are quite arbitrary, just flow with your desires and you will be good. Rich and cool magenta of beets came at rescue on a muggy August day in Boston suburbia.
Ready for a summer detox super food? Come on down to my kitchen...