Crepes — a type of very thin pastry — exist in the majority of world cuisines. Nevertheless, when I discovered Italian crespelle, it was a surprise for me. Italian cuisine is associated with pasta and pizza in my mind, so I assumed Italians would rather use flour for those. While going through many crespelle recipes, it became clear that crepes in Italy are mostly used as a quick version of stuffed pasta. When stuffed, rolled, and baked covered with sauce and grated cheese, they relate to cannelloni. When stuffed, folded into triangles (fazzoletti di crespelle or “crepe handkerchiefs”), and baked with a sauce and grated cheese, they are a shortcut for lasagna, aren’t they?
Until a few days ago, I was sure Polish Pączki have something to do with Easter bread Paska because for a Russian speaking person this word looks like it should sound the same. I was wrong, and I was wrong. Apparently, Pączki are pronounced POONCH-key [ˈpɔnt͡ʂkʲi] and are similar to what I know as Ponchiki from my childhood. Only now I discovered their name came to Russian from the Polish language!
Not sure how widespread it was in the Soviet era and what variations existed out there. We discussed it in LCL Group on Facebook and, apparently, the recipe with tomatoes was more popular. In other regions, pink salmon (aka Gorbusha) was more available than mackerel and was cooked similarly. The recipe below is how my Mom made it. I loved eating creamed mackerel with vegetables as a cold appetizer after school. My favorite part of this dish was the vegetables — naturally sweet, slightly flavored with sea salt and umami, and rounded with silky cream. They had to be soft and barely crunchy.
Pretzels are my obsession. I like all of them, including soft Auntie Anne’s ones offered in most American malls and airports. No wonder pretzels were my point of interest during the trip to Hessen and Reinland-Pfalz states in Germany and Alsace region in France. Those I loved. The recipe below is my favorite version of homemade pretzels adjusted to locally available ingredients.
Even though American taste buds are known for the love of sweet and salty food combinations, traditional Mincemeat pie is seen today as an acquired taste. There are many implications on why early settlers combined savory meat and ingredients that are considered belonging to dessert dishes. Was it really for food preservation purposes or our ancestors were fond of bold flavors?
I kept this recipe unpublished for so long because it is part of my favorite party trick. I let my guests taste the ice cream and ask them to name four ingredients they think were used to make it. I hear all kind of answers — caramel, toffee, some say vanilla bean seeds because they see tiny black dots, etc. Everybody is genuinely surprised when I name them — milk, sugar, eggs, and butter.
A friend of Shuvalovs family in California, Klavdia Motovilova was using this recipe as a volunteer to make Russian crepes — blini — for the guests of annual Russian festival in February, organized by the Russian Center in San Francisco. For years, many Californians had a chance to enjoy these amazingly delicate crepes during Maslenitsa. My friend Anna Derugin was lucky to team up with Klavdia Motovilova and save the recipe. Klavdia is 90+ years old now, still in good health, but doesn’t volunteer anymore. With her permission, I am very grateful for the chance of being able to add this treasure to my online collection and make it available for more home cooks to enjoy.
Cooking roasted buckwheat is easy. You need 2 parts of liquid for 1 part of buckwheat seeds. Bring water to boiling, add buckwheat, season with salt and sugar, lower heat to minimum, cover with lid, and set a timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat, add butter and cover with lid for another 5 minutes. Fluff and serve.