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?
Have you ever been served a dish with food so beautiful you felt it was a crime to eat it? Imagine a cook, who is so charmed by the natural beauty of raw ingredients and hesitates to cook them. That’s what I feel when I see Romanesco Broccoli. What is the best way to put it on a pedestal of our dinner plate? How to protect its color and shape? How to bring out its nutty flavor and crunchy texture?
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.
It’s amusing to read historical recipes and observe how the perception of foods changes over time. At first, all those stories about delicacies we highly value today being served as dog or prison food in old times seem shocking and funny. On the second thought, it’s logical. It’s in human nature to praise what is not easily available and disregard what is more abundant. Oysters are different. “There were always oysters, and there were those to praise them.” Are oysters to be admired forever?
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?
We kids feared many things in those days – werewolves, dentists, North Koreans, Sunday School — but they all paled in comparison with Brussels sprouts. — Dave Barry
I feel sorry for all people who were served poorly cooked Brussels in the childhood and now miss the beauty of these tiny cabbages every season. How do YOU like your Brussels?
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.