21 July 2008

Choice-challenged, I am.

Are you good at making choice(s)? Pity me, I’m not. I would kindly ask you to thoroughly read through the used negative particle, for by this I mean to say how wildly and inhumanly messy and dishevelled I get when I am asked to choose. Before I progress in my explicit narrative, let me just mention that it’s always somehow easier to make a choice between good and bad, or bad and worse, isn’t it? But when you are to choose among the best, what do you do? I think I am congenitally deprived of understanding.

With the profound lack of choice making technique thereof, I am naturally bound to let my wallet go thinner on my invading visits to a summer farmer’s market, and fill my wicker basket of a considerable (keyword) size with fresh summer fruits and vegetables full to the brims. I think I’ll set aside my ridiculous complaints about how nature rendered me choice-challenged, and rather be more useful by suggesting you a few ways to consume all the bountiful glory in relatively short period of time to save the edible gifts of nature from meeting their murky days on a kitchen counter, obscure depth of a refrigerator, or what have you. * Shall you pretend you didn’t know it before, I will be very much grateful.

All the minutiae being said, now hands down to business.

Episode #1.

Considering the amounts of, say, red currants I’ve got this week, the only way to eat my way through the berries was to come up with a numerous amount of interesting (at least to me) and edible (to me and everybody else) ways to use them fresh(ish). [Side note: I would very much love to re-enter realms of baking too, but as my story has it, my oven waved me a farewell (got broken, in other words) and retired peacefully a good while ago.] To praise my originality (you may indeed roll your eyes at me here), I worked out that salmon is a very good friend to red currants slightly sautéed in white wine. They sound so singsongy together, especially if salmon is prepared with lemon juice and cinnamon. The latter is so good at lifting delicate salmon flavour that I am really chuffed to have learnt this.

For 1 serving you’ll need:

1 salmon fillet (about 80-100 gr)
salt and pepper to taste
a small pinch of ground cinnamon

red currant sauce
a handful of fresh red currants
pepper (salt) to taste
1 tsp cane sugar
2 Tsp dry white wine

1. Rub fillet with salt, pepper and cinnamon. Let stand for a while.
2. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, pour 1 Tsp lemon juice in it and cook salmon 5 min on each side (natural fatty oils oozing from salmon fillets in the progress of cooking spare you a need to be using any other oil).

3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, sauté red currants slightly sprinkled with fresh ground pepper in white wine for a few moments, add sugar. When the mixture bubbles, set the saucepan off the fire and pour the sauce over the salmon fillet.

And while we are at salmon talking, there is another bit of my recent epiphany (berries-unrelated though), Salmon with cumin. Naturally, cumin’s flavour is very strong and might be overwhelming, but if used moderately, neither is the case. On the contrary, in this companionship salmon only gets scores (as if it really needed any): earthy flavours of cumin compliment very well the juicy salmon flesh.

Yields 4 servings

4 salmon fillets
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp sea salt

1. Rub fillets with salt and spices, drizzle juice of half a lemon over salmon, let stand for a while (preferably overnight)

2. Heat a non-stick skillet coated with olive oil over medium heat, and cook fish for 3-5 min on each side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Episode #2.

I got a few petite melons (so petite that they freely fit in the palms of my hands each) the other day, and in my vain attempts to stay cool when it’s almost 35 degrees centigrade outside, I undertook this Simple melon and yoghurt sorbet project (do I really sound pompous?).

Yields 4 servings

250 g fromage blanc/or greek yoghurt
200 g fresh melon, deseeded and cut in small chunks
75 g honey (I used a multi-floral variety)
juice of ½ lemon
fresh mint for decoration

1. Cut melon in small chunks.
2. In a separate bowl, combine yoghurt, honey and lemon. Mix well.
3. To the yoghurt mixture, add melon and stir well through. At this point I also added a handful of sesame seeds to enrigh my sorbet-to-be with light crunchiness.
4. Transfer the final mixture to the plastic container and put in a freezing camera of your fridge for first 2 hours. Stir thoroughly every two hourse to prevent the formation of ice crystals.

Although the recipe requires 4 hours of freezing, it took my fridge more than that (up to 6) to come up with a decent sorbet (age issues, I believe).

It was too hot to pause for a picture, however.

Be well!

*Have you noticed yet, to form long and incoherent sentences is my talent too?

6 July 2008

Jamais vu

July 2, a day when I made my first appearance to the world, or, if I now try and employ a tiny bit of modesty, simply my birthday. An undisputable excuse to play hooky and treat your smart (oldish) self to a memorable experience, which is what I did. And loved so.

In all respects, this day was bright and colourful, especially at the moments when sun and thunder clouds secured Moscow with an unforeseeable weather. Gusts of wind, downpours and sunrays alternated each other in a city’s heartbeat. And just as I was halfway through my leisurely walk about Arbat* neighbourhood, the clouds zipped open and it started (again) to rain. In no time moscow turned into a big swimming pool with shower facilities. I did not fancy either.


To look around, spot a small cozy terrace hidden in the luscious greenery, read a signpost and rush to the premises immediately.


First, it is raining cats and dogs and everything else in between.
Pre-first, it might be another bona fide hidden gem Moscow has to offer to a seeking eye.

And it is indeed. It is. It is. (Here you should hear my loud applause and incoherent exclaims). Let me just tell you that in my continuous quest for things and places I shall love (in Moscow and everywhere else), I got a new find. And luckily so, it happened on my B-day.

[On the side note, I shall also remember this day (I humbly believe that a moderate self-promotion wouldn’t do any harm, so i’ll repeat the date of my birthday, which is July 2) as a stretch of time when I experienced both jamais vu and deja vu. Though on this a bit later.]

So, the place I intend to give a speech about bears a charming name of Gogol Mogol (a russian for egg nog). Its founders idea was to capture (in what they did succeed) an atmospheric aura of a french bistro of the early XX century (please look here if you wish). Posh (but not repulsively so), enchanting interior of two (only) rooms, the infused in the air bitter leatherly aromas of ground coffee entwined with liquors, swooping and disarming odours of dark belgian (I swapped a few words with a very well-informed bartender, you know) chocolate; all these veied for my heart and won me over. One minus though: there is no area for guests with no-smoking preferences. What, in my humble opinion, is sort of a drawback, as smoke fumes might considerably hinder your experiencing chocolate diva (I agree, when it comes to chocolate, or more exactly, disturbing me from my chocolate, I get that ferocious and bitchy). For that matter, I headed outdoors, took a seat at one of the terrace tables (tented to protect all types of individuals, bitchy included, from rain), ordered things I was craving for, and rested. Truly rested. Idly observing people vs. rain battles, hearing and listening to the thunder roars, enjoying a good book, being purposefully lazy. And I’ll tell you what, my hooky was splendid.

Now, a few words on my vu’s (in order of their appearance).

Jamais vu. In opposition to the physchological term, I only intend to refer to one of the cafe’s signature desserts, where major roles are given to grated carrot, hazelnut and lemon juice to star in. And since I have a big thing about carrots, I couldn’t help but trying it. Now, a drop of critique, or is it criticism? Anyways, I loved the idea of a light carrot dessert, and the way it was presented also appealed to me.

Moroccan coffee with chocolate, water and dessert

But then again something lacked, which I failed to fathom on the spot (truth be told, I did not want it either, for I preferred to initially enjoy things, rather than review them right away). Later, however, I got my humble share of enlightenment to grasp the thing that escaped me earlier: carrot must be freshly grated. The more it sits, the more cartoon-y mouthfeel it’s most likely to give.

Deja vu, the psyche thing in all its glory. After tasting the featured dessert, I found myself thinking I experienced something similar before. I briefly lived through my childhood memories to recall how my mother used to trick me into more frequent vegetables consumption by throwing together a very simple dessert of juicy grated carrot mixed with crashed walnuts and honey, for good measure. Since then, I am a girl who knows her carrots*.

The day was a great gift in itself, as any other day, too.

Although the photo below has no particular relation to all said above, it's smileworthy. I hope you are with me on this.

*Arbat area means to Moscow quite the same as what Montmartre does to Paris.

**I have now set myself a mission to come up with my own interpretation of the jamais vu carrot dessert. Once happy with the results, I’ll let you know.

Gogol-Mogol cafe
Gagarinsky side-street 6
Tel: 007 495 203-55-06