Aubergines baked with cheese

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Todays post is about the power of network. So, basically, I checked my Reader and found this lovely post of Sunny District. Apart from an amazing trailer of a Bollywood movie (which promises to be the most colorful movie I’ve ever seen in my life) there was a link on a website to make a masterpiece from a quote. recitethis.com/ allows you to select a design for your quote or even the quote itself if you don’t have one. I decided to try, one of my favorite phrases belongs to Salvador Dalì (it is as actual as never thanks to sanctions on food import to Russia) and the result of my tremendous efforts you can see below. So after this quote I have no choice but to provide a recipe with several types of cheese.
I do have to keep on writing my thesis, so the post will be very short. Just another cheese-related curiosity I’d like to mention: today a friend of mine showed me this 60-seconds video about the smallest sculpture in London, two mice fighting for a piece of cheese – I guess I would never have noticed it myself, but now I am curious to see it. But of course what counts is the story behind the sculpture
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Aubergine Flowers

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:
Aubergines_____2
Tomatoes_____ 3 big
Cheese_______100 grams (for this recipe you can take mozzarella, feta, soft goat cheese or tofu)
Oil
Pepper, Salt
Directions: 
1. Cut aubergines in halves, then each cut lengthwise into stripes around 1 cm thick (try to keep them equal and not thicker or thinner than 1 cm) like on the picture. Do not cut till the very end, aubergine should be joint at the end
_IGP4005 2. Cut cheese and tomatoes. Grease aubergines with olive oil, then put cheese and tomatoes. If you like, you can cover aubergines with chopped garlic and coriander. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Bake on 180C (350F) for about 25 minutes. It is very easy to transfer ready aubergines to plates; they do not fall apart.
Comments: I tried this dish with creamy goat cheese, mozzarella, and feta. I think the cheese which doesn’t melt is better – feta is baked beautifully and retain the shape, while mozzarella and creamy goat cheese melt and go all around the baking tray. I think mozzarella is not enough strong in taste to fit into this dish, so it’s better to pick up a cheese with a stronger flavor, depending on your preferences and fantasies 🙂 The dish is so fast and so simple, but it looks interesting and tastes simply amazing so just give it a try 🙂

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Pumpkin Potato Lasagna

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Usually I love following the traditions: I believe in keeping the proportions and following the procedures even if new technologies can simplify everything: after all, I am not looking for the “correct” and perfect ways, I just need my food to taste like in the childhood. But sometimes, when life sends you a good set of ingredients, I feel like experimenting (anyway, there was no lasagna in my childhood). This time my inspiration was the autumn – keeping in mind that in English climate autumn vegetables must be the tastiest. So, actually, the queen of the autumn, pumpkin, seems like a perfect stuffing balanced with new tomatoes and some potatoes. Alternatively, pumpkin can be replaced with aubergines. The nature is smart, and apparently all autumn veggies tend to combine perfectly with each other.

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Pumpkin Potato Lasagna

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients:
Onion_____________1
Potatoes__________ 500 grams
Pumpkin__________ 300 grams
Tomato pasta______ 3 tablespoons
Scamorza Cheese___350 grams
Brie Cheese________150 grams
Lasagna sheets
Parmesan ____100 grams
Rosemary
For sauce
Butter ______ 40 grams
Flour _______40 grams
Milk ________600 ml
Nutmeg _____a pinch
1. Cut onion and fry till golden, add cut potatoes and diced pumpkin and cook on the low heat for 10 minutes. Add tomato pasta, mix well and cook until ready. Add salt, paper, and rosemary to taste.
2. For the béchamel sauce melt the butter in a pot with thick bottom, add flour, mix it and fry for several minutes constantly mixing so that flour won’t stick to the bottom. Add warm milk, mix well, cook on low flame till it boils, after add salt, nutmeg, cover with the lid and cook for 10-15 minutes (till it becomes dense). Note: for lasagna the sauce shall be not as dense as you would cook otherwise.
3. Grease a baking dish, cover the bottom with béchamel, lay the first layer of lasagna sheets (it’s better if they don’t overlap), cover with béchamel, spread vegetable mix, add salt and pepper to taste, and slices of cheese. Repeat layers till all ingredients are used, cover with lasagna sheets, béchamel, sprinkle with parmesan. Bake on 180C (350F) for 45 minutes.

Mushroom Risotto Pie or the Power of Leftovers

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When I came to Italy, I was amazed how horribly Italians waste food. My flat mates would throw away everything that they had not finished during the dinner; in my perspective you can eat the dish even the day after. From time to time I saw in the garbage a whole loaf of bread; that made me absolutely sick… At least you can give the bread to birds. The fist moths of living together with my Italian bf were a constant fight for the food leftovers – I told we wouldn’t through them away, which confuzzeled him a lot (confuzzeled = confused + puzzled). In general, I can though away only something that is gone, but I prefer to utilize everything before it is wasted. This has nothing to do with greed; it is a matter of respect.
My grandmother was just 4 when the war started – big enough to remember everything. She never spoke about the war, even though many of people of her age or older told us how important it was to keep on studying and helping adults in watching out the fire. The only thing she ever had told me about the war was bread related. She once, when I was a small girl, tried to explain me what was responsibility and that life requires trade-offs. She told me they got a piece of bread per day, and they were three: my granny, her sister and their mother (my grandgrandmother). Each day my grandgrandmother would split this tiny peace in three unequal parts. My grandmother told me, that she was a kid and she was so hungry, as she was growing, but already then she understood that she had right to take just the smallest part of the bread. Her mother was working hard, her sister was studying in school – in her eyes they needed the food more, than herself.

Those 125 grams

During the siege of Leningrad around 5,000 people per DAY died because of hunger only. The piece of bread, 70% of which was not even wheat, but wood shredding, was the only food for the citizens for 900 days. In total, over 800,000 died from starvation. There is no single person with a normal upbringing in St Petersburg who can through away a piece of bread. It has nothing to do with greed; just the price of this bread is way too high to afford putting it to garbage. It is like spitting in your own history. Each time, when you through away good food, you show fantastic disrespect to those people, who are dying because they don’t have it. Since when have people forgotten that for centuries food was synonym for life?
Well, back to the recipe now. What if you cooked too much of risotto? Next day it is not tasty anymore. Solution is an absolutely fantastic risotto pie.
Time of preparation: 20 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
Mushroom risotto leftovers or
Rice____________300 grams
Onion___________1/2
Dry mushrooms__ 30 grams
Goat Cheese_____100 grams
1. If you prepare risotto from scratch: put mushrooms into boiling water for 30 minutes. After drain, and save the water. Chop onion; pour oil in the pot, fry onion and mushrooms. Add rice; mix so that every grain is coated with oil. Pour in a splash of broth from mushrooms. Constantly mix till the water evaporates, add another splash then, mix till the liquid evaporates… Repeat this sequence till rice is cooked. Add salt, pepper to taste.
2. Transfer the half of prepared risotto/leftover risotto into the baking dish, put sliced soft goat cheese, sprinkle with dried oregano (any herb you like/have next to you) and cover with the remaining risotto. If you want, sprinkle with grated parmiggiano. Bake on 180C (350F) for about 20 minutes or till golden crust. Super good cold, hot, and on the next day.
For utilizing stale bread you can check stuffed courgettes recipe, for using rice check oven-baked rice, if you have some fried vegetables left roll them into strudel, a lonely cooked potato or a lonely baked aubergine will fit into Balkan cheese pie.

 

Rhubarb and Apple Crumble and Russian Idioms

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There is a popular idiom in spoken Russian: “All in the chocolate”. Of cause it is not the language of good literature, but rather an expression you use among your cute fellow lads to sound easy and loose, and it means that all is fantastic, fabulous and dreamy. I doubt I had ever used it, as first I am not that cool type of gal, and second I had not had such a  phenomenal success yet. Until this Friday.
I came from my job, where I have a pretty exhausting project: I have 250 museums on my list, so I have to contact each and request the complete list of the exhibitions for 2015, and put in the system. Museums are unorganized institutions, who don’t respect deadlines and need to be watched like children. After a week of working as a psychologist, negotiating, praying and blackmailing where suitable, I came home on Friday with the dream of indulging myself. The aim was a perfect marble cheesecake. Apparently, it was a sign of solidarity with Tanya (see my tagline to learn who is she), who made a cheesecake for her party and shared with me a recipe and inspiration. So I came home and I was whisking, mixing, melting chocolate… the cheesecake looked fabulous, the oven reached the temperature and I was putting the baking dish inside when cheesecake suddenly slippered out of my hands and dropped on the floor. As we say in Russia “The bread is always dropping with the buttered side down”. As proved, cheesecake tends to follow the same pattern. The floor, the furniture, the oven were covered with a good and tempting level of chocolate. Finally I learned on my own skin how it is “to have all in chocolate”, which I can boast about among my friends. And I guess my newspaper owes me a cake, for making me exhausted to this extent.
Ok, so for tonight my cheesecake is crumble. A very good crumble though. 
Time of preparation: 40 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
Rhubarb________400 grams
Apples_________ 2
Sugar__________ 100 grams golden caster
Liquor_________ 2 tablespoons
Crumble: 
Self-raising flour___140 grams
Butter____________85 grams
Sugar____________50 grams muscovado
Walnuts__________ 50 grams
1. Chop rhubarb in pieces of approximately 5 cm, put in the pan, cover with sugar, pour in liquor (I used amaretto) or water if you do not want to use alcohol and simmer on the low fire for about 15 minutes – the rhubarb should become soft but not shapeless. Transfer it in the baking dish, leaving some of the juice in the pan.
2. Fry the apples in the preserved juice till they are brown and soft. Transfer in the baking dish.
3. Combine butter and flour, rub together with hands, when crumbles are formed add sugar and chopped walnuts. Mix, and cover the apple/rhubarb filling. Bake on 200C (400F) for about 30 minutes or till it is golden brown.

 

Different Autumns and Charlotte Apple Pie

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Autumn…. I never liked it, mostly because of rains. In St Petersburg it is not a great deal, after all we have our proud 62 sunny days per year, which leaves us with remaining 300… of the water hanging in the air – sometimes it can’t be even called a proper rain. Another problem is the light, which leaving – after long and lively summer nights, when it is never dark – White Nights. In other languages it means the night when you are forced to stay awake, for example preparing for exam. This is not so far from reality, as how can you sleep when the guys are playing guitar in the yard, some friends are calling you for a long over several days camping in the park, or you just drive car to watch the bridges are raised, or you are sitting and eating sushi… because you forgot about the bridges! They air seems hot, long, and lackadaisical, like a dense red wine; it makes you loose your head these very few days when one of the northeast city becomes as lively as a southern town.
Then it abruptly finishes. The light is gone, the rain is never-ending (I wonder if the hero of Raven lived in St Petersburg, will he ever pronounce his famous phrase). The leaves are rotten, and drop fast, without giving this fanfares of colors. My autumn is grey, cold and dark. But… this is just one of the autumns. In Italy it comes late, it’s bright and loud – all trees one day seem to turn yellow as if they are coordinated, so Italian autumn in noticeable as soon as it arrives. Austrian autumn arrives on time, it is cold, clean, well-prepared and sound. Her work is planned and she had a time schedule to follow – so one by one she is painting the trees. The Texan autumn is conservative and doesn’t want to change anything – so many bushes and trees enter the winter with green leaves and flowers. In Scandinavia autumn is an artist with a great fantasy, and she is also mind and cheerful. In London it is impossible to understand when autumn comes, she seems to be so anxious to start that she comes in several times in the summer… And of cause every autumn smells differently: with pumpkin pies, apples, cinnamon, tea and coffee… and so many things which people gather in their gardens and store in their kitchens to provide their family with another dinner surprise. The following posts will be all about autumns, and the first one, Russian, smells with Sharlotka!
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Time of preparation: 1 hour    Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
Wheat flour_______1 glass
Sugar ___________1 glass
Apples ___________2-3
Cinnamon________2 tea spoons
Eggs ____________3
Salt
It’s better to pick up a little bit sour apples, otherwise pie will be too sweet
1. Cut apples in a very thin slices, place in the oiled dish for baking, and powder with cinnamon.
2. There are two ways of making the dough: very easy and a little bit more complicated. First variant:  whip sugar with eggs quite well in a deep bowl, then add flour and half of a tea spoon of salt. Mix well.
Second variant: mix just yolks with sugar, adding step by step flour. Then whip egg-whites in foam and add in the dough, this way the pie will get a wonderful crust. But in this case – don’t open the oven until the pie is ready, or it will go down. Pour the ready dough over the apples.
3. Bake in the oven on 180C (350F) around 35 minutes.

The Most Amazing Apple Pie

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I guess you can't even imagine how good this pie is unless you try it!

I guess you can’t even imagine how good this pie is unless you try it!

My boyfriend, who happened to be Italian, always wondered what do I have to do with all these apples and why on earth someone in general would like apples? When we moved to London, to this cold, humid and always windy place, where neither peaches nor figs grow, but die, I guess he understood. Apples are not just the fruits, they are the mood.
It is so amazing, you go to your garden, shake the trees, and then gather them. Or if you have no garden, all you neighbors passing by give you a box of rosy apples – because in severe St Petersburg climate apple trees are the only plant that for some mysterious reasons show fantastic productivity. You kitchen, and in a while the whole flat reminds the branch of the apple-refining factory, and when you pile the last for today apple you get a call from your mom, saying they gathered 15 boxes of apples and she is going to pass by to drop at least half of the trophies. From apple-lover you turned into an apple-maniac, you made chutneys, jams, compote, you start thinking if apples go well with the eggplants, or maybe spaghetti? And you use all your creative reserves to invent new pies. Your bf can’t consume this amount, you go around and give pies out to the neighbors, who so carelessly happen to give you apples… And then you sit next to the window, on your cozy sofa, under the warm blanket, and with tea, feeling the smell of the freshly-backed apple pie with cinnamon… And you are happy. You are the winner in this pitiless apple war.
Inspired by sweet, touching and funny post of GaH and several other bloggers, praising autumn 🙂
Dough:
Butter_______225 grams
Sugar_______1 cup
Eggs_______ 2
Backing Powder__1 table spoon
Salt________1/2 teaspoon
Juice of a lemon
Flour_____ 3 ¼ – 3 ½ cups
Feeling:
Apples___ about 10
A little bit of lemon juice
Raisins___ a cup
Sugar____ ¼ cup
Cinnamon_ 1 ¼ teaspoons
1. Whisk butter with sugar till fluffy, approximately for 2 minutes.
2. Add eggs and keep on whisking till mixture is light and airy, so for approximately 3 more minutes. Add lemon juice and mix.
3. Combine flour with baking powder and salt and gradually add into the batter. It may require slightly more or less flour, so don’t add all at a time. The dough will come out very soft and not sticky.
4. Divide the dough into two parts, form squares, wrap into food cling and put into the fridge for at least two hours.
5. Pile the apples and cut the cores, dice into small pieces. Add lemon juice, raisins, sugar and cinnamon, mix well. You may try the feeling and adjust to your taste, adding cinnamon, sugar or lemon juice.
6. Grease the baking dish. Roll out one of the squares of dough and put in the baking dish. Put the apple feeling, spread equally. Roll out the second part of the dough; cover the pie and seal edges. Grease the top with water and sprinkle sugar. Make several cuts with a sharp knife.
7. Bake on 180C (350F) for 60-80 minutes. The ready pie will become golden.

Lemon and Basil Pasta

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There is a famous Russian journalist, who dedicated himself to studying island cultures. He claimed, that as every island population developed in insolation, its culture and social norms are so distinctive, that it is not easy for continental people to understand them. As the examples he mentions Japan and UK (he spent 10 years in both countries and claims that British people are quite difficult to go alone with). I don’t know how true it is nowadays, but I am sure that this principle is not applicable to another large island – Sicily. It was conquered so many time, that it is rather a melting pot of people, traditions and cuisines. Specially distinguishing in this sense is Palermo region, which was under strong Arabic influence, and thus features couscous as a traditional dish. And it were Arabs, who brought lemons into Sicily – they started cultivated it on the fertile soil of Etna. Many people trust that exactly due to this volcanic soil and Sicilian lemons have these inimitable sweetness, which born the saying: “Lemons are not lemons unless they are from Sicily”.
Lemons are used in many traditional dishes, like famous Granita. But in the summer a popular dish is past with lemon, as it has rich, refreshing flavor.
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Time of preparation: 20 minutes Difficulty: Easy
Ingredients:
Spaghetti or tagliatelle_________400 grams
Olive oil______________________12 tablespoons
Garlic________________________2 cloves
Red chili_____________________1/2
Basil________________________a handful
Tomato______________________1 big
Lemon______________________ 2
Parmesan___________________40 grams
Butter_______________________20 grams
Salt, Pepper
1. Boil spaghetti in plenty of salted water till al dente. Drain, reserving a splash of cooking water.
2. Chop the garlic and chili; put olive oil into a pan, add garlic and chili and sweat on medium fire for about a minute.
3. One lemon cut in segments, grate the zest and squeeze the juice from another one.
4. Put pasta in the frying pan, add a little bit of cooking water, lemon segments, zest and juice, basil, and cut tomato. Stir, season to taste, and adjust the density with the remaining cooking water. Add grated parmesan and butter. Serve straight away.