Lavender Liqueur

Dear Oleńka,

It seems that all I ever talk about with anyone anymore is the weather (it's either that or, you know, grad school). New England weather is famously fickle, but here it is May and I still haven't put away the last of my winter clothes...

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Posted on May 9, 2016 .

Spiced Coffee Cookies

Dear Oleńka,

Supposedly it’s already April, and in theory spring should be firmly established by now, but this week the charming Boston climate has been treating us to snowstorms, hailstorms, and veritably arctic temperatures. The Sunday snow frustrated my ambitious plans to go grocery shopping and decidedly discouraged me from going outside. Clearly in such cases the only solution is to bake something.

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Posted on April 7, 2016 .

Coffee, Chocolate, and Salted Caramel Pain Perdu

Dear Marysia,

First of all, don't you think, that the recipe title sounds fancy? I feel like I have finally reached the ultimate combination of laziness and effciecny. 

I came up with the idea for this dessert, because I thought it was about time to post a recipe for something sweet, but as you know, I'm not very good with baking, so each time I have to serve a dessert I'm trying to avoid making anything involving the oven.

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Posted on March 10, 2016 .

Pickled Daikon Radish

Dear Oleńka,

This past weekend the East Coast was hit by its first major winter storm of the year. In the U.S., this type of extreme weather event is always accompanied by a particularly American ritual: constant news coverage featuring increasingly hysterical weathermen, bizarre nicknames with apocalyptic overtones (snowmageddon, snowzilla, frankenstorm), runs on grocery stores. This time around Boston was mostly spared—in stark contrast to last year—and I was very fortunate not to have my travel plans for returning to campus disrupted (though I did have the pleasure of flying over the storm on my way back from Charleston). My friends in New York and DC were not so lucky, and as far as I know they're still digging out.

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Posted on January 26, 2016 .

Super Easy Blueberry & Blue Cheese Buns

Dear Marysia,

As you know, we finally bought an apartment! The bad news is that it has not been renovated in about 50 years, so it will take some time and a lot of work before we move in. And it’s not even the work that scares me. It’s more the fact every person who goes through the process of renovation has to, in some magical way, become an expert on everything overnight. For now, I already have my share of knowledge about bathrooms and I can proudly say that I am capable of picking out my own shower and sink. We have spent multiple evenings debating the choice of toilet and frankly, I couldn’t be more glad that this part is over.

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Posted on January 10, 2016 .

Buckwheat Apple Cake

Dear Oleńka,

Almaty is a city famous for its apples. The name itself comes from “alma,” the Kazakh for apple. The best-known variety of apples in Almaty is the famous aport, which is hefty and red with a heady, honey-like aroma. For a while aports became less common as the city expanded at the expense of apple orchards, but recently they seem to be everywhere. Vendors at the bazaar set them out by the bucketful, often underlining their local origin. 

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Posted on November 20, 2015 .

Samsas with Leek and Pumpkin

Dear Oleńka,

In American cuisine, one of the ingredients most closely associated with fall is unquestionably pumpkin—from pumpkin pie to pumpkin soup to the ubiquitous PSL. Although it’s already snowing in Almaty, I am firmly in denial about both the weather and my imminent departure, so I thought I’d share with you my favorite Central Asian twist on this quintessential flavor of fall (though pumpkin manty are also a strong contender). 

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Posted on November 6, 2015 .

'90s Style Plum Soup

Dear Marysia,

I don't know how the weather is in Kazakhstan now, but the autumn in Poland is absolutely marvelous. It is warm and sunny, and there is something really magical about the light this time of year. It is so warm and golden that it makes Krakow look almost like the backdrop of a Woody Allen movie.

This past weekend I spent a lot of time just wandering around, trying to soak in all this beauty, before the greyness of winter starts. Saturday morning I went to the farmers' market and I was just overwhelmed by everything. I think this is the best time of year for buying fruits and vegetables (way better than summer) because everything is perfectly ripe and incredibly cheap at the same time. I came back home carrying literally as much as I was physically able, including 4.5 pounds of crazily sweet plums.

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Posted on October 12, 2015 .

Sorrel Pineapple Smoothie

Dear Oleńka,

You’re already familiar with both my obsession with sorrel and my profound love for Central Asian jewelry. Last week I had a chance to visit another silversmith’s workshop, so I figured this would be an opportune moment to share yet another sorrel recipe with you (I promise I do occasionally eat other things).

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Posted on September 28, 2015 .

Sorrel Salad with Lentils and Potatoes

Dear Oleńka,

I know many people see it as a tedious chore, but I love the process of buying groceries. When I lived in Paris, grocery shopping was basically my hobby. This led to several dangerous discoveries, like crème de marrons and this one store brand guava jam from Franprix that I was addicted to for a while. To this day, whenever I’m back in Paris I wander the aisles of the Monoprix on rue du Temple for old times’ sake. In addition to its purely practical applications, grocery shopping is a great way to observe local particularities. In France it’s the seemingly infinite varieties of yogurt and yogurt-like substances (caillé de brebis may be the greatest dairy product known to man). In Kazakhstan, the most striking thing about grocery stores is the almost complete lack of fresh produce.

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Posted on September 12, 2015 .

Literally all you need to know about homemade pizza

Dear Marysia,

I know I haven’t written in a long time, but I’ve had tons of work and some other complications along the way. I thought that rather than explaining myself I should instead offer something to ‘buy’ my way back in. So I decided to share something that is not so much a recipe, but more the cumulative effect of long and persistent work.

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Posted on September 1, 2015 .

Halva-Flavored Banana "Ice Cream"

Dear Oleńka,

As its residents seem fond of saying, Almaty has a rezko kontinental’nyi klimat—a “sharply continental climate”—meaning that it's very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. When I got here everyone kept telling me that the winters aren’t actually that bad (especially compared to the truly arctic temperatures in Astana), just very humid. The idea of a humid winter seemed completely foreign to me—I couldn’t even really conceptualize what that meant. For me, humidity is closely associated with summer (when in the Northeastern U.S. it can reach 100 percent) and the feeling of being cocooned in a warm blanket as soon as you set foot outside. It turns out wet winter air is, more than anything, hazy, so much so that you can go for days without any visual evidence of the Tian Shan peaks right outside of town. 

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Posted on August 10, 2015 .

Strawberry Tarragon White Wine Spritzer

Dear Oleńka,

Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that my academic work is closely tied to a country with strong nomadic traditions, since I myself seem to be leading a semi-nomadic existence. When I was a kid, the end of the school year meant leaving for my grandparents’, or moving to Poland, or moving from Poland. In high school and college, it meant packing up my dorm room and moving out for three months. After college, my two suitcases and I migrated to Paris. And now in grad school I still nomadize for the summer, leaving for Moscow, for Poland, or for Kazakhstan.

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Posted on June 30, 2015 .

Jewish Caviar

Dear Marysia,

Today I have another of my old school family recipes to share with you. This one seems very fancy, tastes great, and is very cheap at the same time. That's probably why it has survived for so many years. I asked my Grandmother, and she actually doesn’t even remember where it comes from. It's also interesting that one of our favorite family recipes is Jewish, even though nobody in my family is. 

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Posted on June 3, 2015 .

Sorrel Pesto

IMG_9580.JPG

Dear Oleńka,

Don’t tell anyone, but the real reason I’m in my line of business may or may not be the jewelry. I have what can probably be called an unhealthy obsession with Central Asian earrings, whether Bukharan antiques or the work of contemporary craftsmen. I love the intricate geometric shapes, the colorful stones, and the creative use of materials ranging from Tsarist-era coins to animal bones.

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Posted on May 7, 2015 .

Never Say Never - Salmon and Cheese Gratin

Dear Marysia,

Have I told you that lately I've developed a crazy obsession with asking, Why not? This happens basically at every occasion when I’m told that something is wrong or when I’m forbidden to do something. It’s probably because when you get older you involuntarily start doing a lot of things in certain patterns and it gets harder and harder to keep an open mind. And staying open-minded is one of my top priorities in life. So every time somebody advises me not to do something, I ask: Why not? 

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Posted on April 21, 2015 .

Buckwheat Tart with Jerusalem Artichokes, Leeks, and Gorgonzola

Dear Oleńka,

Who gets into a stranger’s car?

I don’t think I can think of any circumstances under which I would willingly get into a private vehicle with someone I don’t know in the U.S., unless he was an Uber driver. Here, though, it’s completely normal (and remarkably safe) to stick your hand out and flag down a random car when you’re trying to get somewhere in a hurry. You give the driver the intersection to which you’re heading and negotiate a price (which increases exponentially in relation to how foreign you seem). Often, they inquire as to whether you’re married and how many children you have (if anyone asks, my husband’s name is Artur and he’s a lawyer in Warsaw. We have a two-year-old named Ania. I’m from Poland, by the way). Sometimes they ask you to dinner regardless. Other times they tell you about their service in the Soviet army, traversing Eurasia by train in order to accompany a shipment of tanks from Kaliningrad or buying Polish clothes in Lithuania. Sometimes they don’t talk to you at all.

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Posted on April 14, 2015 .

Post-Easter Nostalgia - Eggs à la Polonaise

Dear Marysia,

I’m writing to you right after my traditional Polish Easter breakfast, lying on the couch, trying not to explode from the amount of food I just consumed. But how could I stop eating when I was literally surrounded by beautiful cold cuts, colorful salads, cakes, and eggs? I was doomed. Actually, I’m quite surprised that I can still manage to think and write about food, but I guess this is just a sign of how deep and strong my love for food is…

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Posted on April 8, 2015 .

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Dear Oleńka,

One of the things that surprised me when I first started shopping at Central Asian bazaars was the large number of roving food merchants peddling an impressive array of snacks. They are especially noticeable at the bigger bazaars, like Almaty’s Barakholka or Bishkek’s Dordoi, massive wholesale and retail markets that sell just about anything you can imagine being produced in China. Small carts navigate the rows of shipping containers that serve as storefronts, selling drinks and snacks to the throngs of shoppers. But even at the smaller, more produce-oriented markets like Zelenyi Bazar in Almaty or Osh Bazaar in Bishkek, you see people meandering between stalls, hawking corn on the cob, samsa (savory pastries filled with meat or cheese), doughnuts, tea, and even ice cream. One of the first things that greets you when you approach Zelenyi Bazaar is the sound of young women calling out, “Doughnuts! Warm, fresh doughnuts!”

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Posted on April 1, 2015 .

Carnivore's Feast - Steak Tartare

Dear Marysia,

When we decided to write this blog, one of the first things I said was that I was going to write about was steak tartare. And here I am. I just couldn’t wait! Actually I find writing more and more fun, as I get to treat myself to such good food along the way.

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Posted on March 30, 2015 .