When I packed my bags for a fifteen-month research trip at the end of May, I knew that among the things I would miss most about Somerville were my kitchen and its assorted contents, the farmer’s market down the street, and our neighborhood supermarket, a local institution that has a cult following (and recently became the focus of international media attention). My first stop was Moscow, where finding decent housing is notoriously difficult. I was lucky enough to share a centrally located apartment with two friends, right by the Moscow River, complete with air conditioning, a view of one the Stalin-era Seven Sisters skyscrapers (close cousins of Warsaw’s Palace of Culture), and even a relatively large kitchen.
There were three of us in about 30 square meters, but we were in a lovely, green neighborhood within walking distance of the archives. We took turns making dinner whenever we were able to resist the pull of the Georgian restaurant down the street, and after a couple of weeks away from my kitchen in Somerville, I developed an irrepressible urge to bake.
Our oven, though, was incredibly cryptic. I turned the knob, but that yielded nothing. I realized that if I pressed it in, I could hear the gas turn on. But no ignition. So I opened the bottom panel, flailing around on the kitchen floor to try to see what was going on (I am nothing if not determined). The pilot light was off, but there was no immediately apparent means of turning it on. But i remained undaunted. All in all, activating the oven involved at least an hour of fiddling with various settings and frantic downloading of instruction manuals in three languages. In the end I managed to somehow turn the pilot light on without blowing up the kitchen. Success! Now on to the fun part.
The tricky thing about cooking when you're on the move is that you often lack both the equipment and the ingredients required to attempt anything beyond the basics. This is doubly true for baking. So, having figured out the mysterious oven, I set my mind to figuring out what I could concoct with a minimum of purchases. The result was incredibly easy and—despite the preponderance of Nutella—not cloyingly sweet.
1 cup flour
1 cup Nutella
1 cup walnuts, chopped
-Preheat oven to 350F/180C
- Mix ingredients
-Form balls from about one tablespoon of dough
-Spread evenly on parchment-lined baking sheet
-Bake for about 10 minutes