Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Meeting Anne The SpyGirl and Russian ABC: S is for Salad


As many of you know, Anne of Spy Girl is currently on an artistic travel adventure - the project she calls On The Edge: US. We are lucky enough to live very close to the Western edge, so Anne and I had a chance to meet. This is the very first time I met someone from this wonderful and warm blogging circle (but I did meet great blogger friends from my previous blogs - with some of them we are friends ever since that, for almost a dozen of years already!). I offered Anne to stay in our little cottage up the hill from the Puget Sound, and she accepted my invitation!


When we greeted each other right outside of my kitchen door, I said that it feels like she'd walked right off the computer screen and materialized in my garden! It's always a thrill to meet a friend you first "met" online. But since we see photos of each other a lot, it really feels like we already know each other (unlike my first time meeting blogging friends when I had to give them a description something like "a Russian girl with long hair, in a bright yellow coat, very pregnant, with a Chinese husband" - you think they could miss a couple like that?). And since we talk style here - look at our outfits! You'd think we tried to coordinate! I felt like wearing stripes and something white for our very informal homey visit and a walk to the beach. Apparently, I was not the only one. :) Have you noticed that I also wear the pendant which I wore for Anne's challenge 52 Pick-Me-Up: Wear Something Of Your Mom's? Oh, so you have? Good eyes! (But even if you didn't, just go to this post.)




What did we do on our meet-up? We took a nice stroll on the beach (luckily the tide was out, and the beach was wide open - we could go all the way up to Seattle or down to Tacoma if we wanted). We chatted (especially me - I can be quite a chatter box). When Anya came back from school, and Justin from work, we chatted some more. It was interesting to learn more about Anne and how she became an artist, what jobs she has had and what inspires her artwork. I also shared my craving to live in a nurturing arts community (which I never have). And we ate! We ate yummy home-made meals, and I can share that bit too, but first let me show you what Anne brought me from New York! It is rams (or ramsons, or wild garlic, or wild leek - many names in English). I know this plant as cheremsha (черемша) - the early Spring wild vegetable which people gather in the woods, you can buy bunches of it on streets where I grew up. We traditionally eat them in a very simple way - cut and mixed with salt and sour cream, but I haven't eaten them in ages! Probably for at least 12 years. Imagine my excitement when I read that Anne discovered rams in New York woods. She immediately offered to bring them to me. Anne also shared a pesto recipe with rams. (I'll write it here, so I won't forget: equal parts of rams, basil and parsley + olive oil + Parmesan.)


But I haven't made pesto or anything yet (surprisingly, they kept really well in almost 10 days of travel, strong plant!). I made a Russian meal, and I am sure you are dying to know the ancient Russian recipes. Well, I am not going to hide anything from you today (but only today, all right?).

Of course, borscht. Some of you (particularly lovely Sandra) have already made borscht using my recipe right here. It's pretty good. 
Then, Russians eat a wide variety of salads - but they are not typical salads (chopped lettuce and some veggies), some of them are almost like a meal in themselves with plenty of meat or fish as a main ingredient. Others are mixed vegetables marinated together. I'll show you a couple of those here. Just in time for warm weather, though they are great year-round!

1. Chafan


That's what they call this dish in Krasnoyarsk where I am from - it was quite popular there, though I made tons of adjustments over the years. I also figured out the roots of the name - it is from Chinese phrase "eat rice", that is what Chinese people will tell you when they invite you for a meal. It doesn't mean that there will be only rice served, more likely a variety of 5 or 6 different dishes with steamed sticky rice. 

The picture above explains the most of preparation, but there are nuances too.
* cabbage - shredded and marinated (salt + sugar + vinegar to taste)
* slightly boiled (1-2 min only) potatoes, thinly cut in advance
* beets - uncooked and shredded
* carrots - uncooked and shredded
* bell pepper thinly sliced (optional)
* meat or eggplant or tofu (or mix) - thinly sliced, marinated (vinegar + black pepper + hot red pepper + soy sauce) and stir fried in oil with onions and garlic (add a little ginger if you like). I also add chili bean sauce when I fry - I love it spicy.

You can tell that there is a handful or two of each ingredient, beautifully arranged in a dip dish. That's the  way we serve it. We then mix the salad on the table.

The recipe in Russian in my cooking blog here.

2. Marinated cabbage


This is one of my staples and is really easy to make.

* a small head of cabbage - shredded
* 1 or 2 carrots shredded
* onion (a half if it's a big one) thinly sliced
* bell pepper thinly sliced

Dressing:
1/2 cup of canola oil
1/2 cup of vinegar
2 table spoons of sugar
1 tea spoon of salt
garlic, parsley or dill to taste

Mix all together and let sit for about 5 hours on the counter, then put it in a jar and enjoy whenever you want to - it will be good for about a month in a fridge. This recipe I adopted from my good university and newspaper company friend, also named Natasha (it's a popular name in Russia).

The recipe in Russian here.

Back to Bloglandia. Anne left this morning to drive around the Western edge of the Washington State (which would be the Olympic peninsula) and then all the way to Portland, Oregon. It is a loooooooong day of driving. I hope she arrives to her destination safe and sound, such a brave soul she is!


I am wearing:
Boyfriend jeans, cardigan and camisole - Lane Bryant. Shoes - Crocs. 
Anya is wearing almost exclusively Justice, though she got some new stuff via thrift shop and enjoys it too.

Anne is still driving on the edge of the US - you can take a look at the map which shows exactly how many miles she has driven and how many miles were funded through her fundraiser. As you can see, there is still plenty of opportunity to raise money. Arts and culture traditionally depend largely on the generosity of the art patrons and public. There is still a chance to help raising funds to cover the cost of Anne's artistic endeavor.

24 comments:

  1. A fantastic post, Natalia! Meeting fellow bloggers is the most rewarding part of blogging, isn't it? I was lucky enough to meet several German bloggers already and we keep on arranging meet-ups.
    I admire Anne's skills and last year she surprised me with a sketch :-)
    Now I'll go through your recipes again.
    You have a gorgeous daughter!!

    Annette | Lady of Style

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Annette! Lucky you! I would be up to meeting sooo many of my blogging friends! And I believe I will. :)

      If you have any questions regarding the recipes, don't hesitate to ask. xxx

      Delete
  2. I'm happy for you that you had a chance to meet with your blogging friend. Looks like you had a blast -- walking on the beach, eating home cooked meals, talking -- all my favorite activities :)
    Thank you for sharing the salad recipes-- need to marinade some cabbage for my husband (he's been asking me to make it for quite some time already).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those are some goooood activities, no doubt!! :) Thank you, Oksana, for your kind words! And happy cooking! :) xxx

      Delete
  3. How fun, and looks like lots of good food and conversation. I'm meeting Anne this weekend, and I can't wait!

    Just this morning on the radio they were talking about gathering rams in West Virginia. They sound delicious, but I don't think we have them here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess we will have to have another meet-up to find out what rams taste like! ;) xxx

      Delete
  4. What a great post. Natalia, you are an excellent writer! It sounds like the two of you had a nice time. I love how you let Anne enjoy her stay while getting to know you and your home life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WOW, I am so thrilled, Glenda! A compliment to my writing is thousands time more precious to me than a compliment to my outfits (even though I love those :) ... You know we talked about it with Anne. I am sure there are surprising things about any of us when we meet in real life. But the core you can't fake. It's impossible to fake energy! And we are pretty open with each other here. So it's really like meeting someone you already know, though you are right - there are things to learn about "real" us. :) xxx

      Delete
  5. Aw, thank you for such wonderful hospitality! It was great to meet you and your family, and partake of your wonderful cooking! It was a lovely and memorable visit. Xxox

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We were happy and honored to have you here, Anne, right in the midst of your great journey! And thank you for the wild leeks again - such a treasure to me. :) I hope you had a good rest after another long day of driving! Hugs! xxxx

      Delete
  6. wouu, everything looks so amazing!!, love that you've met fabulous Spy Girl in person, and walked and chatted with her!!, it looks like everybody is meeting everybody and having fun together!!, and you look so pretty coordinated in stripes!!
    And your meals look delightful and you've explained so nicely your recipes that they sound really easy to make!!
    So glad blogosphere is creating such wonderful meetings!!
    besos

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some day we all will meet, I do believe in it! Thank you, Senora A! xxxx

      Delete
  7. Oh how great you were able to meet Anne in person and looks like you all spent a lovely, relaxing time together, I'm sure Anne would really have appreciated your hospitality and the chance to chill and chat after all her driving. Your meal looks wonderful and I really want to have a go at marinating some cabbage - thanks for explaining how to make it. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know I at first was thinking what to show here around here - because we have SO MUCH WONDERFULNESS here... but then I realized that she would really appreciate some homey coziness and peacefulness after such a long travel (almost 2 months on the road!), and so that's what we did. xxx

      Delete
  8. What a great post! You and Anne look radiant in your stripes and Anna looks darling too, as she always does. Apparenlty I eat Russian style salads and didn't know it. LOL-I hate chopped up lettuce and vegetables, Bring on the hearty veggies, meat and a nice vinaigrette. Your cabbage and carrot salad is like a varation of cole slaw. Yum Yum Yum!

    I have a fantasy of owning a volkswagaon camper van and spending a year or two traveling all over North America. I would not hesitate to do it on my own if I didn't have M.E. but since I do, traveling alone is not really a good idea. Someday I will find a way to modify this dream and do it.
    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shawna, you definitely have something going on with Russian-ness - we just have to figure out what it is. :)

      Fantasies and dreams are the road to a more wonderful and fulfilling life, so keep on dreaming! xxxx

      Delete
  9. This is wonderful! I love seeing bloggers meet up and both Anne and you look like you've been friends for years. Anna looks very lovely, too.
    I showed Jon your recipes and demanded he make them for us. I'm salivating at that cabbage.I bet Anne felt so welcome. xxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can totally imagine you demanding, my dear! :) I hope you weren't disappointed. Everyone loved them so far, but who knows? :) xxxxx

      Delete
  10. I love seeing you both in the same frame! What a special visit you guys shared. What could be better than conversation and a stroll on the beach and your home cooking, HEAVAN! Annie is such a sweetie for bringing those rams. All your food looks delicious and healthy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it wild, Krista? Spy Girl on my photo spot! :) Totally wild and wonderful! xxxxx

      Delete
  11. What a wonderful surprise! I scrolled down to see Anne with you and lovely Anya! it must have been an amazing time for you both, I really do love it when bloggers meet! more recipe's for me to try there, the food looks absolutely delicious, it's making me very hungry! x x x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you'll enjoy these recipes - they are simple and tasty! And I do want to see all of us meet some day! xxxxx

      Delete
  12. How cool! Looks like you had a blast and she was well fed : )

    bisous
    Suzanne

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did my best to entertain with both conversation and food. :) xxx

      Delete