Last night it occurred to me that the summer was gone. I guessed by the rustling of the carton boxes the neighbor who came for seasonal work was packing. By the suitcases’ wheels hitting the cobblestone pavement as the holiday makers were dragging their luggage to the taxi stand. By the silence on our lane deserted by the old ladies and the latest gossip. By the night chills in the garden where the flowering jasmine was shooting its deep perfume. By the wind touching the leaves and heavy ripe fruits of the pomegranate trees. By the unexpected sadness in the songs that we cheerfully played all summer long. By the tired eyes of my staff. By the quietness of my husband. By the light sadness that crept in my heart.
For a long time I have been looking down on simple recipes. I discarded anything with only a few ingredients and way-too-straightforward flavor combinations. I was on a continuous hunt for the original recipe ideas that I gathered from the cookbooks, food magazines, blogs, TV shows, newspapers and restaurant menus. I took pride in my extensive recipe collection. I was constantly taking notes and meditating on the new combinations of textures, colors and flavors. I loved going to the restaurants run by the like-minded chefs. Cooking is an act of infinite creativity, and kitchen is a lab where experiments never end. Spontaneous stone soup? My apologies, I am too cool for that. I did not want to publish traditional recipes on this blog as I anxiously wanted to include my own unique vision of every single dish I came across. Because honestly why to bother with something that does not include me?
If you are still with me (and I don’t know how I have deserved such loyalty being a lousy food blogger), you have noticed that last year this space was not too lively. Most of my cooking remained behind the scenes at my restaurant kitchen, and I kept most of the thoughts to myself. Now I can tell the truth: after we left Istanbul I knew my cooking, teaching and this blog were not going to be same. Posting my Aegean updates on the blog called Delicious Istanbul did not make sense, and my heart was not fully into the Turkish vegetarian cooking you know me for. And yet I felt I had not arrived to my next destination. The transition took a long year and a half, but finally I am ready for the next step. Will you come along?
Sometimes I feel sorry for beets enjoying the reputation of a one-dish-ingredient. Maybe it is just my Eastern European sentiment, but I feel whenever we say beets, we mean borsch. Oh, there is one or two traditional salads that feature (we all know difference between “star” and “feature”, right?) beets and grace every post-Soviet festive table. So much for the beet glory, huh?
My whole winter has been about kichdi (also kichri), an Indian porridge of lentils and basmati rice. There are endless variations of this dish, and Indian home cooks can make kichdi fit for a festive occasion, an everyday table, an ascetic offering to a deity, a simple baby food or a healing meal for a sick or recovering family member. Kichdi is a popular dish in Ayurvedic cleanses and suits any dosha. When someone says “superfood” I think of the nourishing and wisely composed meals like this rather than a chia seed pudding with blueberries.
Having peeked in the every corner of my mind I can’t come up with any reasonable explanation of not cooking this genius galette earlier. I will not waste more time wringing my hands in vain and will tell you about this savory galette, casual and chic as a French woman with her curly hair in a bun fussing around the kitchen wearing a loose sweater, black pencil skirt and of course, ballet flats.
I am not shy with my spices. I was born in the country of black pepper, salt and occasional bay leaf, but have gathered my spice knowledge through my life and travels in India, Turkey and Morocco. Now when I go back to Russia and cook in the houses of my parents or friends I feel I can’t express myself fully without my spices. Why am I so keen on them?