As promised, I can now reveal where I observed the autumn equinox — in Moscow with leaves of russet, rose and gold resplendent all about in the crisp, cold landscape. Along the Volga and Europe’s largest lake, Lake Ladoga, where we cruised on the MS Litminov, a small Russian river boat, the birch woods were exceptionally dramatic against the pines surmounted by voluminous clouds.
This was not just an ordinary vacation for me, but a longtime destination along with St. Petersburg for my husband, Richard, whom I lost three years ago.
In one of our last late-night conversations, he urged, “Keep on traveling,” so it was appropriate that I did this trip right after our 50th wedding anniversary. He would have enjoyed it even more than I did, with the historical, geographical and religious elements. Not to mention the politics.
Needless to say, I enjoyed all the Russian meals aboard and on land, as well as the afternoon session of vodka sampling.
When the opportunity arose to join in making pelmeni (dumplings) and borscht at the cooking class, guess who was the first to volunteer?
Pelmeni are similar to Asian potstickers, and our ship’s chef described them as an ancient noodle prepared in advance and “stored outside in the snow” to be retrieved as needed for a main dish or addition to soup.
As we made the borscht, our Russian guide and translator mentioned the slight variations in regional methods and ingredients. This is not unusual in a huge country that spreads across 11 time zones!
We dealt in superlatives the whole time, with populations of 18 million in Moscow and more than 6 million in St. Petersburg, with its opulent, centuries-old architecture reconstructed after being decimated by the Nazis in World War II.
Indeed, ancient Russian history is fraught with successive onslaughts, with current citizenry demonstrating an enduring spirit, if not a dark humor. As one who grew up during the Soviet era of the Cold War and Iron Curtain, with its own repressive and sacrificed population, I can only hope for peace in and with Russia.
It was good to return to peaceful Cambria, bustling with scarecrows and the upcoming four days of harvest market events centered about the Historical Museum, bigger and better than ever.
According to Julia Rice, Rotary’s Viva! fundraiser has also been enhanced, and I look forward to enjoying a special evening with them!
Makes: About 25 pelmeni
- 3 cups white wheat flour
- 1 cup (about) water
- 1 large egg
- Salt to taste
- 1⁄2 pound minced beef
- 1⁄2 pound minced pork
- 4 chopped onions, minced
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh dill and parsley
Prepare the dough: Sift flour, add beaten egg and salt and pour in the water a little at a time. Knead at first with a spoon, then with your hands until it comes together and becomes elastic. Let set in a covered bowl.
Make the meat filling: Minced meats are finer than ground beef; mix in the onions, dill, parsley, salt and pepper, adding a little cold boiled water to form a spreadable paste.
Roll out the dough very thin on a floured board. Dip a glass with a 2-inch diameter in flour to cut circles.
Scoop about one-half teaspoon of filling in the center of the disc, fold over and stretch to fit so you can pinch the edges together very well. Twist the ends up and pinch to form a bundle similar to tortellini. Set them in the fridge to become firm.
Cook the pelmeni in boiling salted water about eight at a time until they rise to the surface like ravioli, then five minutes more. Drain and serve them with sour cream, butter or vinegar.
These may be made in advance and frozen. Make dumpling soup with well-flavored stock.