Monday, June 06, 2011

Cooking Class With Sergei

My studies in Russia and Ukraine have been organized through SRAS - the School of Russian and Asian Studies.  I've been overall satisfied with the assistance provided by the organization.  I heavily corresponded with Renee, the director, for two years as I tried to set this up.  It seemed like no matter what time I emailed her, I always got a response back within 1-2 hours.  SRAS helped me obtain the priglashenye (invitation) to study in Russia that was needed for my visa; they set up my housing, enrolled me in the school, met me at the airport, and provided lots of information about the places I would go.  They also provided the comfort of knowing that I could call a local resident an any time if I needed help.  But other than that they have been pretty hands off, and that's the way I like exchange programs in general.

One thing that I've really enjoyed, however, is participating in some of the optional tours that SRAS offers.  Do you remember Sergei's guided walking tour of downtown St. Pete?  It was absolutely a wonderful time. The same multi-talented Sergei (a professor and culture enthusiast) took us to a play by Gogol at the Aleksandrinskiy Theatre, on a tour of The Russian Museum, and invited us over to make and eat syrniki -- the highlight of today's blog post.

Syrniki (in Russian: сырники) are hands-down my new favorite Russian food.  Сыр means "cheese" and so сырники are little cheese pancakes!  They are made with tvorog -- cottage cheese.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Russians really know how to do dairy.  I'm convinced that's it's their no-fear attitude towards fat content that makes the milk, cottage cheese, sour cream, butter, yogurt - and even mayonnaise - so good.   The cottage cheese in Russia is a bit different from what you'd typically find in the States. For one, it's often very, very fresh, especially when you buy it at a rynok - market. And two, it's not as watery as we're used to. The curds are almost sticky and can easily be whipped into a paste.
Get ready for some Сырники with Sergei...

First, add all the ingredients...cottage cheese, an egg, and a little bit of flour

Mix it all up.

A fist-full of dough forms the perfect-sized сырники

Maria, Hillary, and Sarah get their hands dirty

Heat some sunflower oil in a pan and fry them up!

The fact that they are 99% cottage cheese makes them so soft inside!

Traditional toppings are sour cream and jam. Sergei bought apricot
jam for us at the local market.

When at first we put on a little dop of sour cream, Sergei insisted that we
keep smothering our сырники in sour cream and jam until they weren't even
visible anymore.  You should put "as much as you can handle," he said!
Of course mine looked like a mess (above).

On the other hand, Sarah, an art major, made сырники worthy of a
cooking magazine cover shot.

With the hard work behind us, Sarah, Hillary and I dig in!


  1. OMGoodness, those look like Heaven! I wonder if I drained some cottage cheese overnight and then made the little cakes....... I'll get back to you on this.... Thanks. Great blog. xo

  2. They look tasty indeed! I love their fear-no-dairy attitude!


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