French recipe · Greek recipe · no-dough · pies · travel

Moscow and Courgette Pies

Thanks to my sister – to whom I dedicate this post, I made a short trip to Moscow last weekend. This is the city which even in the crowd down there in the metro reminds me of the USSR, you just can’t beat that Soviet ‘allure’ almost everywhere you go. With all the super mega buildings of the Stalin era or of the modern era, interlaced with the traditional monasteries and small churches, kiosks of all kinds, grand avenues and narrow lanes, Moscow is at least a showcase of the modern Russia for the numerous tourists.

The first day I went to the Chistye Prudy area (literally Clean Ponds) with a one-car 100  year old tramway route which runs round the ponds and the famous Sovremennik theatre nearby, then proceeded to the Kafkaesque headquarters of our national post service, on to the posh Nikolskaya street with all those high street boutiques and here it was, the Kremlin which for me looks like a weird combination of toy souvenirs… I wrote some letters sitting in the Alexandrovsky park under the much more southern sun than here, in St. Petersburg (where there are rains, rains, rains…). The next day I did a 20 kilometre marathon from the ENORMOUS Moscow State University (MGU), via Vorobievy Gory – from where you can see Moscow lying in front of you – and then on to the famous Gorky Park or Park Gorkogo, where there was this open air cinema with nostalgic billboards:

(and it cries out ‘Soviet, Soviet, Soviet!’). Then I crossed the Moscow river, on to the area with the densest concentration of both wide avenues with Stalin skyscrapers and narrow green streets with ‘shops of social importance‘ (because not ALL the Moscow babushka can afford going to the gourmet supermarkets!). I also walked along the bohemian Arbat street where I got caught in one of the showers that day. The trip ended near Kremlin and Tverskaya Street where we did this:

It’s at one of the two Paul cafes that have recently opened in Moscow, it reminded me of that tarte aux quetsches we ate in Strasbourg. The soupe à l’oignon, the baguettes and tarte aux myrtilles were very nice, although hot chocolate was definitely not hot=) After this gourmet dinner, we discovered some of the Bulgakov places, such as the Patriarshie Prudy (Patriarch Ponds) where the Master and Marguerite first chapter takes places, and also by chance saw the Bulgakov house museum with a very enthusiastic guard and a huge black malevolent cat guarding the entrance=) If you ever visit Moscow, this is the museum to see and tell me how it was, cause we had to come back home and missed the night excursion. We also saw the Hermitage garden (not to be confused with the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg), it just transforms you somewhere to a resort town in the 1920s…

Back home I’ve renewed my baking after cooking nothing at all for several days (not a usual state for me any more!). And here are two more options for how to use your courgettes – one of the recipes is Greek (lots of potatoes and courgettes) and another one is, well, let’s call it French (requires short crust pastry).

Let’s start with this gorgeous and only from the appearance sophisticated-complicated tarte:

Tarte aux Courgettes, Feta et Ricotta adapted from lifesafeast.blogspot.fr where you will find the original recipe. Here are just some notes on how I did it:

for the short crust pastry I chose this very nice recipe of the crust from the King Arthur Flour – using as usual less butter and powdered milk instead of buttermilk powder. The crust was enough for my largest cast iron pan.

for the filling, as I had only 1 zucchini (courgette), I also fried some onion and garlic. For the cheeses I made a successful combination of Agygea cheese (instead of ricotta) and French combo cheese (instead of feta), adding a little bit more of the latter for a taller cheese layer. I also added some fresh basil along with mint, seasoning the cheese mixture with some Greek tzadziki mix and herbes de Provence.

This is the bottom layer of my tarte:

For the fear of a soggy crust, I sprinkled some semolina before adding the courgettes, onions and garlic.

The result is an unbelievably soft cheese part, tangy mint and basil leaves and … well, just wonderful! I must confess that I do tend to avoid short crust tarts but this pie gave me some of that pleasure you do not get from every recipe. I don’t know, you will just have to try it yourself!

***

Now on to the Greek pie, a very nutritious one and veeeery νόστιμο (tasty)! I found this giant recipe of Χανιώτικο μπουρέκι (Courgette and Potato Boureki or pie from Chania, Crete) at foodjunkie.eu but did not make it before as it was really too large and consequently requiring lots of ingredients. But of course you can always halve the recipe, which I did. And yet it was enormous!

Just as the author suggests, you don’t have to follow the ingredient list to the point, try substituting the Greek cheese myzithra with feta or ricotta, for example. What I did was to use the same French combo cheese as for the tarte in combination with the same Adygea cheese. I also used much much less olive oil and still it was trying to escape while baking=). As for the herbs, I used dry basil, herbes de Provence and pepper. I thought it’d be better to drain the courgettes for a bit, but you can skip it.

The topping in this pie is some kind of the upper crust, but no worries, there’s not much to do! I decided to leave the ingredients without reducing them in half, but of course changed some things: instead of all purpose flour I used whole wheat, instead of myzithra cheese – again Adygea cheese, and I opted to add an egg.

The result: although my boureki didn’t look that very beautiful, you just cannot imagine how addictive it was! with all the potatoes and creamy cheese and almost lost courgettes in this large amount of ingredients. The topping was thin and quite neutral so don’t be tricked by it – underneath you’ll have a giant filling!

Happy travelling and happy baking! And I wish you to have sun shining – for those who live in places where the people forget what it is, a sunny summer!

G.

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