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‘Latvian Stew’ pleases Moscow gentleman — and a family, too

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In the 2016 novel A Gentleman in Moscow, the best seller by Amor Towles, the main character, Count Rostov, watches as a young man puzzles over a menu. The young man does not want his first date to think him cheap; on the other hand he doesn’t want to be seen as pretentious.
In an inspired moment, the young man chooses Latvian Stew.

Count Rostov approves, musing: “The onions thoroughly caramelized, the pork slowly braised, and the apricots briefly stewed, the three ingredients come together in a sweet and smoky medley that simultaneously suggests the comfort of a snowed-in tavern and the jangle of a Gypsy tambourine.”

Towles tells bookclubbook.com that he first read the recipe in a cooking magazine and he was skeptical. This was a stew recipe that uses no spices, stock, or wine. And, in fact, many cooks must have agreed since variations of the recipe that Towles’ book made famous do call for stock, spices or wine.

But, in fact, it is the lack of spices, stock and wine that wins over Towles. He advises cooks to choose a fatty cut of pork to allow a fork tender result. Also, be sure to grill the onions to a deep golden brown, to ensure a smoky flavor.

This is the official Moscow Gentleman recipe. Notice it does not call for potatoes. Towles recommends buttered parsley potatoes on the side. Adding potatoes does not change the essential flavors of the stew so if you want to skip potato peeling, the stew is fine without them.
Although the recipe does not specifically say it, you can use kitchen scissors to quarter the apricots and prunes.

With a prep time of at least 25 minutes and a cook time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, this stew is not for a busy weeknight. But, once prepared, it keeps well and can be happily served as leftovers. This recipe yields about 6 to 8 servings.

Latvian Stew
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
6 carrots, peeled, trimmed, and sliced crosswise
4 tablespoons tomato paste
5 cups water
1 cup dried apricots
1 pound white boiling onions, peeled, each cut into 6 wedges
1 cup pitted prunes

Instructions
Season pork with salt and pepper.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until meat releases its juices and is no longer pink all over, about 5 minutes.
Add carrots and cook until slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and water, then add apricots.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and gently simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until deep golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Add onions and prunes to stew and continue to simmer over medium-low heat until pork is tender and sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes more.

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Food

Farmers markets: the best place for locally sourced goods

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For many people, the mention of a farmers market brings to mind stalls packed with fresh fruits and vegetables. However, these bustling spaces offer an abundance of other regional goods. Here’s a sampling of what you might find.

Ornamental plants
Bring your backyard to life or add a pop of color to your garden with a wide selection of flowers, plants, and shrubs. Ask growers on-site about the best choices for your shaded, sunny, or damp yard.

Organic goods

While it can sometimes be a challenge to find fresh organic produce in grocery stores, there’s no shortage of it at farmer’s markets. Many small-scale cultivators and breeders specialize in organic farming practices. Take your pick from organic fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, eggs, and more.

Craft beer, wine, and spirits
Little pairs are better with a locally-sourced meal than a glass of wine, cider, or craft beer that was made just down the road. Discover the flavors of your region at the stalls of local producers. If you fancy an aperitif or digestif, sample the offerings of a nearby micro-distillery.

Artisanal goods
Farmers markets aren’t just about eating and drinking. Among the tables laden with the food you’ll find an array of unique creations. These often handcrafted products range from soaps, creams, and essential oils to candles, clothes, and linens.

For these local products and more, take a stroll through a farmers market near you.

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Food

Revitalizing green smoothie

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Do you need an energy boost? This delicious and refreshing smoothie is the perfect solution.

Start to finish: 10 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients

• 1 banana, sliced and frozen
• 2 kiwis peeled, sliced and frozen
• 1/2 cup pineapple peeled, diced and frozen
• 2 cups baby spinach
• 2 cups vegan milk
• 1/2 cup coconut water
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
• 1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions
1. Use a blender to purée all the ingredients.
2. In 2 glasses, evenly pour the smoothie.
3. Garnish with berries.

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Food

Pomegranate and feta salad

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This simple summer salad is packed with nutrients and perfectly marries sweet and salty flavors. The pomegranate seeds add a nice pop of color.

Start to finish: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients

• 1 head curly endive or frisée lettuce, chopped
• 1 radicchio, chopped
• 1 red onion, thinly sliced
• 1/2 cucumber, cut in semi-circles
• Seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
• 7 ounces feta cheese, diced
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1 tablespoon Dijon or old-style mustard
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
1. In 4 bowls, equally divide the lettuce, radicchio, onion, cucumber, pomegranate seeds, and feta.
2. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Mix well and drizzle over each salad.

If you find the taste of raw red onion to be overwhelming, soak the slices in cold water for up to 1 hour before assembling the salad. This will mellow their flavor.

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Prosciutto, fig and goat cheese crostini

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If you want a simple yet sophisticated starter to serve at your next dinner party, look no further than this classic Italian appetizer. Your guests are sure to love the pairing of salty prosciutto with the sweetness of figs.

Start to finish: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients

• 4 slices Ezekiel or multigrain bread
• 3-1/2 ounces soft goat cheese
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 4 fresh figs, sliced
• 8 thin slices of prosciutto
• 1 cup arugula
• Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
1. Use a toaster or barbecue to grill the bread.
2. Spread a quarter of the goat cheese on each slice of bread, and top each with half a tablespoon of honey. Salt and pepper to taste.
3. Atop each crostino, lay a quarter of the fig slices and 2 slices of prosciutto.
4. Garnish each crostino with a few arugula leaves. Salt and pepper to taste.

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How to eat locally all year long

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If you favor food produced in your region, you’ll help protect the environment and support the local economy. Plus, you’ll gain access to fresh and affordable ingredients. Though it’s often more associated with summer, eating locally can be done year-round. Here’s how.

Learn about the region
Start by familiarizing yourself with what foods grow in your area and when they’re harvested. A seasonal food list will make it easier to plan your meals. Keep in mind that some growers use greenhouses to ensure that their fruits and vegetables are available year-round. Consult online resources or speak with growers at your local farmers market to learn more.

Prepare for winter

Good food storage practices allow you to enjoy a wide range of products throughout the year. Apples, onions, and various root vegetables, for example, will keep for months if stored in a cool, dark place. Other summer produce can be purchased in bulk and then canned, frozen or pickled. This will allow you to diversify your meals in winter without buying out of season.

Embrace seasonal substitutes
Eating locally year-round requires creativity and a willingness to adapt your diet to the season. Start with simple changes. Swap spinach and lettuce for nutrient-rich alternatives like leeks and cabbage during the winter. Pick up a seasonal cookbook at your local bookstore if you need a bit of inspiration.

With a little planning and effort, you can enjoy locally sourced meals year-round.

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Food

Greek chicken brochettes

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Serve up these tasty brochettes at a Greek-inspired feast or as an alternative to burgers at your next family barbecue.

Start to finish: 1 hour 20 minutes (25 minutes active)
Servings: 4

Ingredients

• 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tablespoons oregano, fresh or dried
• 1 tablespoon Italian parsley, fresh or dried
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cubed
• 1 large zucchini

Directions
1. In the sink or a large bowl, soak four wooden skewers in water for at least 1 hour. (Skip this step if you’re using metal skewers).
2. In a large bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and spices. Add the chicken and mix well. Make sure the chicken is evenly coated in the marinade. Chill in the fridge for 1 to 3 hours.
3. Chop off the ends of the zucchini and use a peeler to cut fine strips. Salt generously and lay the strips flat (without overlapping) on a clean cloth or paper towel. Place another cloth or piece of paper towel and a heavy object, such as a wood cutting board, overtop. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
4. Uncover the zucchini and use a clean cloth or paper towel to dab away excess salt and water. Roll up each strip.
5. Assemble the brochettes by alternating cubes of chicken and rolls of zucchini. Cook on a barbecue or in a grill pan until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with tzatziki sauce.

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