The latest exciting development in my cooking adventures here in Pushkin is that I found a really great produce store that has things like broccoli, arugula, and cauliflower, none of which seem to be regularly available in the average grocery store. It's run by a family that is clearly not ethnically Russian, as they speak to one another in a language that is definitely not Russian, but I can't tell what language it is and so I can't tell specifically where they are from. However, when I was there this evening to buy produce, they noticed that I had an accent when I spoke Russian, and asked where I was from. They were all very intrigued and affable when I said that I was American, so I have a feeling they'll get to know me as a regular as I continue shopping there.
A week or two ago I had bought a packet of spices (spices tend to come in packets here, not jars) that was labeled "curry". I probably should have checked the ingredients more thoroughly, because the first ingredient was actually salt, and it was more salty than anything else. I guess that figures - Russian food is pretty as far from "curry" as I could imagine. The curry mix had a nice cumin aroma to it, but it was no substitute for garam masala. It also lacked turmeric, which is a staple when I make curry.
But I had already decided that I was going to make a bastardized cauliflower and paneer curry with sautéed cauliflower and kavkazski cheese (see the previous "what I'm eating" post - it tastes like queso blanco) because I really wanted cauliflower and I really wanted it to be spicy. The great produce store had fresh ginger, so I got some and put a lot (~2 thumbs worth) in to fry with some onions and a bit of the Russian curry mix. Then I added the cauliflower and some bell peppers, and fried off the cheese in a separate pan. I added the cheese to the cauliflower mix, then seasoned the whole thing with ajika loosened with a bit of sunflower seed oil and a small pinch more of the curry powder.
It came out good - very gingery with a nice spicy kick. What I was missing was the deep cumin-cinnamon smokiness you get from garam masala, and the beautiful color of turmeric. I really missed the turmeric - as you can see from the photo, this plate of food looks kind of sad, even though it tasted pretty good. I seriously doubt that I can buy turmeric in St. Petersburg, though.
One of my next food adventures is probably going to be trying some of the dried goods at the good produce store. There was an attractive dried fruit that looked like dates (but was labeled "фиг", literally fig) and some stuff that looked like Indian milk sweets, but is probably some sort of Central Asian dried milk product. Suffice to say, I'm intrigued.