Now, I’d like to draw your attention to the small wine glasses pictured here. Actually, they are not wine glasses at all, but vodka glasses and they hold a high sentimental value for me. As some of you know, my brother passed away from brain cancer in July of this year. In 2005, my dad, brother and I went to Russia together. It was a chance to spend time together and an opportunity for me to share with them what I’d seen while living there. The trip had its highlights and low lights, but those stories are for another place and time – accompanied by a few snorts of vodka, perhaps. The glasses came from the various overnight train rides we took while there. When you travel First Class on a Russian train, a couple of these small glasses, filled to the brim with vodka, are waiting for you in your cabin. Talk about hospitality. This fact delighted my brother. There’s no doubt it made the train travel that much more enjoyable for him.
I am now in the process of going through my brother’s belongings, sorting through the material things that made up his 51 years of life. It is a strange, sad, funny and enlightening task. These glasses were tucked away in a curio cabinet along with other mementos. My brother saved not only the vodka glasses, but everything else from our trip to Russia: ticket stubs, metro maps, menus, coins and store receipts. And now the glasses have come to live with me – along with all of those memories from our crazy trip together to Russia.
Makes 8 little “pies”
1 cup almond milk, scalded
2 tbsp. unsweetened coconut yogurt
1 1/2 tsp. agave nectar
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. regular yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
Tofu Farmer Cheez (about 1/2 the recipe)
Fresh cilantro, for garnish, if desired
In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast, agave nectar and 1/4 cup water. Set aside to bubble.
In a large bowl, pour the hot milk over the coriander, salt and coconut yogurt. Add the yeast mixture and the flours and stir just to create a very rough dough. It will be in chunks and pieces. Do not be alarmed. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.
You probably won’t need flour to knead the dough – but if for some reason it’s too sticky – add sparingly. Conversely, if the dough is dry, sprinkle water on it as you knead. Knead for about 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it to rise for about 1 hour – cover the bowl with plastic wrap. The dough should nearly double in size.
Punch down the dough and divide into 8 pieces. Roll the pieces into balls, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 15 minutes. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper.
Using your hands, a rolling pin or a combination of both, flatten the dough balls into ovals. Mine were about 6-8″ in length. Right in the center of the ovals (leaving an inch or so all around), spoon on a generous scoop of the farmer cheez. Fold in the two long sides and then pinch the ends. Set the dough on a baking sheet and proceed with the remaining dough balls.
Cover the baking sheets with clean kitchen towels and let rise for about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375F. They’ll get fat and puffy and sometimes the pinched ends come loose. Just gently press them back together.
Bake at 375F for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 350F, rotate the pans and continue baking for another 15-20 minutes or until the cheez is firm and the khatchapuri are nicely browned. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro, if desired.
Allow to cool for 15 minutes or so before digging in.