Trans-Siberian Railroad

The Trans-Siberian Railway is a 5700 mile long route that connects Eastern Russia with Far East Russia.  It's spans 8 time zones and takes about 7 days to do the complete journey.

An award-winning food and travel writer, Sharon Hudgins has recently returned from a journey on the railway. She taught for the University of Maryland University College in Germany, Spain, Greece, Japan, Korea, and Russia. She served as an administrator for the university's two undergraduate degree programs in Siberia and the Russian Far East. Hudgins currently resides in McKinney, Texas, with her husband, Tom.

Her book is The Other Side of Russia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the
Russian Far East.

Russian Garlic Cheese

Called pikantny syr (spicy cheese) in Russian, this piquant cheese mixture is often used for stuffing ripe red tomatoes or spreading on chewy-textured Russian dark bread.  Plenty of garlic provides the kick; you can also add some cayenne pepper or paprika to make the cheese even hotter.  On a Trans-Siberian Railroad tour sponsored by National Geographic Expeditions last summer (2006), cheese-stuffed tomatoes, served on a bed of dark green lettuce leaves, was an especially popular appetizer in the train's dining car.

1/2 pound (8 ounces) medium-sharp white Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1/2 pound (8 ounces) Emmental cheese, finely shredded
1/4 cup pure sour cream (containing no additives)
1/4 cup full-fat mayonnaise
8 to 10 large garlic cloves, put through a garlic press
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper or hot paprika (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Garnish:  Snipped fresh chives (optional)

Toss the shredded cheeses by hand in a large bowl. Mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, pressed garlic, cayenne pepper or paprika (optional), and salt in a small bowl.  Add this mixture to the cheese, stirring to combine well.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours (and preferably overnight) to let the flavors meld.  Let the mixture come to room temperature before serving.  Use as a stuffing for small firm ripe tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, as a spread for dark bread, or as a topping for baked potatoes.  Garnish with snipped fresh chives, if desired.

Yield:  Approximately 3 cups.

Recipe ©2006 by Sharon Hudgins, author of The Other Side of Russia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East (Texas A & M University Press, 2003, 2004).