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Ukha

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ukha
Perhaps  no dish is more stereotypically Russian than ukha, a delicate soup based on a clear fish broth.  It has ancient origins, in traditions that sprung up around Russia’s great rivers, lakes and estuaries.  Almost any kind of fish can be used, so ukha can be very humble, made from pike or carp, or a truly luxurious affair with sturgeon or sterlets.  Historically, ukha was served in every home, from the poorest peasant huts, all the way up to the imperial table, where several pounds of fish could be used to make just one serving of this amazing soup.  It is deceptively simple, easy to make (if you know what you are doing) and incredibly comforting.

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Roast Garlic And Navy Bean Soup

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Soup This is a simple, but comforting and very “garlicky” soup, perfect for cool weather.

3 heads garlic
1 cup dry navy beans
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 quarts vegetable stock (or, alternatively, chicken stock)
1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp minced dill
1 small onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse the navy beans thoroughly, then soak in cool water for 8 hours or overnight. When the soaking begins, the water should cover the beans by about 2 inches.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Slice each garlic head in half cross-wise without peeling. Place the halves sliced side down into an ovenproof dish and add half of the oil. Roast the garlic for about 45 minutes, then let cool to room temperature. Squeeze the cloves of roasted garlic from their peelings (they should come out easily), discard the peelings, and puree or mash the garlic together with the oil in which it was roasted.

3. Drain the soaked beans. Bring vegetable stock to a boil and add the beans. Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer gently for 1.5 hours.

4. Heat the remainder of the oil in a skillet and saute the onions until golden-brown, about 25 minutes. Reduce the heat, sprinkle the onion with flour and cook, stirring, until a yellowish roux forms. (Add a little more oil if necessary.) Gradually stir approximately 1 cup of vegetable stock into the roux (never ever EVER add roux to liquid), until a thick sauce forms, then add the sauce with the onions to the beans.

5. Stir the garlic paste into the soup, adjust the seasonings, and let simmer, covered, for 15 more minutes.

6. Stir in the dill and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

7. Garnish with sour cream, if desired.

Borsch

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Autumn is here, and that means making borsch again. As is often the case with iconic ethnic dishes, no recipe is definitive. Every Russian family believes their borsch is the only right borsch, and broaching the subject on Russian cooking message boards can lead to some spectacular showdowns. Truth is, the recipe varies — depending on the region, the season and personal preferences.

However, there are certain basics that define a true Russian borsch. To begin with, the term refers to a category, not a specific dish. Any soup made from a fresh leafy vegetable is a borsch. Without qualifiers, however, the word describes a specific kind of borsch that has three main ingredients: cabbage, tomatoes, and beets. Other ingredients, as I’ve said, vary greatly — although whatever the variation, the ingredient list is typically long.

Most Russians are Orthodox, and historically, the observance of Lent was of paramount importance. This means that, while borsch typically contains meat, vegetarian versions are not unheard of. Kidney beans and/or mushrooms are typically added to Lenten borsch to enhance its flavor.

So here is my family’s recipe. A couple of things: do not add any sour cream during the cooking. Sour cream is added to individual bowls only at the table. Also, use the palest green cabbage you can find, the kind whose color actually tends more towards white or yellowish. Truly green cabbage leaves are too bitter and have to be salted and drained before cooking. More

Svekolnik (Cold Beet Soup)

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This is a Russian summer favorite, perfect for lunch on a hot afternoon.

6 medium-sized beets
1 lemon, halved
1 large yellow potato, diced
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
1 hardboiled egg yolk
2 tbsp pickled shredded horseradish
3 pickling cucumbers, peeled, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1/2 cup minced scallions
1/3 cup minced dill weed
3/4 lb bologna, diced (optional)
10 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream (optional)

– Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

– Clean and trim the beets. Take one of the beets, drizzle with vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt, wrap in aluminum foil and roast until tender, about 1 hour. Cool, peel and dice.

– Peel and shred the remaining five beets.

— Bring water to a boil, add a pinch of salt and the shredded beets. Squeeze juice from one lemon half. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 1 hour. Take off heat, let cool, and then chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight. Strain before serving and discard the shredded beets.

— Combine the egg yolk with a pinch of Kosher salt, the horseradish and the juice of the remaining half of the lemon. Mash until smooth and stir into the soup. Adjust the seasonings

— Add diced potatoes, diced beet, chopped egg and diced bologna (if using) to the soup and serve.

— Serve the cucumbers, scallions, dill and sour cream separately.