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Tefteli (Russian Meatballs)

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tefteliRussian meatballs incorporate rice and are served without a side dish.

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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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Syrniki

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SyrnikiThis yummy breakfast dish is made from tvorog, a kind of fresh soft cheese that has a consistency similar to cottage cheese, but a flavor that is closer to ricotta. It is a staple in a Russian home, and making syrniki is the traditional way to use leftover tvorog before you get a new batch. Despite this cheese’s similarity to both cottage cheese and ricotta, I don’t recommend that you use those as substitutes. Tvorog is available from the dairy section in most mainstream supermarkets as “farmer cheese” (the Friendship brand is pretty good).

1 lb tvorog or farmer cheese
2 raw medium eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 tbsp cooking oil
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Chanakhi (Georgian Lamb and Eggplant Stew)

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Chanakhi1 lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into small strips (save the bones for stock)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored and chopped
1 large eggplant, cubed, unpeeled
6 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 cups lamb stock (*see below the recipe)
5 cloves garlic, pressed
3 yellow waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed, or small salad potatoes, peeled (immerse them in cool water until ready to use)
1 tbsp khmeli suneli (**see below the recipe)
1 dry cayenne pepper
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tbsp fresh cilantro
3 tbsp cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste
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Braised cabbage with potatoes

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cabbage24 cups pale green cabbage, julienned
1 large onion, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 cup water or cooking stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp cooking oil

1. Saute the onion in oil until soft and yellowish-brown, about 25 minutes.

2. Add the cabbage, saute while stirring frequently for about 10 minutes.

3. Add liquid, adjust the seasonings, and arrange the potato slices over the cabbage. Reduce the heat, cover and let cook for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

4. Mix the potatoes into the cabbage, adjust the seasonings, cover and let cook 5 more minutes.

5. Sprinkle with fresh herbs before serving, if desired.

Cepelinai (Stuffed Potato Dumplings) with Creamy Horseradish Sauce.

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Cepelinai“Zeppelins” are a Lithuanian specialty (not technically Russian, so sue me). Boiled dumplings are, in general, extremely popular in Central European cuisines. Jaroslav Hašek, a celebrated Czech writer of satire, was a great aficionado, and mentioned a tremendous variety of dumplings in his unfinished novel “The Good Soldier Svejk”. The roster of dumplings made in this region is so great, this variety of food is hard to define, except as something boiled made from something starchy and incorporating bacon at some point. The Lithuanian cepelinai are giant potato dumplings filled with pork and dressed with either sour cream or some kind of a cream-based sauce and usually garnished with crumbled bacon. I chose to make a creamy horseradish sauce, whose sharpness complements potato dumplings particularly well, in my opinion.

Before we begin, there are a couple of things that make boiled potato dumplings tricky. First, grated potatoes tend to turn bluish-gray when boiled, so I add lemon juice to improve the color. Second, the only binding agent is the potatoes’ own starch and a small amount of starch added to the cooking liquid. (No self-respecting cook will “cheat” by adding flour or more starch to the dumpling mix.) For this reason, it’s important to use a starchy variety of potatoes, such as russets.

As you can see from the recipe, this is a labor-intensive dish, but you can make the task easier by preparing the pork filling and the sauce a day ahead. For the sauce, use fresh horseradish. Canned horseradish is usually cut with vinegar, and would make the sauce far too acidic.

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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.

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