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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Around the World - Russia

Who guessed that the "certain fishy product" was caviar?
Russia seemed like a cool place to tour this week... *Get it? Cool? Cold? (Snort)*

A big thank you and special recognition to my sister Steph, of Fun Foods on a Budget! She took lots of Russian classes in college and recommended the menu for this week. It was amazing! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Also a shout out to my friend Jen, who stood in my hot, humid kitchen from 5 until 10 pm, making blinis and keeping me sane while I ran around like crazy. And my hubby, who was in charge of 4 boys, 2 who were under 2 years old for that whole time! (Yeah, it took so much longer than I thought that I beat my own record time of how late dinner was served...)


Russia has a mixed food history. Gone are the lavish meals of the days of the Czar regime. A more simplified native cuisine is the routine.

Vodka is the national drink, taken straight for the most part, almost 100 proof. (That means almost 100 percent pure alcohol!) The correct procedure is to throw back to the back of the throat and hope for the best! No sipping or tasting here!

Appetizers are appreciated, called zakuska. Herring is a favorite, as is caviar. It would be the national first choice, except it's price and scarcity make it too expensive for all but a few. The Russian soup, borscht (beet soup) is known throughout the world! An interesting faucet of Russian cooking is the lavish use of sour cream. Steph informed me that it is sweeter than American sour cream, and that a little sugar would need to be added to be truly authentic. The sour taste appeals to them and is used on soups, many meat dishes, and the many types of pancakes that are a unique feature of Russian cuisine.

Cheese and Mushroom Salad, Borscht, Piroshki, and Blini were the menu this week.




Cheese and Mushroom Salad

(Recipe courtesy of Steph)

2 oz onion, finely chopped (I used 1/2 an onion)
3 1/2 oz celery, finely chopped (I sliced one stalk)
3 1/2 oz canned red bell pepper
5 ounces cheese, julienned
2 ounces mushrooms, I sliced them.
Mustard to taste (Steph uses yellow, I used country style dijon)
Lemon juice
2 oz mayonnaise, 3-4 tbsp

*I ran out of the onion in the borscht, so didn't include it here. And I forgot it was canned pepper and bought a fresh one. So I sauteed the red pepper in butter to soften it. And my julienned cheese was 1/4 inch by 2 inches.

**To julienne means to cut into thin strips, 1/4 inch square and however long is pretty standard.
Combine onion, celery, bell pepper, and cheese. Set aside. Saute mushrooms in oil. Cool and stir in.

Add mustard to taste, about 1 1/2 tsp tasted good to me, and lemon juice. I used 1 tbsp. Stir in the mayonnaise and enjoy!

We served dinner in individual courses, one at a time. They all inhaled the salad. The dijon mustard was yummy!




Borscht

Steph doesn't like her borscht recipe, which is more a formula than a recipe. I hunted all over the Internet for a good one, and found a couple that I liked. So I used elements from both recipes. It turned out super good! I hadn't tasted it before I served it so it as a pleasant surprise when every loved it! Except the two older boys, who were ready for dessert...

3 medium beets
1 carrot or a handful of baby carrots, julienned
1/2 half large onion, chopped
5 tsp tomato paste
8 cups chicken stock
1 large potato, peeled and cubed into 1 inch squares
1/2 small cabbage head, remove core and cut into 1 inch slices, then into 1 inch squares
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried dillweed

Cut the tops and roots off the beets. Cut in half. Dot some butter on them, wrap in tinfoil, and roast at 300 for 40 minutes. I recommend using gloves to peel or your hands will be pink for a week. (been there, done that) I keep nitrile gloves for a multitude of purposes. I put them on and wash them really well with dish soap. Then rub the beets, rinsing under cool water if you need. The peels come off really easily and your hands don't get stained. Keep the gloves on and julienne.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Saute onion until browned, 5-7 minutes. Add beets and carrots, saute, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large pot, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add potato and cook for 3 minutes. Add cabbage and continue boiling for another 5 minutes. Add reserved beet-paste mixture, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve with sour cream. 2 tsp sugar and half cup sour cream. Mix well.

Like I said, everyone loved it. Some had two bowls!




Piroshki

Dough:
2 1/2 tsp dried yeast
pinch sugar
5 tbsp warm water
2 1/2 oz butter (6 tbsp), softened
1 lb flour (4 cups)
2 eggs, beaten

3 qts salted water
milk

Dissolve the yest and a pinch of sugar in the warm water. Sprinkle in a tsp of flour and leave for 15 minutes in a warm place. Pour into a bowl, mix in the softened butter, flour, and salt, the milk and the beaten eggs. Knead into a smooth dough. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise until double. Knead again and roll out thin. 1/8 inch worked well. I didn't need to use flour for either kneading, or the rolling.

Cut into small circles, like a 3 inch biscuit cutter. Place about 1 tsp filling, fold in half. Brush inner edges with a little milk and seal edges.

Bring water to a boil. Drop in piroshki and boil. They will rise to the top and puff up a little. I cooked them an additional couple minutes to make sure the dough was cooked. Drain.

Best served right away, while hot. (we placed the colander to keep warm while we ate the first 2 courses.) Place in shallow bowl and pour chicken broth over them. Lay on the place and drizzle on some vinegar. Pour on some melted butter. Plop on some Russian style sour cream. Lots of different ways to eat them.

Filling: Meat filling

8 oz ground pork
1/3 cup minced onion*
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (trust me)
1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1 egg to bind

Again, out of onion. I took a handful or dried minced onion and placed in hot water until it softened. Then mixed in with the cooked meat.

Thoroughly cook ground pork in a little oil with the onion. Mix in the salt, pepper and nutmeg, the potato, and the egg. Use to fill piroshki.

Tip- Make these and freeze the day before, or really early in the day. You are hand making a ton of dumplings and it takes a long while to get them all done. But they are really yummy!





Blini

3 1/4 cups flour
2 1/2 cups milk, divided
1 1/2 tbsp butter, melted
3 eggs
1 tbsp yeast
1 heaping tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Warm half the milk, not too hot to stick your hand in, just how yeast likes it. Remove from heat. Dissolve the sugar and whisk in the yeast. Cover and leave it for a few minutes, allowing yeast to wake up. Pour this into a large warmed mixing bowl and, stirring, sift in enough of the flour to make a batter the consistency of yogurt. Now leave in a warm place to rise, covered with a tea towel. Let rise until doubled.

Separate the eggs. Heat remaining milk. Mix together with egg yolks, butter and salt. Add to the batter, along with the remaining flour. Mix well, you are releasing the sour gases produced by the yeast on the first rising. Let rise again, covered, until double.

Whip the egg white until they fork soft peaks. fold the egg white gently into the batter.

Heat some butter or oil in a non stick pan, until hot but not smoking. Cook ladlefuls of the mix at a time, turning after a minute or when you see bubbles forming on the top. Think pancakes. The trick is to keep the pan hot and cook the blini quickly.

These are best served immediately, but can be stacked with greaseproof paper (wax paper) and kept in a low oven until ready to eat. Serve with hone, sour cream,caviar, smoked salmon, mushrooms, fruit, powdered sugar, sliced fruit. Whatever you like!

The only thing I can say about this is wow! Hubby said that is the only kind of pancakes I am allowed to make now. Until I told him that I would have to wake up at 5 am to have them ready by breakfast time... ;-) We made a dozen or so big ones and they are all gone. I sliced strawberries, added a dash of lemon juice and some sugar and let sit in the fridge while making dinner. We ate them with strawberries, the sour cream, and sprinkled powdered sugar on them. If you only make one thing from this whole menu, this should be the one!

5 Tasty Tidbits:

jenngrrett said...

Oh my heck, I found your food blog. It's Jen (who helped make the blinis), and I am still craving some more, lol.

Last night was a blast, and tasted so great. Can't wait for next week's country :D

Michelle said...

How on earth did you find me?!?!? I didn't tell you the address or anything! Holy Cow!

If you want to brave my kitchen next week, I promise to not serve dinner quite so late... ;-)

Stephanie said...

Those all look so good! I now have several Russian recipes that I just HAVE to try! Thanks!

Lisa Conmara said...

this is fantastic! what a great idea! I'm going to scroll through here and see if you've got to Ireland yet and if not I'll be expecting to see a menu with black pudding, coddle and brown bread ice cream pretty soon!

Can't wait to look through your blog so....

;-)

Lisa Conmara said...

Justlooked through - saw Ireland is already there in all her glory...! Left you a comment! Must try that choc cake!