The Paloe/Primal Adaptations of Russian Food
Like every culture, Russia eats its share of beloved grains. Buckwheat R US. Millet ain't an exotic 'ancient' grain confined to the organic section of the health food store. Heck, the honored guests are greeted in Russia with an offering of bread (rye, sour dough) and salt (coarse). But, all and all, Russian dishes actually work super-nicely without that slice of rye bread loaded with mustard. If you avoid tubers, it is a bit harder, since beets & carrots keep well in the winter, so a lot of cooking incorporates. Cabbage is nearly obligatory too.
My husband doesn't like pickled stuff, so, alas, I have not made any of the wonderful pickles and preserves my grandma canned throughout the summer (she did not pickle pine-cones. I wish I knew why. Everything else was a fair game). Speaking of my husband... Western folk might be turned off by my ingredient list or a thought that fish can be jellied. And, yeah, I am a Russian wife of a Canadian Citizen, but I am not a Russian Wife TM imported though the dating service, staying home applying make-up all day and planning how to catch an even richer husband and all that jazz (Okay, got that off my chest!).
Once I came to the West, I encountered a far wider range of spices than was available back in the home country, and I have experimented with incorporating it into my cooking a BIG time.
Obviously, I am influenced by Eastern Europenian and Central Asian cuisines a lot as well, so eggplants, sweet peppers, caravai seeds and hot peppers are not out of the question.
I will try to keep posting whenever I am making an old re-vamped favorite., even if nobody comments, though I appreciate comments if you tried the recipe.
Last edited by Leida; 09-07-2012 at 07:07 AM.
The key is a BIG pot. Really BIG pot. And really good beets. If you have beets with beet leaves attached, that's even better!
Make a bone broth by browning good 3-5 lbs of soup bones with copious meat on them and lot of bone marrow inside, YUM. If there is not enough meat on a bone, make sure to add a couple of pounds of browned stewing beef. Then throw them in the BIG pot, cover with boiling water from a kettle (to fill up the pot) and put on a low heat, do not let boil and skim the yukies till the foaming stops. Then put on low (right at slow simmer) and let it start thinking about life and stuff.
Meanwhile, prepare a herb pouch. I tie into a cheese cloth about a tbsp of black peppercorns, same amount of coriander seeds, a red chilly pepper and a couple of stalks and leaves of celery and 4-6 bay leaves, a few cloves of garlic. I do not bother with carrots at this stage, but I cut a medium onion in half, and bury the pouch and the onion under bones.
In about 2-3 hours once meat starts falling off the bone, I take the meat out, foil it up, and leave everything else on the warming zone of the stove overnight or over-day if I intend to have bortsh for supper.
When the broth is ready, drain via colander, get marrow from the bones and add to the meat pile, discard bones, squish the spice bag with a back of the spoon to get the best flavor. Chill and skim off fat if desired.
Next, the veggie stage. The amount of veggies and meat should make the bortch that is very thick, so nobody ends up chasing a cabbage thread in a sea of broth.
About 1/3 head of the green cabbage fine slice, the finer the better but long... 2-3 stalks of celery (this replaces parsley root that we use back home), 2-3 carrots, 1 small onion, and 1 meaty red pepper. Normal bortsch would also use white potatoes, but after taking them out I like potato-less version better!
Chop up cabbages and peppers, put into the pot, slow fire. Meanwhile, sweat onions, celery and carrots with fat of your choice, add to the pot once they smell really good.
Then, to the queen of the bortsh: 3 to 4 medium beets (heck, add five if you have room!), the bestest, the sweeter they taste, the better! Peel, and dice about 1/4 inch, and here comes the timing thing. Have diced beets on the board ready to make the dive and a bottle of your favorite vinegar on hand (I don't recommend balzamic, it spoils color, but I love raspberry red wine). Dump beets in and follow up with 1 to 3 tbsp of vingar right on the beets, and mix it in. If using plain white vinegar, I'd throw in a tbsp of brown sugar. Mix well, and you will see that beet red color. It may go into brown-er shade as it cooks, but it will get restored back to beet-red once it chills (LATER).
Anyway, let it cook on the low till veggies are tender (about 1 to 1.5 hrs), then add a tomato cut into half, a can of rinsed red beans if you like, and all the saved meat (try to keep the hungry progeny away from the meat, or you might end up browning an extra batch!). If you are using beet greens, they will go into the pot a wee bit earlier than that, though if you have thicker stems the stems can go in with the cabbage, and the tender leaves with the tomato.
Bring back to boil, turn off.
You can serve it right away with sour cream & parsley, dill or for bread eaters with pumpernickel smothered in mustard. BUT! For best results, let the pot stand till it goes down to room temperature, then chill overnight in the fridge. Eat cold or hot with the above add-ons.
Of Quark and Kefir
Those are time-honored staples of Russian dairy, with the low sugar content, high protein, keeps the taste buds in business (cottage cheese and ricotta are pretty bland by comparison) and are easy to make. Kefir, the remnant of the days when the wild Mongols carried milk in leather pouches on their saddles, I add to smoothies or liquid salads/cold summer soups (amazingly, we are BIG on the cold summer soups). Quark (or, properly, tvorog), I eat on its own, eating straight with salt or mixing in coconut milk before eating if it is a bit too acidic. My standard breakfast growing up was tvorog with home-made jam (mom watched to make sure it was not jam with tvorog). I also make salads with it, tomato, or radish-cucumber and dill and onions. Finally, I used to make syrniks by adding a bit of non-glut flour mix to it and forming patties, browning them and baking. It's great as a base for fruit just like cottage cheese too. I also add it as a filler in the meatballs and meatloaves.
Making Quark (Tvorog):
I throw kefir grains (~ 2 cups of grains) into 2-2.5 L of milk (organic, no raw available here, but if you can get raw go for it!) and leave for a couple days in a quiet, low traffic spot on the counter till curd and whey separates. I always cover it with a clean kitchen towel as well, for aesthetic purposes.
I mix it once in a while with a wooden spoon (2x a day, unless I forget!).
Once the curds separate, I fish out kefir grains, and put the pot on the lowest setting on the stove for ~ 20 min to 30 min, just to promote separation again. Then I take a BIG colander (Okay, I know, BIG is a recurring theme with me), line it with the paper towels, and pour the content of the pot into it.
I place colander on top of the kefir-making pot and put in the fridge overnight to drain. I turn out the ready quark from the towel into the plastic container & store in the fridge.
iI used to do it the old fashioned Russian way, straining in the cheesecloth, but I like the paper towel method better, since no cheese cloth rinsing is involved; you do not need to find a place to hang it to drip, and it turns softer and yummier imo. Oh, and I really do not like warming it up too much either, since I like the softer version better.
I will provide the Syrniks recipe eventually. And, if you mastered the art of the egg&cream-cheese crepes, you can fill them tvorog for a wonderful impact!
Last edited by Leida; 09-07-2012 at 08:43 AM.
Now if only you could primalze pyrohy!! Or holobtsi. My mothers side is Ukrainian.
I have Primal Golubtzy. It is actually laughingly easy. You substitute rice for boiled eggs! It's perfect.
For pirohi I was thinking lately to take a leaf from various lazagna subs and do them either deconstructed on tuber base, or think about rolling in bacon or rolling vegetables, like zucchini or eggplant slices.
Last edited by Leida; 09-07-2012 at 10:17 AM.
I would think holobtsi could be primalized without too much trouble. Of course, if you don't mind eating rice, you can enjoy it in the traditional way
Originally Posted by snoops
Yessss I have been waiting for this thread forever
Hi Leida! I just discovered this thread and yum!! I will try this it sounds wonderful. I love hearing about different cooking and kitchen traditions so this is bookmarked!!
Originally Posted by Leida
Thank You for sharing.
Other favorites in my Eastern European family: cod liver/hard-boiled egg salad (just those 2 ingredients + mayo) and grated hard cheese/egg/horseradish/mayo salad.
Holodnik is another good veggie soup (cold version of bortsch).
I know this jellied fish dish you're talking about, I'm afraid even I couldn't stomach it...haha
Paternal half-blood here. Grew up anticipating trips to grandma"s house to gorge on peroshki, borsht, pelmini, eggplant caviar and all sorts of other lovelies. :0)