Monday, May 19, 2008

In Soviet Russia, Food Eats You!

Pelmini and Borscht

Yes, comrades, I was a Russian major. I spent a semester abroad in St. Petersburg, and highly recommend you visit sometime. Unfortunately, it seems one has to be especially motivated and well-heeled to get there (damn visa fees and airfare!) In the meantime, you can cook Russian food, put on Swan Lake, and drink vodka until that Kandinsky poster no longer seems abstract.

Russian food is wonderfully fortifying, as it should be in any country where the temperature dips to -40 on a regular basis. Among classic Russian fare are dumplings called pelmini. Pelmini are traditionally filled with veal ("Siberian pelmini"), cooked in broth and served with sour cream, vinegar and fresh dill. They often look a lot like tortellini; I made mine with wonton skins from Safeway. Yes, Pavel, I know it's not totally authentic. Neither is the goulash seasoning.

Another staple of Russian cuisine is borscht. Russians begin most meals with soup, which is thought to be good digestive practice. The wimpy borscht you see in supermarkets bears no resemblance to the incredibly hearty and wildly diverse soups that call themselves borscht in Russia. Sometimes borscht was a rich, tomato-based stew, sometimes it had beans, sometimes meat, sometimes cabbage, and often a little bit of everything. Borscht strikes me as the best reflection of Russian cuisine and history; it pays to be flexible, because when it hits -40, everything goes into the pot.

Siberski Pelmini
1 lb ground veal
1 package wonton skins
1-2 egg whites, for sealing skins
1 chopped shallot
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 tbsp Russian seasoning/goulash seasoning
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
Mix the veal, seasonings, shallot and dill together thoroughly. Place a heaping teaspoon of filling in the middle of a wonton skin, rub the edges with egg white, and fold it into a triangle, sealing it all the way around and pressing out as much of the air as possible without squishing the filling out. Pull the corners of the triangle back and press them together, using a little egg white to make them stick. Mine weren't gorgeous, but they'll be edible. You can freeze them on a cookie sheet, then wrap them well and use them later, or toss them straight into boiling water. Boil them for about 10 minutes; when they float to the surface, they should be done.

Borscht
1 lb cubed beef
1 onion, sliced
1 beet, chopped
1 potato, diced
4-5 cups beef broth
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
Splash apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
Sour cream to garnish

Brown your beef in a deep pot, then add the onions, potatoes and beets. Cook together for 2-3 minutes, then add the broth, tomato sauce, lemon juice and other seasonings. You can also add beans, cabbage, carrots or any other vegetables you like. Borscht can simmer for several hours and will only get better, but sometimes I rush it and just eat it when the beef is cooked. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and some more fresh dill.

2 comments:

Yulinka said...

Hey foodichka,
Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting! I like the idea of using wonton skins for pelmeni, but I've never made my own. I buy bags of them at the Russian store. Those seem authentic enough.

Barbara said...

Nice blog .. I never thought that you going to write about it:) thanks a lot

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