Sunday, September 26, 2010

PFB Round #2 - Russian Love & Maybe Just A Little Vodka

Holy Prince Church (courtesy of Marty Friend)

 Sweet (as my youngest child would say) as I am moving on to round #2 of Project Food Blog! Thank you for your votes and I'm even more excited for this next challenge.  The entry has to be an ethnic classic dish, excluding Italian and French cuisine, that I am not familiar with.  I think with a high degree of certainty that I will definitely NOT be in the norm in deciding to attack Russian dishes.  Anyone want to place bets that I am the only one choosing Russian cuisine?

Ship Baikal (courtesy of Marty Friend)

Why Russian?  My stepfather has taken numerous jaunts over there for business over the past decades and it's quite the honor when he decides to add "inski" to your name!  Oh the stories I've heard and the obligatory vodka shots for everything! 

Another deal maker for this  entry was decided when a friend and her husband were able to finally bring their daughter home from Irkutsk after a very long five and half year journey in adoption.  I would often find  my mind wandering as to what she was eating while in the orphanage and what others in Siberia would consider staples and their "go to" meals.  I have never imagined for the average Russian that food would be over the top.  We're talking Siberia, where the frigid cold has to be taken into consideration and the limited resources for food has got to be a huge challenge.  If one is lucky enough to have a market near them, I don't even need to mention the pure expense of buying food. 

So, in my mind, I envisioned homey, hearty fare using much resourcefulness with not alot of flavor combinations.   Keep in  mind that my blog focuses on taking classic dishes and putting a twist on them to make everything healthier.  I thought I would have a hard time finding classic dishes that would be able to fill those shoes. WRONG!

Local Free Range Eggs

I actually ended up making three Russian dishes.  I was intrigued that dill, eggs (hard boiled), and sour cream seem to be staples as well as the given sauerkraut.  I decided on soups since we are going into cool fall weather and a baked pumpkin dish for obvious reasons. Fall, celebrations, and pumpkins just go together, period! 

The first soup I prepared is Sour Schi which is chock full of sauerkraut and rumored to help those who have taken one too many shots of Stoli or Jewel of Russia the night before.  I must admit I scratched my head a little after reading that - who would want to put sauerkraut in their mouth after a night of libations? 
Well, let me just say this modest little soup hit the spot!  After making my own stock (a must in all soups if you have the time) and simmering the oxtail  for awhile, the aroma filling the kitchen was just beautiful. This is what I expect to be smelling in cooler months when walking into a kitchen, pure homeyness.  This is the kind of scene when walking into a friends house I just want to grab a bowl and spoon and sit down and slurp it over great conversation. 

Sour Schi Soup

Sour Schi (adapted from ruscuisine)
2 cups sauerkraut, drained, juice reserved
1-1/2 lb beef short ribs* (I used oxtail)
1 slice smoked bacon, about 3 oz.
4-5 dry shiitake mushrooms
1 cup wild mushrooms, such as borowiks, porcini, chanterelles, or shiitakes, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 small onion, whole, peeled
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 small carrot, whole, peeled
4-5 parsley stalks
2 stalks celery
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp minced dill
vegetable oil
sour cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
*Oxtails are also a good choice of meat, but they require longer cooking.

Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add short ribs to the pot. Add a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat and let simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove the scum. Add smoked bacon, small onion, small carrot, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley stalks and dry mushrooms. Cover and keep at a bare simmer for 1-1/2 hours. Remove the short ribs and set aside. Strain the stock through multi-layered cheese cloth and discard the solids. Strain fat from the top. (The stock can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated, which makes fat removal easier.) Bring the strained stock to a simmer. Reserve approximately 2 cups of stock and set aside. Saute chopped onions and julienned carrots in vegetable oil until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add  sauerkraut, stir, and saute, covered, for 10 more minutes. Add to the stock in the pot along with reserved sauerkraut juice. Add mushrooms and let simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Warm butter over medium heat and quickly sift in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture (roux) is dark blond in color. Add reserved stock in a thin stream, whisking vigorously. Whisk the resulting sauce into the soup. Adjust the salt and season generously with pepper. Return the short ribs to the soup and let warm through for 5 minutes. Stir in dill just before serving. Serve with sour cream on the side.

The next soup I chose to do is Summer Schi.  I wanted to do a comparison as to how the two schi's differed. Wow, let's just say night and day difference!  The summer soup is full of pure vegetable flavor and just looks gorgeous when garnished.  The vegetables are your everyday stock pantry veggies which I imagine are also staples in Siberia:  potato, celery, carrot, onion and spinach.  I think this is the most pleasing to the eye soup I have ever made, and I make a ton of soup!  Even though this is considered a lighter summer soup, if you substituted chicken stock for the water and added more cream, this could be a hearty winter soup no problem. 

Summer Schi Soup

Summer Schi Soup (adapted from ruscuisine)
6 cups water
1 lb sorrel
1 lb spinach
2 onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 potatoes peeled and chopped
1 TB fresh Dill, chopped
1/2 cup cream
4 eggs hard boiled, sliced
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp black pepper

Bring water to a boil. Add onion, carrot, celery, spinach, potatoes and pepper and boil for 15 minutes. Add sorrel, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir the cream and fresh dill. Serve with a slice of egg and a teaspoon of sour cream.

Finally, my last dish is simply called Baked Pumpkin. What, no great ethnic name???  I know, I know!  I searched for some wonderful Russian name to no avail. I love this healthy pumpkin dish with the odd combination of hard boiled eggs and bread crumbs. I love to pair the unexpected and odd flavor combos and that is what drew me to this dish.  This was a quick and easy dish that will compliment just about any fall and winter meal.

Baked Pumpkin

Baked Pumpkin (adapted from ruscuisine)
1 lb pumpkin
1 tbsp butter
1/2 c cream
3 tbsp dried and finely ground bread-crumbs
2 ea eggs hard boiled
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp almonds ground

Boil pumpkin in salted water, cut it in strips. Put them in a stew-pan, sprinkle with dried and finely ground bread-crumbs. Chop eggs finely. Cover the top with chopped eggs and pour over cream. Bake in the oven for a half an hour. Before serving sprinkle with sugar and ground almonds.

I am amazed at the variations in Russian dishes and even more shocked at how healthy many of the recipes are.  I hope you will also explore this area next time you are wanting to try something different and put this remote area on your "must" list.  I would like to thank the Friend family for allowing me to use their beautiful photos from Russia.
Arctic Sun Baikal (courtesy of Marty Friend)
Kazansky (courtesy of Marty Friend)

Wall (courtesy of Marty Friend)

 Voting for the second round of Project Food Blog begins September 27 ~ September 30.  Those moving on will be announced October 1.  The 400 contestants will then be whittled down to 200 so every vote counts!  You will have 200 votes so please vote for me!


  1. Great work,,,,all the best in round 2 :)

  2. Beautiful... looks great! You've got my vote!

  3. Looks good! I've been to Russian and it is crazy the amount of sour cream they use there! Believe it or not, I almost did Russian but had to go a little further out of my zone! Check it out

    I'll be coming back on Monday to vote for ya!

  4. I was super close to choosing Russian borscht but ended up making spinach kugel instead! Best of luck and I hope we both advance to the next round!

  5. this looks good! congrats on making it to challenge 2 and all the best of luck!

  6. Beautiful post! And lovely dishes. Good luck with the contest!

  7. You have my vote! I grew up in a polish family so these dishes bring back fond foodie memories!

  8. Nice entry - you've got one of my votes.

  9. Very nice. You have one of my votes. Good luck!

  10. Anytime I learn anything about the elusive Russia, my mind gets very excited! Russian cuisine seems to be very elusive so your post was enlightening and yummy, def got my vote and I'm going to try the baked pumpkin for sure ^_^

  11. I have to say I haven't thought much about Russian cuisine until now. I'm glad I got to learn a bit about it. And that sour schi looks delicious! Good luck!

  12. I have never had Russian food... this looks great. You have got my vote!

    You can see my entry here

  13. My husband and I were in the Russian Far East six years ago. The traditional cuisine was incredible! So glad to see Russia represented here!

  14. Great post- these Russian dishes sound outside the norm of borscht and blini! And congrats on the addition to your family. Some friends of ours adopted twins from Arkangelsk a few years ago and I know it has gotten harder to bring a child home. You have one of my votes!

  15. I love that you chose Russian food! Everything looks really tasty and you have inspired me to give this a try. You have my vote. I can't wait to see what you do for the next challenge!

  16. Great post! Looks delicious. I mean, baked pumpkin? Damn. I voted for you!

    Good luck! =)

    You can check out my PFB post at :

  17. I love the baked pumpkin! One of my favorite veggies. I hope that Twist-inski makes it to the next round. You got my vote.

  18. Love the story and the pictures. The recipes are do actually look healthy which is a nice bump!


  19. WOW! What a post! Hope to see you in round three!

  20. Good luck and great idea to go Russian :)

  21. bravo! I spent a week in Ukraine a couple of years ago and we ate food very much like this. Very, very authentic looking. Well done.

  22. Lovely post and photos. Nice story line too. Makes me very hungry. You got my vote.

    Lexi Van de Walle
    Lighthearted Locavore
    Vote for my Long Island Peking Duck

  23. now that's a soup and a great story to round out the post. Good luck and you have my vote!

  24. I hope to make Lithuanian food, if I make it to the next round. I love reading about Russia.

  25. Nice! Russian soups are tha bomb! -Renate

  26. You don't often think of the words 'Russian' and 'cuisine' in the same sentence - images spring to mind of long queues to buy meagre provisions - so thanks for showing me sove elicious looking Russian foods, and all those wonderful wedding-cake buildings and icy shots - great photos!


  27. Great post and I am voting for you. I hope to make it to #3 and I too, chose Russia for # 3....My dinner is tonight.

    Wishing you the best.

    Platanos, Mangoes and M!

  28. Just voted for you. So impressed that you made three dishes for this challenge. Good luck!

  29. Great entry, and the dishes look wonderful :) Will be excited to see your challenge #3 entry :)

  30. Thank you everyone for your votes & encouragement! Best of luck to everyone!

  31. I love your inspiration for choosing Russian cuisine... what's a better reason to celebrate with delicious food, than a successful adoption and homecoming?! It looks like you did a wonderful job with this challenge!