Have some manners, Stevie Wonder! This is a food blog!
( I never noticed until today that all those "onion domes" on the amazing Russian buildings are the exact same shape as beets! Coincidence???!!! )
Welcome to Russia!!!
I've never been to Russia, but it is high on my list. Somehow the architecture, the history, the culture all call to me. I'm sure I'll get there soon enough!
I don't think I've ever had Russian food before... but I always think of beets and borscht and potatoes (and vodka, of course!). I had a few different library books and loaner books to look through for inspiration.
First up, I made Russian Black Bread (*recipe at the end of this post!*). I have a special place in my heart reserved solely for the glorious goodness of dark breads. Many years ago, when I spent a week in Prague, my friend and I had an apartment right above the bakery. We would go downstairs each morning, buy a huge loaf of nearly black bread, and then go about our day... armed with yummy carbos! Sadly for me, there aren't a lot of good dark breads in these parts, so as soon as I saw this recipe, I got right to work. I made a half-batch, because I only needed one loaf of bread.
As you can see, it pretty much came out perfectly. It's dense and chewy and bursting with flavor. Perfect warm out of the oven, or toasted, or with a little marmalade... It's also so moist that it stays good for a few days, and doesn't dry out right away like some bread. I loved it, and I'm sure I'll make it again. So nice to bite into a big slice of some truly dark bread... old friend, I've missed you!!
We needed some dinner to go with the bread, so I made Stuffed Cabbage (Golubtsi) & Garlic Mashed Potatoes, along with a side of roasted beets. The cabbage rolls and potato recipes were both from a library book called Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook. The cabbage rolls were full of all sorts of Russian things like dill and onion, and since the recipe called for ground beef, I used some ground-up seitan. The flavors were really delicious, but the cabbage rolling turns out to be a skill I lack. I got about 6 successful cabbage rolls and the other side of the skillet pretty much turned into a cabbage casserole. Notice how I took a picture of the successful part, just to pretend.
The Mashed Potatoes seem simple enough, and you're probably thinking: "who the heck actually follows a recipe for mashed potatoes??" Well, the author mentions that at least 10 people came up and told her that this was the best and most authentically Russian way to make mashed potatoes, so she had to include this basic recipe. The secret is the inclusion of garlic and sour cream. Seriously, these were excellent mashed potatoes. I used a homemade sour cream recipe (from Susan V over at Fat Free Vegan). Mmmmmmm. They were my favorite part of dinner.
I Heart Mashed Potatoes.
Russian Black Bread
from "The Global Kitchen" by Karen Gail Brooks & Gideon Bosker
(which appears to be out of print, so I will share the recipe)
(makes 2 loaves)
3 c rye flour
1 c whole wheat flour
2 c wheat bran or bran cereal, crushed
2 pkgs active dry yeast
2 Tbsp caraway seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp instant coffee (I used Inka powder)
2 tsp onion flakes or powder
2 1/2 c water
1/4 c molasses
1/4 c vinegar
4 Tbsp softened margarine
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 1/2 - 3 c all purpose flour
2 Tbsp nondairy milk or nondairy milk mixed with soy yogurt.
1. Combine rye flour, wheat flour, bran flakes, dry yeast, caraway seeds, fennel seeds, brown sugar, salt, instant coffee (or Inka), and onion powder.
2. In a saucepan, heat together the water, molasses, vinegar, margarine, and cocoa until just warm (115 F), stirring consistently, until the margarine is almost melted. Add to the dry mixture and beat well. Gradually add in the white flour in 1/2 cup increments, to make a soft dough. Beat for about 3 more minutes.
3. Turn dough out to a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour only as needed.
4. Shape dough into a ball and place in a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover with a hot damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 - 1 1/2 hours)
5. Punch down the dough and return to the lightly floured work surface. Divide in half and shape into two loaves. Place in 2 well-greased 8-inch layer cake pans or 2 well-greased loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
6. Preheat over to 350 F. Bake loaves for 25 minutes, remove from oven and brush with milk or yogurt-milk combo. Return to oven and bake for about 20 minutes more.