First things first, a big congratulations to Steve for being chosen for the CWU Alumni Experience Program. He’ll be going to Washington D.C. this summer for 9 days to meet people in his field, make important future job connections, and see our nation’s capitol. Yay Steve!
Allright, so it took me all week, but I really want to tell you what we did last weekend.
Because we were crazy and it is learning from the experiences of crazy people that you grow. Prepare for growth.
Steve and I are members of the CWU Russian Club. Steve is the social director, and for our social event last month we invited the Russian Club to our house to teach them how to make Russian food.
It was a lot of fun, and we ended up with at least 20 people in our kitchen at one time. Steve and I both had our hands full giving people assignments.
Luckily, there was A LOT of chopping, washing, and grating involved. It was great that everyone was willing to help and didn’t come just to EAT the food.
We made Borscht, Russian Black Bread, Eggplant caviar, Kidney Bean Salad, and Apricot and Walnut Vareniki. Except for the borscht, we used the recipes that Deb from Smitten Kitchen shared in an NPR article. Our scant changes are made in the recipes below, along with Steve’s Borscht recipe.
We also had several people bring food, which was FANTASTIC- beef piroshki, tomatoes with some sort of cheese topping, potato bread, and a delicious walnut and honey dessert bar.
They were a little upset, however, that I served water rather than Vodka. But they got over it when they tried Steve’s borscht. It’s amazing.
We were able to make all this food, which was enough that we had leftovers, for about $44. Cheap, healthy, good food.
After everyone ate, our Russian professor, Dinara Georgeoliani, entertained everyone with card tricks and we had a lot of group singing of Russian songs.
We really did have a great time, and luckily several club members stayed afterwards and cleaned all the dishes.
I still haven’t gotten around to mopping up the beet stains on my kitchen floor, though.
Please try some of the recipes below, you’ll be really glad you did. Or come on over- we have enough borscht leftovers in our freezer to feed at least 40 people!
I copied this from the recipe book I made for my little sister, sorry for the weird formatting, I was too lazy to retype it.
We made our Borscht with pork instead of chicken this time- a little more authentic and pork was on sale.
Russian Black Bread
Makes 2 loaves
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
2 cups water
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
3 cups medium rye flour
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose or bread flour
1 cup bran
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1/4 cup cornmeal
In a small bowl, combine yeast and sugar with warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Heat two cups water, molasses, vinegar, butter and chocolate until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside.
Combine whole-wheat, rye and white flours in a large bowl. Set aside.
In bowl of a heavy mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine two cups mixed flours, bran, seeds, salt, and shallots. At low speed, add yeast and chocolate mixtures. Mix until smooth and beat at medium speed for three minutes.
At low speed, add half cup of remaining mixed flours at a time, until dough clears sides of bowl and begins to work its way up paddle. It will be very sticky but firm.
Scrape dough off paddle, gradually add flour mixture, and knead to make a springy yet dense dough. You might not use all of the flour mixture.
Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Turn once to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. I use my car as my warm area, it works really well.
Gently deflate dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two portions and form into two rounds. Place seam down on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled and puffy, about 45 minutes to one hour. Slash an X into the top.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 50 minutes or until loaves are well-browned, or register an internal temperature of 200 to 210 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from baking sheet to cool completely on a rack.
Georgian Kidney Bean Salad
Makes 2 cups
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 whole jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped, not ground
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk first seven ingredients in a bowl, stir in kidney beans and season to taste.
Makes about 2 cups
1 eggplant, about 1 pound
Half a large tomato or one Roma
2 to 3 small garlic cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
Few grinds of black pepper
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork, and roast on a foil-lined baking sheet for 30 to 45 minutes, until soft. Make a few slashes in the bottom of the eggplant, and drain it in a colander for about 20 minutes. Cool completely.
Cut eggplant open and scrape out flesh and seeds with a fork onto a cutting board, discarding the skin. With a large knife, chop the eggplant flesh into very small bits, or use the food processor- but don’t let it puree! Scrape into a medium bowl.
In a food processor, puree the tomato with garlic. Pour puree into bowl with chopped eggplant, add the salt, black pepper, vinegar and vegetable oil. Adjust seasonings to taste.
NOTE: I learned from one of the native Russian girls who came that I did this the hard way. She recommends peeling the eggplant before it is cooked, then chopping into small pieces and sauteeing them over the stove- quicker, less messy, and much easier. I will be doing it this way next time.
Apricot and Walnut Vareniki
Yields about 32 varenikis- according to Deb. I didn’t count- it is considered bad luck to count your Vareniki.
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 oz dried apricots (1 cup; preferably California)
1/2 cup walnuts (2 oz), finely chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Make filling: Bring water and 1/4 cup sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Finely chop apricots in a food processor, then add sugar syrup and pulse until just combined (do not puree). Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup walnuts. Cool.
Put 1 slightly rounded teaspoon filling in center of each wonton wrapper. Working with 1 square at a time, moisten edges with water and fold in half diagonally to form a triangle, pressing edges firmly together to seal. Transfer vareniki to a flour-dusted kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining squares.
Cook varenikis in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water until tender, about 9 minutes. Make topping while varenikis cook:
Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over moderate heat, then cook bread crumbs and remaining 1/4 cup walnuts, stirring frequently, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and season lightly with salt. Stir together cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar over crumb mixture and toss.
To serve varenikis: Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter, then drizzle about 2 tablespoons on a warmed serving platter. Transfer varenikis with a slotted spoon to platter and drizzle with remaining 4 tablespoons butter.
Serve hot, sprinkled with bread-crumb mixture and remaining cinnamon sugar to taste.
NOTE: This was the only recipe I didn’t really care for. I think it would have been delicious, although totally unauthentic, to fry these in a little oil rather than boiling them. And the bread crumb topping was really good.