Borscht

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I’ve been busy. Busy working, socializing, blogging at Healthy and Sane; busy watching tv (waaaay too much tv – I’m a true tv addict; I stopped discriminating at this point. I’ve pretty much lost this past weekend to Ugly Betty on Netflix streaming. Yes, it’s been ugly for sure). And when I get busy I look for kitchen shortcuts or enjoy fine meals out that someone else cooks for me. Smile I’ve even blogged on many occasions (like here, here and here) about quick meals when life gets hectic and in every post, the most frequent suggestion by my readers has been SOUP. Soup made on Sunday night that can be enjoyed for lunch for the rest of the week or can even be frozen for future nights a few months away.

But you see, I didn’t really get it. I don’t think of soup as something too filling. And if I’m honest, I generally think: soup is SO BORING. Mature, I know! Winking smile Well, I’ve been meaning to

Kotleti (tastes like meatballs?)

Last weekend, Adam (my husband) and I spent a weekend in Maine at my parents in law’s vacation home. The house is in the middle of nowhere, with limited cell service and only dial-up internet, which makes for the perfect getaway spot if all you want is wind down from a hectic city life (I LOVE living in the city by the way, but sometimes I crave the kind of relaxation you can only get when you leave the computer and a mile-long to do list behind). Cold weather with nothing productive on the agenda, left for plenty of time to cook… and that’s just the way I like it!

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My mother in law and I alternated cooking meals and over 4 days away went through dozens of recipes. So much fun! For our last lunch before leaving I wanted to make something Russian – something my mom would possibly make for the family in this kind of situation. Kotleti it was! [Btw, I recall this was one

Cod and scalloped potatoes casserole (zapekanka iz ribi i kartoshki)

It’s well known that potatoes are a staple ingredient in Soviet cooking. I’ve tried to stay away from too many stereotypical meals here on Russian Bites in an attempt to teach both you and me something new about the food in this region of the world. But let’s face it – potatoes are delicious and it’s a bit silly to try to avoid them all together.

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I had some frozen wild cod defrosting in the fridge today and decided to browse my trusty Please to the Table cookbook for some recipes. Somehow (and this never happens!) I had all the ingredients to make this cod and scalloped potatoes dish so I got straight to work. The result was a hearty dish that… sounded better than it tasted. Actually it was “not bad” … but I typically aim higher. Perhaps just a few more generous helpings of salt would have elevated the dish for me. As it was, I thought it was a bit bland.

Azu (Turkic meat and potato stew)

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This is my dad’s specialty – a meat and potato stew-like dish of Turkic origin. He has like 2 things in his repertoire (this Azu and a seafood stew) so it’s always a treat. The meat cooks for 6+ hours until it melts in your mouth. The pickles add a nice sour fresh bite and the raisins round it out with some sweetness. A perfect dish on a cold winter day! Open-mouthed smile

Ingredients (makes 6-8 servings)

1.75 lbs stew meat, cut into 2” chunks 2-2.5 lbs potatoes 1/2 lb pickles 3 oz tomato paste 1/2 can crushed tomatoes (approx. 7 oz) 1/2 cup raisins salt, pepper, sugar to taste oil for frying

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1. Quickly brown beef over medium-high heat. Do not cook through.

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Meatballs in pomegranate sauce (fesinjan kyufta)

On weekends, I like trying new, a little more time-consuming recipes… there is definitely no shortage of those! This weekend, while perusing my Please to the Table cookbook, the Azerbaijani (I think) meatballs in pomegranate sauce recipe jumped out at me. Hey, pomegranates are seasonal right? I have to say this concept of seasonality is relatively new to me. According to my memory, when I was growing up we had a few dozen recipes on rotation and that was it. An occasional fruit would appear in the summer but we didn’t really cook with it. The good news is that these days I can recreate the recipes any time and they will feel right. The bad news, now that I’m really into eating locally and seasonally (as much as possible), I want my food to reflect that. Even “Russian” food.

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This is not one of the recipes I grew up eating. It’s a new recipe I’m testing out as part of my quest to learn more about the culture through food.

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