When I originally decided to start the Russian Bites project (yes, this was a personal project in my mind before I decided to make it into a blog), I wanted to not only dig through my mom’s old homemade cookbooks (which by the way were mostly hand written by little me because supposedly I had the best handwriting in my family) but also to find other sources of inspiration to really learn more about the culture through food. Through a quick search on Amazon, I discovered the Please to the Table cookbook which has 400 (!!) recipes from all over the former Soviet Union. Unsurprisingly, majority of these dishes I’ve never tried or even heard of, which makes it both exciting and scary. Am I going to like it? I guess that’s how you feel about recipes featured on this blog, huh?
Here is what I have to say about this… some of the recipes I grew up eating I may be more than biased about (they are my comfort food) but my (American) husband has been a happy taste tester and has loved nearly every dish so far (in over 5 years we’ve been together). For the brand new dishes I’m trying out of the book (or off recipes online), that’s where we are on equal grounds. Many of you have been reading my blog Healthy and Sane for a while and maybe (hopefully?) trust my taste buds. But for the rest of you, I can tell you I have a pretty discriminating palate and that’s the best I can do. Better yet, maybe the pictures and the recipes will speak for themselves… or maybe you’ll just take the chance and try something new. Like this Georgian tuna in walnut sauce. I had no idea what to expect of this one. I wasn’t excited about it, it sounded a bit strange… cold tuna steak? But it works. Quickly broiled tuna steaks are way superior to the canned version (they are in a different league altogether) and the walnut sauce is killer. The tarragon, saffron and cilantro all really perfume the creamy walnut sauce and there is plenty of it to coat every tuna chunk and even sneak a few spoonfuls all on your own. I think this sauce would be amazing with chicken too. Here is how it to make it happen.
Ingredients (serves 8 as an appetizer or 6 as a light entree):
- 1.5lbs fresh tuna steaks, cut into 1.5″ cubes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/3 cups walnut pieces
- 3 large garlic cloves
- 2T butter
- 2t flour
- 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
- 1.5 cups tarragon vinegar (I used white balsamic vinegar and a dash of dried tarragon)
- 1/4t paprika
- 1/2t ground coriander
- 1t dried tarragon
- 1/4t saffron threads
- 3T finely chopped fresh cilantro
1. Toss tuna with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste
2. Spread on baking sheet, broil for 4 minutes on each side. Pre-broiling:
Walnut sauce time!
3. Grind walnuts, garlic, 1/4t salt.
Get your spices ready. The rest will happen quite quickly…
4. Melt butter
5. Add flour, quickly stir
6. Over the next minute or 2, slowly stir chicken stock into the flour/butter mixture (we don’t want lumps here!)
7. Stir in the rest of the spices and herbs
8. Simmer sauce over low heat for 10 minutes. It should thicken nicely.
9. Cool to room temperature, then mix with tuna chunks and refrigerate for several hours. This will allow for all the wonderful flavors in the sauce to really marinade the tuna.
10. Garnish and serve.
I could really just eat this whole bowl on its own, but decided to make it into Greek-style mini pita sandwiches with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. The sauce is nutty and hearty so the veggies added a nice element of freshness.
I hope you make it and let me know how you like it.
Next up: Two of the most requested side dishes at every meal my mom or grandma make!