Ever since moving to the US and trying foods from all over the world, I’ve realized how much international influence there is over traditional Russian fare. There are so many parallels I make now that I know a bit more about different cuisines. Numerous variations of pelmeni, for example, exist in Asia (such as gyoza and potstickers) and Italians have their own versions of pelmeni, very well known as ravioli and tortellini. While my mom’s perzzi and sinii were one of the very first things that I wanted to learn how to make, I actually hesitated blogging about them because I realized that you’ve probably all had them before. You most likely just categorized them as Greek or maybe just… universal.
So yes, these are hardly “dishes” and aren’t particularly original, but both the roasted red peppers and sinii (translated as “blue” because eggplants are… purple?? yeah, go figure) are seriously requested at every family gathering by both me and my sister. So easy or not, I just had to share them! We used to eat both often as kids, and now that we’re older whenever my sister is in town, my mom makes sure to make a batch or two. And we are always very thankful. Don’t forget some fresh bread to soak up all the yummy juices!
- Sweet bell peppers
- Citric acid (if you can’t find it, lemon juice is a fine substitute)
- Sugar (just a pinch)
- Olive oil (approximately 1 tablespoon per pepper – don’t worry, the peppers don’t absorb all of it!)
SINII (eggplant salad)
- 1 eggplant
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Garlic (to taste)
- 2 tomatoes (optional)
Grill the veggies until charred. I used our outdoor grill but if you don’t have one (or if it’s too cold to grill), you can just broil them. The point is to really char them (be careful of setting off the smoke detector if you’re doing it indoors…not that I know anything about that first hand 😉 )
Let’s talk peppers first. Put them in a large bowl (this one was too small… give them room) and cover with a lid or a large plate (hey, it works!).
Many roasted red pepper recipes say to place the peppers in a plastic bag but I just don’t like the idea of my food being in contact with heating plastic. So yeah, I recommend using a bowl. It’s more eco friendly too. Win-win
After 15 minutes, the pepper skins should come off really easily. Discard the skins (reserve the liquid), you’ll have gorgeous naked peppers. How scandalous! 😳 Haha, I crack myself up.
Put them back in the juices they released while sweating under the lid. Add some citric acid, crushed garlic, olive oil, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper – all to taste. I added about 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid, 1 large garlic clove and 2 tablespoons of EVOO for 2 large peppers. That was pretty garlicky (I love garlic) so start with less garlic if you’re sensitive and build up from there.
Refrigerate for a few hours. These peppers will slightly marinade and become sweet and a little sour. The grilled sweet pepper flesh is nicely balanced by the acidity of the citric acid (or lemon juice if that’s what you used). I love them!!
Back to those eggplants….
They take a bit longer than peppers to brown and mine kind of exploded over the grill. At least I knew they were definitely ready. 😉
Mmm, look at that eggplant “meat” spilling out. I think it wants me to eat it.
Scoop out the eggplant flesh and mash it with a fork. My mom uses a food processor for that but I like the texture of hand “beaten” eggplant. Add some salt, pepper, crushed garlic and olive oil. Sometimes I even add a bit of lemon juice but I think that’s more Greek than Russian.
So that’s your “basic” sinii. We like turning them red with some crushed tomatoes. If you want to do the same, chop them in the food processor for a few seconds, then mix them into the eggplant mixture.
I served these to my husband and our American friends and all the eggplant haters still enjoyed the ones with the tomatoes. The tomatoes really change the taste of the dish – they hide that eggplanty quality. My family eats both of these dishes as sides or as appetizers when served over large hunks of bread. When I made these, I served the eggplant salads as dips with homemade pita chips to my friends and while not traditional, it worked quite well.
This recipe has been submitted to Foodista.
So there you have it.
If there is a Russian recipe you’ve heard of and want me to make it, please let me know. I already put a few on my list based on your previous comments.