The Olympics have started and I’m sure everyone is tuning in to watch the various sports and news around the event. We learn about the athletes and some of the Russian culture, but what about the food? Russian food is rich in history but not a common food in the United States.  Most people think of Russian food as being nothing but boiled cabbage and meat, with little seasoning except tomatoes!.  Here are a couple of recipes for Russian foods that don’t fit that stereotype.

Sweet & Smoky Eggplant Spread (Baklazhannaia Ikra)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants (about 1 pound each)
  • Olive oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil for cooking
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prick the eggplants all over with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast in the center of the oven, turning over once, until soft, about 1 hour.
  3. Let the eggplants cool in a colander in the sink, where their juices can drain. When cool enough to handle, press any excess liquid out. (This step helps to reduce any bitterness.)
  4. Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent
  5. Cut the eggplants in half and scoop out the flesh. Discard the peel. Using a large knife, chop the flesh very finely. Don’t use a blender or food processor because you want to have texture in this dip.
  6. Add the eggplant to the onions along with the tomato paste, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and a couple good cracks of black pepper. Turn the heat to low-medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes. Add more oil as necessary to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan.
  7. Transfer the mixture to a heat-proof bowl and let it cool completely before storing in the refrigerator. Adjust salt and pepper to taste before serving.  Serve with toasted bread or crackers.

Borscht

Sometimes also spelled borsch and borshch, borscht  is a vegetable soup that is almost always made with beets. The use of beets in this soup lend the dish a vibrant red color. Borscht is most commonly associated with Ukraine, but is an important soup in both Russian and Polish cuisines.  This soup can be eaten hot or cold; some are clear and light, others thick and substantial and some people add meat to their recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts beef stock
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 cup potatoes, diced
  • ½ cup carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups canned tomatoes
  • ½ cup juice (from can of beets)
  • 1 cup cooked or canned beets, diced
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • Chopped dill or parsley (for garnishing)
  • Sour cream
  • Salt and pepper as needed

Directions:

  1. In a large heavy pan, melt butter and lightly sauté cabbage, potatoes, carrots, celery and onion for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the beef stock.
  3. Using an immersion blender, stand blender, or food processor, blend canned tomatoes until pureed.
  4. Add pureed tomatoes and beet juice to the stock.
  5. Cover and simmer over low heat until vegetables are firmly tender but not soft.
  6. Add the chopped beets and vinegar.
  7. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat before the beets begin to lose their color.
  8. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of dill or parsley over each bowl.