Published on August 18th, 2015 | by TLV News0
Some Food Stories from a Curious Observer – Part 2: Dinners by Granddaddy
Potatoes as a main dish.
Like I already mentioned, Grandaddy was often cooking dinners, but some dishes were still just Grandma’s speciality.
Potatoes in any form were very popular and went well with different entrees. For example, boiled potatoes and pickled herring complement each other very well. Back home herring is always one of the most favorite, cheap and very popular appetizers. It smells very strong, but tastes so wonderful if you grew up with it, that you miss it dearly if you move to the land where people for some weird reason don’t find appetizing the raw juicy salty smelly fish, which you have to skin, debone, clean, and cut to big dripping chunks. Mmmmm…I am salivating so badly right now!
When I went home to visit, my friends and family were always making sure there was plenty of pickled herring close to me at family meals, because they all knew how much I miss it here.
Boiled potatoes also go well with the cutlets my Grandma was very good at cooking.
We were always making our own ground beef, using a manual meat grinder, owned by every family. Meat from the regular stores could be too old and chewy, but one could always grind it and make cutlets. The recipe asks for some white bread as a filling, so you don’t need that much beef. It’s cheaper that way, but still tastes amazing.
Here is the recipe: one pound of ground beef 80/20, two slices of bread pre-soaked in milk, one egg, one small onion, crushed in the meat grinder (or you can just chop it really thin with the knife), salt, pepper.
Mix everything up, shape Salisbury steak-like patties. Fry in a cast iron pan with sunflower (or canola) oil just covering the bottom (not deep fry), from both sides on medium without a lid till brown, add half a cup of water, milk, or sour cream, then cover with a lid and simmer on low for another half an hour. Enjoy.
Sometimes, we had just baked potatoes. We didn’t make them loaded, like here in America. We were just eating them with butter or virgin sunflower oil, which smells nicely of sunflower seeds, and enjoying the flavor of potatoes themselves. Just about every bonfire in Russia doesn’t happen without baked potatoes—just as it always goes with toasted marshmallows here.
Also we often eat skillet-fried potatoes (virgin sunflower oil is used for it as well). The result is more like hashbrowns than french fries. My son asked me where I learned to slice potatoes in a way, when you are just holding a spud in the left hand and criss-cross slicing it, making perfect and even matchstick-like slices. I couldn’t answer that question. Seemed like I just always knew. (Later I asked my Mom, where I could learn it, and she said she remembers Granddaddy doing it that way).
There were some other
Also for dinner could be some sauteed beef, beef stroganoff, fried chicken, fried fish, and in summer—cold and refreshing fresh vegetable soup with ingredients from our garden. It sounds a little weird here, but this soup tastes really good.
Recipe: 4 boiled eggs, one boiled potato, a bunch of radishes, one big cucumber, a bunch of green onions, some dill weed, half a pound (if any) of roast beef. All chopped in 1/4 inch cubes. Mixed up with salt, pepper, sour cream, and diluted with some… hmmmm…we call it “kvas”—it is some kind of fermented soft drink which is very traditional and goes back ages. We drink a lot of it in summer time. It reminds me of beer, but is sweeter, non alcoholic, rye bread based, bubbly, and usually homemade. Kombucha would have the closest taste to it. You can just make a salad out of this ingredients, it is really good too, without kvas. This dish is very nutritious, cheap, filling and so loaded with vitamins and probiotics. You eat it with a slice of rye bread, it cools you down and nurtures at the same time.
Sauteed fresh cabbage or sauerkraut (which I hated until I learned to cook it myself) was another option. Sour craft is very popular in Russia. Usually families make it themselves by the barrels or buckets and keep in the basements. This fermented food is good for you, because of probiotics and vitamins.
We eat lots of pickled cucumbers, which also are prepared by ancient recipes, similar to sour craft, processed in a warm temperature, when lactobacteria produce lactic acid, which is a good preservative and has some health benefits.
So, just some mash potatoes and pickles could make a good dinner. Also, wild mushrooms are not only dried in summer, they can be marinated with vinegar and preserved in glass jars. They are extremely tasty! Some people sterilize and keep in mason jars sauteed mushrooms with no vinegar, but there is the danger of botulinum toxin-producing bacteria developing without oxygen, which doesn’t grow in acidic environment, so pickled mushrooms are much safer to consume.
In summer we make lots of salads, very simple—cucumbers, tomatoes, and green onions, sliced in small cubes, with some dill weed and virgin sunflower oil or sour cream.
I wouldn’t be afraid to say that dill weed is one of the main spices in Russian cuisine. We barely use any other spices besides salt, pepper and bay leaf, but dill weed smells very fresh and gives a great flavor to just about every kind of savory food. Salads, meat, fish, pickled vegetables—everything is better with dill weed!