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Video: Russian food 101: Borscht, blintzes — and vodka

TODAY recipes
updated 2/6/2013 8:49:30 AM ET 2013-02-06T13:49:30

Recipe: Borscht

  • 1 lb stew beef chopped into 1-inch cubes
  • 6-7 cups beef broth
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 medium red beets, diced
  • 2 large potatoes, cubed
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Sauce
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup tomato sauce/puree
  • 3-4 tablespoon fresh tomato ketchup
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • Ground black pepper, salt
  • Toppings
  • Olive oil mayonnaise
  • Sour cream
  • Green onion, diced
  • Toasted bread

Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add several tablespoons of canola oil. Sear the meat until darkened. Add beef broth, salt and ground pepper. Stir, cover and reduce heat to low. Braise the meat for 1 hour until tender.

Meanwhile, prepare mirepoix. Sauté beets, carrots, onion and celery in large sauté pan with oil until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the mirepoix to soup pot once meat has cooked for 30 minutes.

Prepare the sauce. Sauté the onion in a tablespoon of oil over medium heat until golden brown. Add tomato puree, ketchup, broth and seasonlightly with black pepper and salt. Simmer on low heat for 7 to 8 minutes, then set aside.

After braising meat for 1 hour, add potatoes, prepared tomato sauce, cabbage, dill and parsley. Set heat to medium and cook uncovered. Bring the soup to a simmer then set a timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, cover and remove from heat. Serve with ½ tablespoon of mayonnaise or 1 tablespoon sour cream, sprinkle of green onion and fresh toasted bread.

Note: Soup can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated. The flavors will develop more overnight, resulting in a more savory soup. Simply reheat pot over medium heat.

Recipe: Sharkoie (braised beef and potatoes in tomato sauce)

  • 1 pound beef chuck, trimmed and cubed
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Sauce
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup reserved beef broth (see recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Potatoes
  • 4 large young Yukon potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Baby dill pickles for serving

Preheat a large, deep sauté pan or Dutch oven and add several tablespoons canola oil. Add the beef to hot pan and sear evenly until beef develops dark color. Add beef broth, salt, pepper, cumin and bay leaf. Cover pan and reduce heat to low. Bring to a simmer and braise beef for 1 ½ hours or until meat is very tender.

Prepare tomato sauce: Sauté onion with several tablespoons of oil until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 additional minute. Add to pan tomato sauce, cream and seasonings. Simmer sauce over low heat for 6 to 7 minutes until thickened and set aside.

Remove 1 cup of broth from braised beef and whisk in cornstarch — set aside for later use.

Once meat is braised, add the cubed potatoes and prepared tomato sauce to the pan. Stir with spatula to coat potatoes, cover and continue to cook over low heat until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. For the last 10 minutes, add the reserved broth mixture with cornstarch and stir carefully and gently with rubber spatula — this will thicken the sauce. Sprinkle with fresh chopped dill and serve. Can also serve with baby pickles on the side.

Recipe: Braised cabbage piroshki

  • Braised cabbage filling
  • 1 small head of cabbage, shredded
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 5 to 7 white mushrooms, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, skinned and diced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Piroshky dough
  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3-4 cups flour

For cabbage filling:

Heat several tablespoons of canola oil to medium heat in a large frying pan. Add carrots and onion and sauté until golden brown. Add bell pepper and mushrooms to pan and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Place mixture along with cabbage and seasonings in large pot or Dutch oven and stir until well combined. Cover with lid and braise over medium/low heat for 18 to 20 minutes until cabbage is tender. Remove from heat and let cool before using.

Divide dough into 16 equal pieces and keep covered. For each piroshoki, roll out 1 piece of dough on floured surface into 6-inch circle. Place approximately 1/4 cup filling in the center of prepared dough and seal dough on the top by pinching together and bringing sides in (resembles a large, flat dumpling).

If using a deep fryer, preheat to low/medium heat. If using a pan, use a medium-size pot and pour enough canola oil to come up 2 inches from the bottom. Piroshki are a labor of love — they need to be fried slowly otherwise they will be flat and come apart. Fry piroshki as you make them — do not let the dough rise! Keep piroshki flat and fry seam-side down first over low heat, 2 to 3 at a time until golden brown, turning once.

Remove from oil onto paper towel to drain.

For dough:

Add yeast and sugar to warm milk and let dissolve. Add salt, egg and oil and whisk together. Gradually add flour, whisking it in at first, then mixing by hand. Turn dough onto floured surface and knead 4 to 6 minutes until dough is smooth and uniform. Cover and let the dough rise until doubled. When ready to make piroshki, divide dough in half and knead. Divide into needed sections and keep covered with clean towel to prevent it from drying out. Use lightly floured rolling pin on oiled surface to roll out dough.

Recipe: Shuba (“Herring Under Fur”)

  • 2 large beets, halved and unpeeled
  • 2 large white potatoes, unpeeled
  • 3 large carrots, peeled
  • 3 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 4 green onions, diced
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 9-10 oz herring fillet in oil
  • Spread
  • 1 cup olive-oil mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons gourmet prepared mustard

Heat 2 separate, large pots of salted water. Into one pot add potatoes and carrots; into second pot add beets. Cook vegetables in boiling water until fork-tender. Remove vegetables from water and let cool completely before making salad.

Once cooled, peel beets and potatoes. Remove eggshells from hard-boiled eggs. Using medium grater, grate the potatoes, carrots, beets and eggs, each into separate bowl. Dice the herring into separate bowl. Combine the onion with the potatoes.

Combine mayonnaise and mustard into small bowl and mix to combine very well. Divide the spread equally between the beets, carrots and potatoes. Season each with salt to taste.

To assemble salad, line an 8½-inch loaf pan with cling wrap. Layer the ingredients evenly for a nice presentation in the following order: beets, carrots, potatoes, diced herring. Reserve the eggs for later.

Place assembled salad into refrigerator for 30 minutes. To serve, simple invert onto platter and remove cling wrap. Garnish with the diced egg and flat-leaf parsley then slice carefully to serve. Serve with fresh bread.

Recipe: Cheese blintz

  • Crepes
  • 2 cups organic half-and-half
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Dash of salt
  • Filling
  • 1 16-ounce container small curd cottage cheese
  • 3/4 cup low fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup raisins, optional
  • Sour cream and fruit syrups for serving

In large bowl, whisk together half-and-half and eggs lightly, just so eggs are separated. Add sugar and flour gradually, using whisk to mix ingredients. Add salt and whisk lightly just to incorporate. Do not overbeat the batter — whisk just enough to remove any clumps.

Preheat medium, nonstick pan over medium heat; no oil is needed. Use ¼ cup of batter per crepe — pour batter onto center and tilt pan to spread batter evenly. Fry until golden brown and turn, about 1 minute per side. Stack done crepes onto plate.

Once crepes are done, prepare filling. Line a fine strainer with cheese cloth and place cottage cheese into strainer. Rinse cheese with cold water and twist cheese cloth to squeeze out any remaining liquid. Cottage cheese needs to be as dry as possible.

Mix together rinsed and wrung-dry cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, egg yolk and sugar with spoon to blend ingredients together. Use 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling for each blintz — place filling centered on lower third of crepe. Fold bottom then sides over and roll crepe into eggroll shape. Set rolled blintz aside onto tray.

Preheat a large sauté or frying pan and add a tablespoon of canola oil. Heat pan over medium/low heat and fry rolled blintz in batches, turning once until golden brown on both sides. Remove from pan and let cool for several minutes before serving. Serve with a spoon of sour cream or with your favorite fruit syrup or jelly.

Serving Size

Makes 18 to 20 blintzes

Recipe: Warm fruit compote

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2-3 granny smith apples, sliced
  • 2 cups fresh strawberry, chopped
  • 2 bartlett pears, sliced
  • 1 mandarin or orange, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup fresh apricots, chopped

Place water into large pot and add sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add all fruit except for raspberry and apricots. Bring fruit to a boil and let simmer for 6 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add raspberry and apricots and simmer for 1 minute. Remove compote from heat and let cool slightly before serving. Let cool completely if serving over ice. Store in refrigerator. If desired, strain compote through cheesecloth and discard fruit. 

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