Monday, September 2, 2013

Golubzi (Stuffed Cabbage)

The clouds that arrived on Saturday and decided to overstay their welcome through today have not created the best conditions for proper Labor Day celebrations. I have not gone to the beach, nor have I eaten coleslaw and potato salad with my cheeseburger. Instead, I found that this dreary day was the perfect day to embark upon (what I thought would be) the most time consuming Russian project of all. Golubzi, or as the Americans call them, stuffed cabbage.

The little pockets of meat and rice contrast quite nicely with the gloom.

Golubzi are another recipe synonymous with my aunt Faina, they are her speciality and she makes the best ones I have ever had. In addition to preparing cutlets, salat olivier, boiled potatoes and more, anytime she is cooking for a crowd, golubzi are on the table. 

I have always been amazed at Faina's continuous patience and dedication to the labor that goes into creating golubzi. From cooking the cabbage and preparing the stuffing, to making the sauce and rolling balls of meat so that they fit perfectly into cabbage leaves, this is no quick-fix meal. And yet, she loves to makes these over and over again. As time consuming as these were, after taking my first bite of my own golubzi, I too will be making them again and again.

Toshanaya Kapusta (Braised Cabbage)

When I was little, my mom used to make a few Russian dishes with cabbage, namely Borscht and Toshanaya Kapusta. While I played in my room or did homework, she would chop the cabbage leafs until she hit the core. However, instead of reaching the center and tossing it, my mom would peel away at the cabbage core until she was left with a little white stalk, no bigger than a finger. She'd yell for me to come get the 'kachanchik'! I would abruptly stop whatever I was doing and run to the kitchen to eat this crunchy treat that has the texture of a water chestnut or raw potato. I devoured it with such excitement, you'd think I was just given a scoop of the best ice cream ever created. However, I know that it really wasn't ever about the taste of the kachanchik, rather it was knowing that my mom would always reserve this special treat for me. Now, as I hacked away at a head of cabbage on my own, I tried to find the kachanchik with no luck! Somehow, mom just knows exactly where to keep cutting so all that remains is the edible portion. 

The recipe that follows can be served hot or cold as a delicious side dish to accompany any meat such as our favorite chicken cutlets or a hearty beef stew (recipe coming soon!). It is extremely simple once the cabbage gets shredded.

Yes, that is a measuring cup full of ketchup. Russians like it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Kotleti (Chicken Cutlets)

No other image makes me think of home cooking as much as this picture of a greasy towel stacked with chicken cutlets fresh out of the frying pan. Growing up with a busy, successful, working Russian mother who still was able to make dinner every single night, these were a staple at our table at least two nights a week. The simple and savory flavor coupled with minimal labor makes cutlete an ideal dinner option. Served with rice or pasta, dinner is quickly served. Don't forget the pickle!

There is no other way to mix these ingredients other than by just rolling up your sleeves and diving your hands deep into the bowl. Mush and blend...and maybe enjoy the sensation of all the squishing between your fingers a little bit.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Blinchiki S' Tvarog (Cheese blintzes)

This recipe was a childhood favorite of mine. No, scratch that- it was not. I do not know exactly how it came to be, but my Aunt Faina thought that I loved these blintzes so much, she would squeal in delight whenever I came over and she had them prepared. "Milachka! Guess what I made for you!?" In turn, I would force myself to widen my eyes and fake excitement and respond "blinchiki!" in a high pitched five-year old voice. 

I have not revealed to Faina that I have no idea why she thought I loved them so much that one time that she would insist to make them for me again and again. However, I have since matured my palate and realized that I would have to be crazy not to enjoy every cheesy, berry-popping, sweet bite. So thank you Faina for always making these for me and for sharing your delicious recipe!

The blinchiki are fairly easy to prepare, just time consuming. However, I consider any recipe that is time consuming to be therapeutic. This one in particular required me to stand over a stove for about 45 minutes swirling my wrist so that the batter coated the pan evenly in a paper-thin layer. One at a time, each crepe was stacked, filling the room with the smell of sweetness. All was quite except for the sizzling and whistling of the blinchik forming over the hot heat.