Olympic Cherry Crisp.

Happy Olympics! It’s that time again, and I might as well quit my job because all I want to do is stay home and watch all this awesome competitive action. There’s just so much emotion, history, and pride, and I’m a sucker for those emotional moments. Of course I root root root for the home team (the USA) but as I may have mentioned before, Russia has always had special place in my heart, so I cheer for Россию as well. This dessert is my way of reconciling my conflicting Olympic loyalties and satisfying my sweet tooth at the same time. Cherry desserts have long been a favorite in Russia, and summer fruit crisps are an American classic, so I combined them to make one mega-patriotic Russo-American Olympic loyalty-blurring all-inclusive fruit dessert extravaganza. Eat some, and then get your exercise by jumping up and down cheering for your team. Go world!

INGREDIENTS

1 heaping cup cherries, pitted
2 tbsp sugar, divided
1/2 tbsp potato starch or corn starch
2 tbsp water
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup oats
squeeze of honey
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tbsp butter, melted

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine cherries and 1 tbsp sugar in a saucepan and soften over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes.

Dissolve potato starch in water and stir into cherries. Cook another minute or so, until the cherries are soft and the mixture is thickened.

Remove from heat and spoon into greased ramekins.

Combine all remaining ingredients.

Sprinkle over the cherries in your ramekins…

…and bake until the tops start to brown, about 15 minutes. If you’re going for the gold medal in this dessert-off, serve these hot, topped with a scoop of ice cream.

Summer Carrot Salad.

While wandering around the farmers market on Saturday morning, I encountered a little boy standing in front of a big pile of purple carrots. He was trying so hard to make sense of these strangely-colored vegetables, and both his mother and the man behind the table were indulging his curious questions. I love to see little ones engaged in farmers market culture, so I decided to play along, too. “I think I have to get some of those,” I said to the boy. “Would you pick me out a nice bunch?” He looked back at me with wide eyes and then started to dig through the purple carrots, handing me a bunch that he seemed to have chosen for no reason in particular. I thanked him, smiled at his mother, paid the $3, and went home to make this salad for my family. Goes great with flank steak. A good day.

INGREDIENTS

1 small onion, diced
2 bunches orange carrots, grated to thin, long strips
1 bunch purple carrots, grated to thin, long strips
2 cloves garlic, minced almost to a paste
3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for sauteing the onions
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
parsley for garnish
handful of raw almonds, crushed with the back of a knife

DIRECTIONS

Heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat and add onions and a pinch of salt. Saute until soft and translucent. Set aside to cool.

Combine garlic, the rest of the olive oil, vinegar, cayenne pepper, coriander, sugar, and salt and pepper. Mix well with a fork.

Combine carrots, onion, dressing, and almonds, and toss. Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving. Garnish with parsley and enjoy with steak or burgers as a healthier replacement for cole slaw.

Borsch.

Borsch is so misunderstood. It’s a classic in Russian/Ukrainian cuisine, but despite my Russophile tendencies, I avoided borsch for years because I thought it sounded so…awful. But college is a time for experimentation, right? So during my senior year, I finally gave borsch a try, and it totally won me over! It’s a super hearty vegetable and beef stew that gets its characteristic garnet color from its most notorious ingredient: the beet. If you’re not a beet lover, you’ll probably still like borsch (it’s really good, I swear!),  just make sure to puree the cooked beet and tomato mixture before adding it to the broth pot. Old-world peasant cooking at its finest!

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 lbs. stew beef, cubed
3 bay leaves
small onion, chopped
3 small red beets, scrubbed clean and cut into bars
14 oz. canned crushed tomatoes
1 tsp vinegar
2 carrots, peeled and cut into bars
2 celery stalks, chopped
large onion, chopped
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1/2 medium head cabbage, shredded
butter
olive oil
salt
pepper
2 cloves garlic, diced

DIRECTIONS

Fill a large pot or Dutch oven 3/4 of the way full with water and add beef and bay leaves. Bring to a boil.

When boiling, turn down to medium low heat and simmer. Skim off the fatty, foamy impurities that rise to the top.

When you’ve gotten most of the fatty bits out of the broth pot, add the small onion. Cover and simmer for an hour. Then remove the bay leaves.

Meanwhile, add a pad of butter and about a tablespoon of olive oil to a pan and heat over medium. When hot, add beets, crushed tomato, and vinegar. Stir well and simmer for an hour.

Fifteen minutes before the beets are done cooking, start the other veggies. Heat a pad of butter and a splash of olive oil in another pan over medium flame and add large onion, carrot, and celery. Cook for 15 minutes.

After you start the onion-carrot-celery mixture, turn up the heat on the broth and bring it back to a boil. Add potatoes and cabbage to the broth pot.

When the beets and tomatoes have finished cooking, add them to the broth, along with the sauteed veggies. Add salt, pepper, and garlic, stir well, and simmer for at least half an hour.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with fresh chives or dill. Or, try something I saw in a Polish restaurant: pour the soup through a strainer so that you’re left with just the broth and serve with sour cream and chives sprinkled on top. It’s very elegant this way, but you lose that peasant charm…and most of the nutritional value. Still good though! Priyatnogo appetita.

Russian Sour Cream Coffee Cake.

Yesterday it was my turn to bring breakfast for our weekly work Breakfast Club. Taking a more traditional approach than I did last time, when I brought in my quesadilla maker (Olé), I volunteered to bring in two coffee cakes.  One had to be Sicilian Orange Cake, because it just might be the king of all coffee cakes. But I wanted to try something new for my second offering, so I made this Russian recipe. Its sour cream base makes it creamy and moist, and the nut topping gives a little bit of texture and spice. And if the “king” title is already taken, this one can be the coffee cake Tsar.

*Wondering where the photo of the finished product is? Well, in the chaos of my cake-laden commute that morning, I forgot to give it its proper photo shoot. I guess that means I’ll just have to make it again!

INGREDIENTS

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup, divided
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/8 tsp powdered ginger
pinch of nutmeg

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream together butter,  sour cream, 1 cup of the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three batches, stirring well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, combine the walnuts, ginger, nutmeg, and the 1/2 cup of sugar.

Grease a baking pan. Spread half the batter into the pan and top with half the nut mixture. Then spread the rest of the batter over the top and add the rest of the nut mixture. Using a knife, make several slashes through the batter; this draws some of the nut mixture deeper into the cake.

Bake on middle rack for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Priyatnogo appetita!

Braised Cabbage with Pork.

This recipe for тушёная капуста, or braised cabbage, is one of the tastiest recipes I’ve had in a long time. I first tried it when I was making cabbage filling for a batch of pirozhki (recipe to come later!), and it was so good that I ate about half the bowl before I had a chance to use it as stuffing! Healthy, yummy, and substantial, this cabbage and meat dish is a fabulous one-pot dinner with huge flavor.

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INGREDIENTS
3/4 pound of pork (or chicken), cubed
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and grated
3/4 cup sour cream, divided
1 medium head of cabbage, shredded
2 tsp salt
1 cup canned crushed tomato
1 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp Mrs. Dash
2 bay leaves
olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Heat oil in a large pot and brown the pork until cooked through. Remove from pot and place in a large bowl with the shredded cabbage.

 In the same pot where you browned the pork, saute carrot and onion until softened.
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Remove from heat and mix in 2 tbsp sour cream. Then add this to the bow with the cabbage.

Heat a bit more olive oil in the pot and transfer in the cabbage mixture, along with the crushed tomato, the rest of the sour cream, and the salt, brown sugar, pepper, cumin, Mrs. Dash, and bay leaves.

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Stir well and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook on medium heat, stirring regularly, until the cabbage is softened–about 30 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and enjoy piping hot! Приятного аппетита!