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Kompot / Компот

20 Aug
Kompot / Kомпот

Kompot / Kомпот

Kompot / Компот is a traditional drink in Eastern European countries and Russia.  It’s a dessert-like drink made from water, any edible fruits/berries and some sugar or honey (optional).   The sweet drink made from various dried fruits ( pears, apples, prunes and raisins) was known in Russia even before XVII century and is called uzvar.  Uzvar is a festive meal which still served on Christmas Eve.  It is also a staple drink in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine.  Word Kompot / Компот came in Russian language from French compote.

Cold kompot is very refreshing and it is believed that it balances the effect of humidity on the body.  It can also be served hot during cold winter nights.   As a kid, I remember opening a jar of tart cherries kompot in December  and the aroma would transfer me right in the hot mid-summer 🙂

Kompots are the best way to preserve summer fruits and berries.  Jars sterilization ensures the safety of these preserves. Fruits and berries are not cooked for long and they are more likely to retain their natural flavour.

Red currants

Red currants

Ingredients (add more sugar if you prefer a sweeter drink and more berries for intensity): 

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tbsp raw organic sugar
  • 1/2 pint red currants

Directions:

  1. Boil water and sugar, bring to a simmer and add currants.
  2. Turn the heat off after currants turn pale pink, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Serve hot, chilled or cold – delicious!
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Ukrainian Green Borsch / Зелёный Борщ

9 Aug

Ukrainian Green Borsch / Зелёный Борщ

Unlike its’ hearty cousin (red beet borsch ) with strong flavours that warm you up during cold winter days, this borsch is light and can be eaten hot or cold. It is known in all Eastern European cousins and sometimes also called Sorrel or Shchav Soup.

As with many other traditional recipes, there are endless variations of this borsch.  I am going to share the version made in my family.  I “eat with my eyes” first and 4 simple but colourful ingredients make this borsch very appetizing.

Still steaming!

Still steaming!

Green borsch is traditionally made from lemony sorrel.  I am yet to find sorrel in Toronto so I made it with spinach and some vinegar to re-create that light tangy flavor of sorrel.  You can substitute sorrel with any other leafy greens too (swiss chard, beet greens, etc).

TIP: Add your greens just before turning off the heat, or your borsch will be brown instead of bright emerald.

My dad liked this borsh garnished with roughly chopped hard-boiled egg; my mom preferred it in the manner of an egg drop soup where you gradually pour in beaten egg into the boiling liquid.  I equally like both versions.

To serve – do it as Ukrainians do: with sour cream and chopped dill.  I can’t think of anything that is served without either sour cream or dill or both 😀

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • 1 large or 2 small carrots, cut any way you like (cubed, chopped, grated or sliced)
  • 1 large or 2 small potatoes, cut in cubes
  • 4 cups chicken stock or water
  • 3 cups sorrel or spinach, thick stems removed
  • 2-3 tsp vinegar
  • S & P to taste

Garnishes:

  • 1 egg (either hard-boiled or beaten), sour cream, chopped dill

Directions:

  1. Bring chicken stock or water to boil, add carrots and potatoes.
  2. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes or until tender, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add your greens, vinegar and beaten egg (if using) and turn off the heat
  4. Garnish and serve hot or cold.

How I Beat My Post-Vacation Blues

6 Jun
This Holodetz is my cousin's creation - she made a Swan Lake out of it.

This Holodetz is my cousin’s creation – she made a Swan Lake out of it 🙂

I had a pretty full list of things-to-do after I came from my trip and I started right away playing catch-up, yet I never really caught up.  I wasn’t working on the things I really wanted to be working on, I was feeling guilty about not getting back to people, and I didn’t feel like the fact that I wasn’t making much progress. Plus I had a moderately busy calendar of social events for the last two weeks in May.  Then I caught myself having a terrible thought – no more long vacations this year 😦

To beat my post-vacation blues I decided to make some dishes that we ate in Ukraine and France.  One of them is Holodetz.  This cold appetizer is traditionally served on Easter, Christmas and New Year and is one of those dishes that people in North America strongly dislike.  This dish is eaten in Europe and  known as “studen’ or “zalivnoye”  in Russia, “galaretki” in Poland, “rǎcituri” in Romania, “aspik” in Germany, and “pitcha” to Ashkenazi Jews.

I believe the texture (jiggly) is the hardest thing to get past.  Even though people do eat Jello-Os the meat jelly is not very appealing to them.  I do think the dish is fairly healthy – fat is separated from the the meat and broth, all the ingredients are simple and healthy, and think of the protein!  Give yourself a little pep talk you may actually like it!

Ingredients:

2-3 pork or beef knee bones or feet

1 lb chicken thighs

  • 1 large onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • several bay leaves
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • salt to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 sliced hard-boiled egg (for decoration)

Directions:

  1. Ask your butcher to chop the pork or beef foot (is using) in several pieces; wash well.
  2. Place the meat in a deep pot, cover with 1 1/2 amount of water.  Bring to a rapid boil and skim until clear.
  3. Tie the chopped onion, parsley, bay leaf, and peppercorns into a cheesecloth bag. Add the bag to the pot and cook on a very low heat for 4 hours or until meat has come off the bones.
  4. Remove the meat from the pot and let it cool.
  5. Discard the spice bag and strain the cooking liquid into a bowl. Add minced garlic, salt and pepper to the broth.  Strain the liquid  again and slightly cool in the fringe so you can scrape any solidified fat from the surface.
  6. Pick the meat from the bones and set it aside; discard the bones,  gristle, and chicken skin.
  7. Lay chopped meat, cooked carrot slices, and  egg slices and  in several serving bowls, pour the broth over and refrigerate until set.
  8. Serve with grated horseradish with beets or vinegar.
Our Easter appetizers

Our Easter appetizers

As Ukrainians say “Smachogo!” ( Bon Appetit!) 🙂

 

 

 

Ukrainian Nalysnyky (Crepes) with Chicken

31 Jan

Ukrainian Nalysnyky with Chicken

Toronto hit record high of 14 C yesterday and but winter returned today.  Nice weather roller-coaster! Here comes the snow again, high winds and the high of -7 C.

The cold mid-winter weather makes me gravitate towards anything that makes me feel cozy.  Thick soups, hearty stews, creamy risottos and hot chocolate.   I always try to adjust these dishes so I won’t pack on the pounds – we are performing in 2 weeks!

I was flipping through my favourite cookbooks, searching for something different to make when this caught my eye:

My handwriting wasn’t the best as I was scribbling notes over the phone 🙂

My cousin makes the best Nalysnyky!   They are thin, lace-y and airy.  Nalysnyky (pronounced: Nah-less-knee-key) are the Ukrainian version of crepes. This is a lighter version of one my favourite cold-weather comfort food.

My cousin’s original recipe, yields 19-20 crepes:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 2 eggs

This is what I used to make Nalysnyky lighter and healthier.

Crepe batter:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose white flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tbsp raw organic sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 egg

Crepe batter in a blender

Directions:

  1. The blender makes it super easy.  In a blender, combine all of the ingredients for batter and pulse for 10 seconds.  Let it rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high.  I find my cast iron pan works the best for this recipe.
  3. Coat with butter or oil.
  4. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan and swirl/tilt the pan to spread it evenly.
  5. Cook until edges look dry and flip – about 30 seconds.
  6. Cook for another 10 seconds and transfer to a plate to cool.
  7. Continue with rest of batter.
  8. After crepes have cooled you can stack and store them in seal-able plastic bags in fridge for several days or freezer for up to 2 months if making in advance.

Filling:

  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cup shredded cooked chicken (white meat, no skin)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth

Directions:

  1. Fry onions in olive oil until golden brown.
  2. Grind the chicken, fried onions and broth in a food processor.
  3. You will end up with a pudding-like substance – this is your filling!

To assemble:

  1. Place 1 crepe on a smooth surface.
  2. Spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon of chicken filling near one edge of the crepe.
  3. Start rolling the crepe over the filling, tuck in each side to prevent the filling from falling out, and continue to roll.
  4. Continue to fill and roll the remaining crepes.
  5. Serve hot with melted butter or a dollop of sour cream


Finished product!

How To Make The Best Meatless Cabbage Rolls (Holybtsi)

21 Jan

Cabbage rolls aka Holybtsi (“Голубці”)

I don’t even have a picture of the finished product – they were gone as soon as I served them.

My mom was a cabbage rolls queen and she used to make amazing cabbage rolls for the holidays.  They always bring great memories of my childhood.  They are usually made with meat and are full of flavour.  It doesn’t get more Ukrainian than that!

If you wish to make tradition cabbage rolls with meat you will need a pound of ground pork (or beef, or turkey) and 1/2 cup of rice.  These cabbage rolls freeze well; do so before baking.  Recipe can be doubled.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head Savoy cabbage (regular green cabbage stays tough)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (arborio, short grain or sticky rice work well too; basmati rice – not so much)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 can tomato juice (low sodium)

Directions:

  • Using a sharp knife, cut around the core and remove it.  Separate the outer leaves  – Savoy cabbage works best.
  • Bring a pot of water to to a simmer over high heat.  Place 2-3 leaves at a time into the water and cook for up to 2 minutes, just until they are pliable.  Remove and set aside.

  • Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add onions and carrots and cook for 10 minutes until they are tender.  

  • Stir in tomato paste, salt and pepper.  

  • Add this mixture to rice and mix it well with dill.

  • Trim large centre vein of each leaf.  

  • Place the rice mixture in the centre of each leaf.  

  • Fold bottom of of each leaf up over the filling, then fold each side up and over.  Roll up snugly 🙂

  • Transfer rolls to pot and add tomato juice.  

  • Cover and cook over low heat for about 40 minutes.
  • Serve with sour cream.

Beet Salad Vinaigrette (“Vinegret”), Ukrainian style

18 Jan

Salad VinegretSo you read the word “Vinaigrette” and you think “Pleeeeaze, I don’t need to know about another boring oil-and-vinegar dressing”.

Well, to many Eastern-Europeans this word is associated with a beet salad.  You’d be able to find it at any Eastern European stores/delis – just look for the label “Salad Vinegret”.

There are many variation of this salad – some make it with dill pickles, some use sauerkraut instead.  I say – use both if you like!  Some recipes don’t call for beans.  To me, the real Vinegret is the one with beans! Also, back home we made it with aromatic unrefined sunflower oil.  My local Russian store was all out of sunflower oil 😦

Ingredients:

  • 3 red skinned potatoes
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 medium beets
  • 3 spring onions
  • 3 dill pickles (pickles made in a brine are the BEST; avoid the sweet variety)
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed well
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 tbsp white vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped dill (optional)

Directions:

  1. Boil vegetables and let them cool.  Peel and dice.
  2. Add diced pickles and chopped green onions
  3. Finish with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Add chopped dill if using.
  5. Let it sit for 1 hr at least.  I let it sit in the fridge overnight.

ENJOY!

Homemade Ukrainian Varenyky (aka Pierogi) – a Step by Step Recipe

16 Jan

Cabbage (Kapusta) Varenyky

Potato & Onion Pierogi

Potato & Onion Varenyky

What are varenyky? They are the Ukrainian version of filled dumplings.  People in North America are more familiar with a term “pierogi”.  Commercially made pierogi are available in the frozen section of all major supermarkets in Toronto.  I personally can’t eat the store-bought dumplings – they are too thick and heavy, and have no flavor.  You can’t even taste any filling in them.  The homemade varenyky are very delicate, with a thin dough and should have a good amount of flavourful filling.

Varenyky (or pierogi) are comfort food for many people across Eastern Europe and they are such a treat.  We made these for our Christmas Eve Meal.

Many people have their own version of the dough but the one below is our favourite.  Yields 20 to 22 pieces.

The Dough

  • 1 ½  cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup hot water

The Filling

  • Cabbage (Kapusta) Filling: finely chop a small head of cabbage, about 1/4.  Fry in oil oil with onion until very tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Potato & Onion Filling: Boil 2 large baking potatoes.  Sautee 1 finely chopped large onion in olive oil (or butter) until golden brown.  Mash the potatoes with sauteed onion adding salt to taste and lots of pepper.

The Toppings

  • Butter
  • Sour Cream
  • Fried Onions
  • Crispy bacon and sauteed onion

Directions:

Mix all 3 ingredients together, and knead just a bit.

The dough should not be very smooth, and it will be quite sticky.

Cover it with an inverted bowl and let it stand for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the working surface with some flour and roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness.

Use a drinking glass or a round cookie cutter to get the perfect round circles.

Potato and Onion Filling

Potato & Onion Filling

Cabbage Filling

Cabbage Filling

Add about a teaspoon of filling to each circle.

Seal the edges tightly together with your fingers.  At this point you can freeze them.  Or if you are ready to eat them right away place them carefully in the boiling water.  Varenyky will be ready when they float to the surface, in about 5 minutes.

Serve with a topping of your choice.

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