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Notes On Nostalgia, Love And Russian Food [Recipes Included]

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russian food
russian food
Making Russian meat pies. Photo courtesy of ffolas via Shutterstock

After my mother passed away when I was 15, my grandparents took over guardianship. The one thing I remember most about grandma Katrina was she could always be found in the kitchen making her famous Russian Piroshki, meat and cabbage-stuffed pies, and Vinegret, a cold beet salad.

These were the recipes of her childhood, and she and my grandfather immigrants to the United States from Russia after World War II. First it was Syracuse, New York, then they moved to Chicago, Illinois, until finally they settled in a small Midwestern town called Hartland, Wisconsin.

It didn’t matter where they lived physically, as Russian culture never left their hearts. We spoke Russian in the kitchen – I’m fluent in the language despite growing up in America – and I can still hear the distinct sound of grandma Katrina shouting at grandpa Boris никакая еда до обеда не сделанный все же! (“No eating until dinner! It’s not done yet!”).

Russian food
Grandma Katrina & Grandpa Boris

Her babushka handkerchief would be wrapped around her head, while her small frame bobbed in fury. She may have had attitude, but she also had a huge heart.

Grandma showed me many times how to roll the dough for the Piroshki exactly, pinching it together ever so perfectly. This paired with the vinegret – you can’t have one without the other — were our traditional Sunday meal. No dish could compare.

My grandparents have since passed, and I will always cherish these memories. Today, I pay homage to these wonderful people through these recipes – and grandpa Boris’ summer garlic pickles! — which I’m today sharing with all of you.

russian food
Photo courtesy of Bratwustle via Shutterstock

Grandma Katrina’s Russian Piroshki

Here is a low fat version I made of my grandma Katrina’s piroshki. Traditionally they are meat and cabbage filled; however, I made the cabbage version as it’s much healthier. Enjoy!

Ingredients
1 medium head cabbage grated (I grate this on a cheese grater)
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. salt and pepper to taste
Flaky Butter Pastry (recipe follows)
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
Smart Balance buttery sticks
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tbs low fat milk
1 tbs lemon juice

Directions
Measure 3 cups all-purpose flour into bowl. Cut in 1 cup Smart Balance buttery sticks, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix 1 egg with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 4 tablespoons ice water. Sprinkle over flour mixture. Toss with fork until dough gathers into a ball. If necessary, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Chill, if desired, to make handling easier.
Add the extra virgin olive oil about 1 tbs, half cup water, toss in cabbage and cook until tender and golden brown.
Add the onion, cook until tender then add the thyme and salt and pepper to taste. place cabbage mixture aside.
Prepare the pastry. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out 4 inch rounds. Fill each with a rounded tablespoonful of cabbage filling. Fold pastry over filling.
Place on ungreased baking sheet, pressing edges together with fork. Brush with mixture of egg and milk.
Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until pies are evenly golden. Serve hot, cooled to room temperature, or chill and reheat for serving later.
Makes 2 dozen piroshki, goes great with the creamy beet salad vinegret enjoy!

russian food
Photo courtesy of Timolina via Shutterstock

Russian “Vinegret” Beet Salad

Ingredients
1 lb cooked beets, peeled and diced
1/4 cup sour cream fat free
4 tbs mayonnaise fat free
juice of half a lemon
2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 handful chopped fresh dill or parsley for garnish
1-2 scallions
1-2 dill pickles
1 hard boiled egg
1 small cucumber peeled and cubed
extra virgin olive oil

Directions
Bring some water to a boil,(boil beets like you would potatoes) put beets in the pan and simmer until the beets are tender easily pierced with a knife–45 minutes to an hour. Let it cool.
Cube the beets into a salad bowl. Add the following, cubed, 1 small, peeled cucumber;(I substituted the cucumber for potatoes in the original recipe for a lower fat version) 1-2 scallions; 1 hardboiled egg; 1-2 good dill pickles; and a handful of fresh dill
For the dressing, I used a combo of a little extra virgin olive oil, juice of half a lemon, fat free sour cream, fat free mayo, salt and pepper.and a pinch of sugar. ( about 3-4 tablespoons, I usually eyeball it.)
Mix all ingredients together, chill for at least 20 minutes before serving and enjoy!

russian food

About The Author

Kira Vosk is the creator of the food and lifestyle blog European Cutie. Check out her site for more great recipes.

Jessie Festa

Jessica Festa is the editor of Epicure & Culture as well as Jessie on a Journey. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and volunteering in Ghana.

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