Buckwheat Blini

Buckwheat Blini are considered the more traditional, but less common version of this dish. They are generally served smaller and flat, not rolled. They are more of a canapé for the toppings. I prefer to go savory on the toppings for the Buckwheat version, like smoked salmon, scallions, chopped hard boiled eggs or eggplant caviar on sour cream.

This recipe is from Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman Buckwheat BliniIMG_1195 IMG_1172 IMG_1174

1 3/4 cups milk

2 tsps sugar

1 pkg. active dry yeast

3/4 cup buckwheat flour

3/4 unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

2 Tbsp oil, plus additional for frying

3 large egg yolks

2 large egg whites

1 small potato, halved.

In a small saucepan, scald the milk over low heat. Transfer to a large bowl and cool to lukewarm (105º to 115º)

Add 1 teaspoon of the sugar and the yeast to the milk, stir, and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in the buckwheat and all-purpose flours, salt, sugar, butter and 2 tablespoons oil, and the egg yolks until smooth.

Let rise in a warm place, covered, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they foam stiff peaks and fold into the batter.

Dip the potato half into oil and rub over the bottom of a large non-stick skillet. Heat the pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Drop the batter by the tablespoonful into the skillet, spacing 1 inch apart. Cook until the undersides are golden, about 1 minute. Turn and cook for 30 more seconds. Transfer to a heatproof plate.

Repeat with the remaining batter, greasing the skillet with the oiled potato before each batch. Keep the cooked blini covered with aluminum foil in a 275º oven.



Eggplant Caviar

I can pretend that I am suggesting version because technically meat and fish are already banned by the Russian Orthodox church by the week before the Greant Lent begins, so it is more “kosher” to use a vegetarian alternative to real caviar, but the truth is I’m too cheap. But this is actually a really tasty Russian salsa that I am pleased to have discovered.

The recipe comes from: A Year of Russian Feasts by Catherine Cheremeteff Jones

Eggplant Caviar

1/3 cup olive oil

1 small sweet onion (such as Vidalia) finely chopped

1 large (1.5 lb) purple eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice or smaller

1 small garlic clove, minced

One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or dill or combination

Heat the olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until light golden, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant and garlic (do not stir), cover, and cook for 3 minutes to allow the eggplant to release some of its juices so it will not absorb too much oil.

Stir the eggplant and onion until well combined, then reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and salt and continue to simmer, stirring about every 5 minutes, until the eggplant is soft and the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes.

If serving hot, transfer the eggplant caviar to a serving dish, garnish with the cilantro, and serve immediately. The dish can also be served at room temperature. (Cover and refrigerate any leftovers)


Zakuski is the pre-dinner spread that welcomes guests in a Russian home. Zakuski is derived from the word morsel, and it is an assortment of morsels to accompany vodka that you will of course be drinking at any Russian gathering.

The spread can include a great variety of dishes, hot and cold, homemade and store bought, spicy, salty, rustic and gourmet… as long as it is plentiful and complimentary to vodka it is welcome. The tradition probably evolved among the 18th Century aristocracy in the countryside as a way of welcoming guests who had traveled a long way in the cold, and whose arrival times may have been uncertain.

Our spread included Salami, Green and Black Olives, Hard Boiled Eggs, Sardines, Smoked Oysters, Anchovies, Pickles, Cheese & Crackers. Bread and Salt are the symbols of Russian Hospitality, so should be served in plenty.

Other authentic options could be Caviar (of course!), Russian Black bread with herbed butter, anything pickled (apples, beets, mushrooms etc.), smoked salmon, cocktail meatballs, small boiled potatoes with with dill… the list can go on and on.

Zakuski is usually accompanied by the drinking of several vodka toasts, which are usually followed by a bite of a sharp dill pickle. This is much like the lime to chase a tequila shot, the pickle absorbs the burn of the shot with it’s briny goodness. Toasting is an art form in Russia. At some gatherings the host will make a one or two toasts, at others, every guest will take a turn. I attended a Russian dinner with my parents when I was 16 when everyone at the head table took their turn. The memory of watching a roomful of adults throw back 10 shots of vodka over the evening left a lasting impression.

Na Zdorovye!



Chopped Herring Buterbrodi

Russian cuisine is largely known for stealing from the French tradition and “Russifying” those recipes, but there is even more cross-over with their Nordic neigbors, just like our Scandinavian friends, the Russian’s love herring and open faced sandwiches.

Bread and Salt are the symbols of Russian hospitality and friendship. It is traditional to greet special guests with a loaf of fresh bread with a container of salt on top of it. The guest breaks off a small piece of bread, dips it in the salt and eats it. This combination of salty fish on bread is a tasty way to great your guests and make them feel welcome.

from Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen and John C Welchman

2 salt (schmaltz) herring fillets
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 slices white bread, crusts removed
1 small green apple, peeled, cored and quartered
1 small onion, quartered
1 hard cooked egg, quartered
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste


-Soak the herring in milk, covered in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours
-Pour the water and vinegar over the bread and let it stand for 10 minutes. Squeeze the bread to remove the excess liquid.
-Rinse the herring, pat dry with paper towels, and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place the herring, bread, apple, onion, and egg in a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth but not over pureed.
-Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the sour cream, lemon juice and sugar, if desired. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

Serve on cocktail squares of buttered rye bread, topped with a slice of apple to balance the salty flavor of the fish.


Pickled Apples

The short Summer growing season and loooonnnggg winter meant preserving foods was truly a matter of life or death in pre-Industrial Russia. It is a tradition that is still largely upheld today, even among urban Russians. A dacha or country house is a surprisingly common amenity for even middle class Russians. According to “Housing Studies: The Russain Dacha phenomenon” by Raymond J. Struyk and Karen Angelici About one in four big city families have dachas. While the “second homes” first came about as gifts to loyal vassals to Peter the Great, the Soviet Era saw a moderate boom in dacha-living, as many of the properties were nationalized and made into vacation homes for the working class. Spring and Summer are called “Dacha Season” and stores advertise sales for gardening equipment and other outdoor amenities. While they have become leisure retreats for many of the more affluent Russians, the memory of the Soviet Era food shortages coupled with a long standing cultural tradition of growing and preserving their own food means many people still invest in rigorous gardening at their dachas.

So when your dacha apple trees need harvesting or you have just finished plundering your neighbor’s apple tree, you will want to preserve some of the bounty for the barren months ahead.

This recipe is more of the immediate gratification solution. You can bring in the apple harvest from your dacha plot and have pickled apples in the same day!

I found this receipt at Portland Monthly Magazine courtesy of Gregory Goudet of Saucebox


4 red apples
4 shallots, peeled, sliced thin
2 tbsp spice mix*
2 cups rice wine vinegar
2 cups sugar

(1) Wash and medium-dice apples.
(2) Place shallots in a container and cover with apples.
(3) Add spice mix to vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil.
(4) Pour mixture over apples and shallots.
(5) Cover with plastic wrap to keep everything submerged under liquid.
(6) Let cool at room temperature.

* Spice Mix


8 cinnamon sticks
8 pieces star anise
12 cloves
1 tbsp cardamom
1 tbsp 
fennel seed
1 tbsp allspice

(1) Place all spices in a sauté pan and toast in a 375-degree oven until fragrant (about 10–15 minutes).
(2) Once cool enough to handle, grind in a spice grinder until fine.

Venison Stuffed Mushroom Caps

This recipe came from greatvenisoncooking.com

One of the few things that is actually known about the 1621 feast is that the Wampanoag brought five deer to share with the Pilgrims. Talk about good guests at a potluck. No Two Buck Chuck and store bought dinner rolls for these guys. Whether they knew it or not, this was a really smart diplomatic offering on the part of the Indians. In England, venison was only available to be hunted on the land of the gentry. It is was actually illegal to buy or sell it. Only the very rich had access to it, and it was a definite mark of class.

Mushrooms also grew wild around Plymouth Colony, and the Wampanoag showed the Pilgrims which ones were edible and which ones would kill you. Considering that only 53 of the original 102 emigrants were still living by the first Thanksgiving, any advice that aided in staying alive was pretty valuable.

Stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer weren’t really something you would have seen until the 20th Century, but they would have made wide use of both the main ingredients.

1/2 pound ground venison

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

salt & pepper (be generous with both of these)

2 packages white mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 375 Degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the venison, oil and spices in a bowl. Set aside. Wash the mushrooms, and pat dry with a towel. Remove the mushroom stems, place mushroom caps in a baking dish and spoon the meat mixture into the caps. Put enough meat in each cap so that the meat peeks over the top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the meat is cooked through. Serve immediately.

Wampanoag Sobaheg

Sobaheg is the Wampanoag word for Stew. This is another dish that was very likely actually served at the first Thanksgiving. The recipe here is loosely adapted from Plymouth Farmer’s MarketNative American Cookbook and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie. This is one of those fabulous recipes that can vary tremendously in ingredients and quantity depending on what you have on hand. We made a vegetarian version in deference to the non-meat eating guests at our Thanksgiving and served it as appetizer in small bowls (this is a filling dish so serve sparingly), but this recipe is also a great way to use leftover turkey if you are going fully authentic with a three day eating extravaganza. It’s also another place to through in some of the venison from the five deer your guests are going to bring.

1 cup of grits

2 cups of soaked beans, 1 or 2 cans of beans, or a pound turkey meat (legs or breast, with bone and skin)
 or a pound of venison


1 cup trimmed green beans or 1 cup peeled and cubed Jerusalem artichokes (optional)

1 medium pumpkin or about 1 pound of squash cleaned and cubed

½ cup raw sunflower seeds (or walnuts or chesnuts), crushed into powder

½ cup maple syrup or honey (optional)

1½ tablespoons of salt

Add all of these ingredients to a crockpot, then fill the pot with water until about an inch from the top. Turn the crock pot on low and leave it alone for about 8 hours. (Like if you are making with turkey leftovers, through it all together before you go to bead and wake up to the aroma of Turkey Stew for Breakfast! Hangover Cured!)