Savoring the Seasons: A look into Russian cuisine

  • Darra Goldstein, cookbook author and professor emerita from Williams College, will give a talk on Russian cuisine at Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield on Oct. 24. Ahead of her talk, check out her recipe for sweet and sour beets in today’s column. METRO CREATIVE COMMONS

  • McCLINTOCK

For The Recorder
Published: 10/17/2017 9:39:19 AM

Until recently if asked what “Russian food” is, I’m not sure I could say much except “there must be a lot of dishes that feature beets and potatoes.” So, I was quite intrigued when Matt Atwood from the Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield emailed me about a program the library is sponsoring on Oct. 24. At 6:30 that evening, Darra Goldstein, professor emerita from Williams College and award-winning cookbook author, will give a talk on Russian cuisine.

Atwood said, “This talk explores Russian national identity and cuisine from the 18th century into the present. Ever since Peter the Great opened his country to the West, the Russians have struggled with ambivalence toward outside influences, alternately embracing and rejecting Western foods. Today, following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the economic sanctions imposed by Europe, Australia and the U.S. have led Russia to ban imports of meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and dairy products. Yet, surprisingly, the resulting shortages have led to an exciting revival of artisanal production that is transforming Russia’s gastronomic landscape.”

Fascinating! There are so many reasons to focus on locally grown food, I hadn’t considered this one.

I asked Goldstein if she could suggest a recipe for my column that features locally grown food. She said, “Here is one of my favorite beet recipes from the book. I like it because it uses both beets and carrots, which are so sweet this time of year, and the color is a brilliant garnet so it’s really eye-catching. It captures the sweet-sour flavor the Russians love.”

It is a perfect dish for this season that bridges summer and fall. Fresh tomatoes are almost done for the year and there are lots of beets and carrots available.

What Russian foods do you enjoy? I hope you’ll share your favorite recipes with me. And, I hope you’ll be able to attend Goldstein’s talk.

This week we’re eating ...

Sweet and sour beets: By Darra Goldstein, from her cookbook “A Taste of Russia” (http://amzn.to/2z0m0AR)

Even inveterate beet haters will eat this salad with surprise and pleasure. The deep red of the beets merges with the orange of the carrots to yield a beautiful ruby color. The salad tastes slightly more sweet than sour. If any is left over, it will keep well in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh beets

1 pound carrots

1 large onion

6 T. olive oil

2 C. basic tomato sauce (recipe follows)

1 T. red wine vinegar

2 tsp. sugar

Instructions:

Peel beets and carrots. Grate them together with onion. (This is most easily done with the shredding disk of a food processor.)

In large frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add shredded vegetables, mixing well. Saute the vegetables over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until just barely tender.

Stir in the tomato sauce, vinegar and sugar. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all the moisture evaporates, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a dish and chill before serving.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Basic tomato sauce: Also by Darra Goldstein.

Ingredients:

2 T. olive oil

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1½ pounds ripe tomatoes, quartered

1 small green pepper

1 tsp. salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

½ tsp. dried basil

A few drops of hot pepper sauce

1 T. butter

1 T. flour

1 T. tomato paste

½ tsp. sugar

Instructions:

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until soft but not brown. Stir in tomatoes, green pepper, salt, black pepper, basil and hot pepper sauce. Cover pan and simmer for 30 minutes. Then, put the mixture through a vegetable mill.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour, then cook for a few minutes. Stir in the pureed tomato mixture, then add the tomato paste and sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Local food advocate and community organizer Mary McClintock lives in Conway and works as a freelance writer, editor, and book indexer. Send column suggestions and recipes to: mmcclinto@yahoo.com.


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