It’s been a really long time. Lots of cooking, lots of thinking. Here we are, on the eve of the new calendar year, and my family dilemmas are looking at me again.
As an orthodox Jewish woman, I know all about it – the Romans, the pagans all over, the Silvester, the strive of Xtianity to absorb pagan rituals into the new religion as a means to attract more followers, the Crusades, the Middle Ages’ blood libels, etc, etc..
As a former Soviet girl, who waited for the New Year the same way she waited for her birthday – the only two “non-governmental” holidays in one’s life, I am still a bit excited – what if some unexpected miracle happens?
As a daughter of the most wonderful parents in the world, I figure that I can’t push anymore. Enough that I became observant, enough that they got new glass dishes for me, and made many small sacrifices that I should feel comfortable at the table.
So, here I am. Preparing my Russian Jewish gourmet input for the holiday table. Most of the work goes to my 83-year old mom, who doesn’t even let us help most of the time. Every child, grandchild, great-grandchild, and lots of others love to come to my mother’s table. Not only for food but for food for thought. May we all merit to sit at that table for years to come.
Meanwhile, I made Bialys for the first time in my life. Not my original recipe, but of course, I had to add something of my own. We never had Bialys in my family, I tried them only here, in New York. Mine are not so round but turned out really nice – soft and flavorful. And, if you use a trick – buy the pizza dough – it’s a breeze to make them.
My dough came from the kosher Breadsmith bakery just a block away from my house, how convenient. They are a bit pricey, but the bread is really delicious. Pizza dough is the only type they have on sale.
I bought one bag (about a pound) and used 2 small onions and about a tablespoon of poppy seeds for the filling.
Cut the dough into equal pieces. Depending on how big you want your bialys, you will get 6-8 dough slobs.
Shape them into little balls, and make an indentation in each. Let the dough rest, and meanwhile preheat your oven to 475 F. Cut the onions, and sautee them in the oil for about 10 minutes. Add poppy seeds to onions, and cool them for another 5 minutes.
Put the filling into the dough balls, and bake for about 15 minutes.
My next dish is Vinegret ( винегрет). If you ask any Russian-born person what is the quintessential New Year’s dish, you will get the answer – olivier . Long stories can be told about this tradition. maybe I’ll tell some one day. The salad requires chicken meat as an ingredient, and since both my daughters are vegetarian, and I myself, always prefer milk to meat, I decided to settle for the next best thing – Vinegret. One can see from the recipe that during winter root vegetables and different pickles were the most available food. Naturally, I had to add my own twist. Please remember that proportions are totally not important. If you want more beets that potatoes, or more pickles than onions – go for it.
Boil 3-4 potatoes and the same number of carrots in their skins. Boil (or roast, even better) 1-2 big or 3-4 small beets. Dice everything once cold and peeled. Add finely chopped onion, diced pickles, canned green peas, chopped sour cabbage, if available. I added chopped green olives, which was totally out of range in my native Urals. Mix everything thoroughly after adding salt, pepper and oil to taste.
Finally, Lobio. Not sure if real Georgians will approve, but that is how we always made it:
Soak red kidney beans for a few hours. Boil them until just al dente. Meanwhile, sautee lots of onion. Add cooked beans to the onion, and keep on the medium to low heat a bit more.
Wash and clean a small bunch of parsley and lots of cilantro. Peel at least a few cloves of garlic. Add finely chopped cilantro and garlic to the bean mix. Add salt, pepper, khmeli-suneli, if available. I didn’t have it this time, so I added turmeric, which I add everywhere, a bit of basil, celery seed, and Tkemali sauce. You can really experiment with spices deciding on your favorite combination. At length, add quite a bit of chopped walnuts – a staple of Georgian cuisine.
There, you have it! Lobio my way.
So, see you next year – 2016!