Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Summer Borscht and Russian Dumplings

My garden has given forth an abundance of beets. Naturally, I resorted to making borscht. "I guess my taste buds have matured," a friend of ours noted at dinner saying that after years he finally came to the decision after years of adulthood, that he actually liked the stuff. Cold borscht has always been a summer-time favorite of mine. People who love beets usually do so for the same reason that people detest them, the earthiness. I had a friend who once claimed that he'd rather eat a bowl full of dirt than eat a teaspoon of beets. Too each their own.

I found a recipe from epicurious.com which was fairly simple and with some adjustments actually tasted quite good. In accompaniment we made vareniki (also known as pirogies) which are more of a version of Eastern European ravioli. It's not as much work to make these dumplings if you roll the dough with a hand crank pastamaker. P.S. these dumplings also taste wonderful deep fried right after boiling.

Borscht from epicurious
(I used 1 lb of stew meat, lightly browned before boiling and 12 c. of organic beef broth instead of 10 c. I also suggest that you add 1/4 c. cooking sherry, 1/2 c chopped parsley and 2 tsp balsalmic vinegar. Also serve with light sour cream instead of yogurt and garnish with chopped parsley as well as fresh dill). I found that this recipe tastes just as wonderful warm. Serve with warm potato rolls.

Vareniki with Mushrooms

Dough
2 c. flour sifted
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c. water plus more if needed
Additional flour

Filling
2 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
1 lb cremini mushrooms chopped fine
1 large sweet onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 c. dry sherry
1/4 c. onion broth (chicken works as well)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Sift the flour and the salt into a large bowl. make a well at the center and crack the eggs into this well. Pour water into well. Combine egg and water carefully. Then gradually fold and stir in flour until a sticky dough forms. You may need to add a few drops more water. Knead until you have a ball of dough. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Cook the filling. Over medium high heat saute the onions in the oil until translucent. Add herbs and mushrooms and saute for a few minutes. Add the liquid ingredients, salt and pepper and saute until liquid is reduced and mushrooms are cooked through. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Set mixture aside and allow to cool.

Divide the dough into 1/4 portions. Remember you will also knead the scraps from the cuttings and roll through the pasta maker again. If you dont' have a pastamaker as noted, then you've got a lot of rolling to do. The idea is to get the dough to a noodle-like thinness. You don't want it to be paper thin or it will tear. With my pasta machine I crank a rolled piece of dough at least 7 times through, increasing the setting number and therby increasing the thinness with each turn.
From a thin piece of dough cut out as many 4 inch circles as you can. Place about a tablespoon or slightly more of the mushroom filling on one half of the circle. Brush the edges lightly with eggwhite. Fold the circle over and press with a fork. Our biscuit cutter actually doubles as a press with a serated edge, so we usually seal the dumplings with this device. Repeat this process until you have roughly 35-40 large dumplings. Bring salted water (with 1 tbsp cooking oil) to boil in a large pot. Cook the dumplings, a dozen at a time, in boiling water for about 12 minutes. Drain and serve with chopped carmelized onions cooked in butter (see below) and chopped fresh parsley.

Carmelized onions
1 lb finely chopped walla walla onions
1/4 c. butter
Cook onions in butter over medium to medium high heat until onions are browned and carmelized (about 30 minutes).

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