Discovering My Heritage Through Cooking: Part 3

Russia

 
 The National Flag of Russia

The National Flag of Russia

 

When I think of Russia, I think of freezing temperatures, nesting dolls, and beets (this probably goes to show that I really don’t know much about Russia as a country or their culture). I do know that the part of me that is Russian is from my dad’s side of the family, but that’s pretty much it.

A few years ago, I spent a month of my summer working for a company that gave tours of NYC to ESL (English as a Second Language) students from around the world. I was their teacher in the morning, their tour guide in the afternoon, their chaperone in the evenings, and their RA at night in the dorms of a college that the company rented. Let’s just say this was a physically exhausting and challenging job. However, with this job, I also had the pleasure of learning about a ton of different cultures, one of them being Russian.

The students that were studying abroad definitely had the money to spend. The girls dressed like they were models ready to walk the runway at all times, and were very into shopping. They were your typical 17 year-olds- rowdy, causing trouble left and right, class clowns, etc. The Russian students were there the entire time I was there, but unfortunately, they didn’t tell me much about where they were from.

I learned more about Russia and Russian food habits while searching for recipes. I didn’t want to make Borscht, which is one of the first recipes I thought of while brainstorming. As much as I might find a beet soup very appealing, I’m not sure most Americans would. I knew I wanted to use beets somehow, though. I ended up finding a recipe for a Russian Beet Salad that looked so pretty that I had to make it.

I also found a recipe for Kotlety, which I think many people would be more than willing to try. Kotlety are Russian meat patties, or basically burgers without a bun; apparently, Russians would typically eat a burger without the bun. They would eat all the toppings separately and eat the patty with a fork. This sounds strange for an American to hear considering burgers are one of the most popular foods worldwide, but hey, maybe they’re on to something!

The Russian Beet Salad immediately caught my attention because of its bright, vivid colors. After reading through the recipe, I was even more interested because of how easy it sounded to make. If you have a food processor with an attachment for grating, it takes no time at all! I decided to swap out a potato and use frozen shredded hash browns to speed up the process even more. I also had a bag of matchstick carrots so I didn’t even have to grate my carrots. You can check out the original recipe here or see my slightly modified version below:

Russian Beet Salad (serves 6-8)

1/3 medium red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 medium beet, grated (about 1 cup)
3 medium carrots, grated (about 1 cup) (You can use matchstick carrots here!)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 1/4 cup frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
1 small onion, finely diced
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 to 3/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
Cooking Spray
Salt and Pepper to taste

 Russian Beet Salad ingredients

Russian Beet Salad ingredients

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Spread the hash browns onto a greased baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.
3) Bake until golden brown and crunchy looking (about 20 minutes), then set aside to cool when done.
4) While the hash browns bake, mince the garlic and mix with the mayonnaise and season with salt and pepper. Save for later.
5) Grate the carrots and beet.
6) Thinly slice the cabbage and dice the onion.
7) Put all of the ingredients into a bowl for serving, keeping them separate until ready to serve (add potatoes last so they stay crunchy!).
8) Mix the mayonnaise in with the other ingredients just before serving. At this point, feel free to add extra mayonnaise or salt and pepper.

This salad was perfect for this beautiful spring weather. It was light and colorful, not to mention flavorful. This recipe also made a huge amount! I had a lot of shredded beets left over so I actually added more into the mixture after I took my first serving.

The great thing about this recipe was that I could play around with the amounts of everything based on my preferences. The original recipe actually called for one clove of garlic, but I am a garlic addict so I added an extra clove which also gave the salad a little bit of a kick. This is the kind of recipe I can see myself making on a Sunday for meal prep and have throughout the week for lunch or as a side with dinner. This salad would definitely be easy to bring to a potluck and I’m sure would be a hit as well!

 
 

I paired the Russian Beet Salad with Kotlety. As I mentioned earlier, Kotlety are traditional meat patties made in Russia. Usually, they are made with chicken, but the recipe I found used a mixture of pork and beef. After reading a couple different recipes and seeing variations, I decided to take this recipe and add a couple things that seemed popular. I also cut the recipe in half since I’m only cooking for one and switched back to ground chicken. The results were fantastic!

Russian Kotlety (serves 4)

1 lb ground chicken
1 slice of whole wheat sandwich bread
1/8 cup cashew milk (or milk of choice, or water)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
3/4 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 large yellow or white onion (or 1/2 small one), grated
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
1 tbsp 0% Greek yogurt
1 tsp onion powder
1 egg

1) Soak the bread in the milk/water. After a minute or so, break it down with your hands.
2) Mix everything except the egg in with the bread.
3) Once all of the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, add the egg. You may need to add a bit more breadcrumbs if the mixture becomes too wet.
4) Form the meat into four to eight patties, or you can shape them into meatballs if you prefer. Cook them in a pan on the stove, or on a George Forman Grill.

I found the George Forman Grill to be the easiest option to make sure both sides cook evenly. I formed the meat into small balls and just dropped them onto the grill and closed the lid and cooked them for 4-5 minutes. They came out just fine!

 
  Don't have a Foreman Grill? Click here to buy one!

Don't have a Foreman Grill? Click here to buy one!

 No food processor? No problem! Get one here!

No food processor? No problem! Get one here!

 

The Kotlety were very juicy and light.  I have always loved chicken burgers but had never actually made my own. These chicken patties were perfect with the beet salad. When I took my first bite, I was instantly feeling a sense of comfort. The only thing that I think I would change for this next time would be to add some herbs to the meat (I think parsley might go really well with the other ingredients).

 
 Beet Salad and Kotlety

Beet Salad and Kotlety

 

When the weather is nice, I always want something really fresh and light-tasting. This full meal was perfect for just that! I’m really happy that I found two recipes from my Russian background to add to my list of “go-to” recipes for dinner. Both recipes were extremely easy to make (especially when taking all of the shortcuts). I wouldn’t be surprised if both of these ended up on your go-to recipe list too!

What are some of your favorite Russian recipes?
Share your comments at the bottom of the page.
 

© Copyright Whatismyhealth, April 16th, 2017