Wednesday, February 13, 2013
So, I Married a Russian... Vol. 3 | Russian Food
Being that we were snowed in for the weekend, we did a lot of eating. I was able to snap some pictures of the more traditional Russian foods on the table. Since food is such a big part of every culture, be prepared for many more posts about Russian food to come (it would be wayyy too much to try and put everything into one post!).
Sunflower oil is the most popular oil in Russia. The oil smells exactly like sunflower seeds and has a pretty distinct and potent flavor. This oil is used in, among other things, salads in place of olive oil. Depending on the type of salad, often sour cream or mayonnaise can also be used used as a dressing. There really weren't special salad dressings in Russia when Taras was growing up, so oil/mayo/sour cream were the basic options. And, while we're on the topic of salad dressings, I should go ahead and break your heart by telling you that the Russian dressing we eat in the US is not a real thing in Russia. In the background of the above picture you can see a couple beets, which are used a lot in Russian meals.
A lottt of fish is eaten in Russia. Cured, smoked, marinated... you name it! These little guys above are smoked herring in oil and are usually eaten on french-baguette-like bread (yes, you eat the whole fish, minus the head, which does not get canned). They have a super concentrated fish flavor and I could only get down a tiny bite because of how strong the fish flavor was (but they didn't taste bad, just strong). Taras says the flavor is not as strong as anchovies, and the taste is more smokey than salty.
The photo above shows a Russian Vinaigrette salad. There are different recipes (much like people make tuna salad in different ways) but the salad always includes beets, potatoes, carrots (boil these until soft, then let them cool before chopping and adding them to this cold salad), sauerkraut, and pickles. Some add peas and onions. Chop all the ingredients and mix with sunflower oil. This recipe looks very similar to my mother in law's. I always enjoy this salad and I usually add some salt and pepper to my serving.
"Black" bread is also very popular, and is basically any type of super dark bread, sometimes with a lot of grains and seeds, but sometimes plain. Every now and then Taras or his parents will come across a bakery loaf that reminds them a lot of the Russian black bread, in both taste and appearance.
The fish above are another type of herring in oil, this time salted instead of smoked. As you can see they are fillets and are commonly served with white onion. Generally, these are eaten plain, without bread. Usually, I eat one chunk of this fish whenever they serve it. It has a milder fish flavor than the other herring, but the fattiness of the fish keeps me from wanting to eat a lot of it. (Taras has this to add: If you're feeling more adventurous, you can get these salted herrings whole at your favorite local Russian store. You have to dismantle it yourself at home, making the whole kitchen smell like a fish market, but the end result tastes better (perhaps more authentic) than the pre-packaged stuff.)
You might have noticed the Russian labeling on some of the packages. There are some Russian stores around Boston and other parts of Massachusetts. Maybe I'll take some pictures of the store next time we go... expect a lot of pictures of herring and picked EVERYTHING!
A huge thank you to Taras's family - they are all very helpful with this series and are very patient when I'm taking pictures of their food before they can eat it! We did a lot of talking about Russian food over the weekend and I'm excited to share more in the coming weeks.
Check out other posts from this series here.