Kherson-style Borsch

Kherson-style Borsch

This week, we're continuing to munch our way through intriguing recipes in The Best of Ukrainian Cuisine. It's been hot lately, though not as hot as usual (thankfully), with temperatures here around 97F/36C. There's still August to not look forward to when afternoon temperatures rise to 102F/39C and above.

I expect we'll be trying out more cool soups, such as chilled avocado and cucumber soups that I've been thinking about making. For now, we'll start with a cool, refreshing borsch that's super-easy to throw together and tasty too.

I really enjoyed this chunky borsch but kept thinking it would be even better if it were pureed into a creamy, thick soup instead. Since there were plenty of leftovers, I gave it a whirl the next day for lunch. The verdict? Even better! I think I prefer it this way, with a dollop of sour cream on top.

Kherson-style Borsch [printable recipe]

Adapted from The Best of Ukrainian Cuisine

  • 2 cans diced beets, drained
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 3 - 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 lemon, pulped and juiced
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 cups kefir or buttermilk
  • 3+ cups filtered water
  • salt, pepper

Chunky-style: Combine all ingredients except buttermilk or kefir in a large bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Add buttermilk or kefir just before serving, stirring well to incorporate. Adjust the seasonings and amount of water to taste.

Creamy-style: (Any kind of cooked beets works here, whole or chopped.) Prepare as above but only use 2 cups of water. Puree in food processor or blender (or use an immersion blender). When ready to serve, stir in kefir or buttermilk. If the soup is too thick, thin it out with water.

Garlic Naan: Broiled and Fried

Stone-baked Garlic Naan

I remember my first experience at an Indian restaurant. A friend of mine had recommended an Indian place a few miles away from where I lived in Mill Creek, so my ex and I traipsed down to have a bite.

Two things really stick out in my mind: the heavenly garlic naan I couldn't stop eating and a beautiful roasted tomato chutney that completely changed the way I thought of tomatos.

The other day, Closet Cooking posted an easy recipe for pan-fried naan that looked delicious. It does require some ghee, which is a story in and of itself, but otherwise, the recipe is pretty simple. While trolling around looking at other naan recipes, I found that the most common method seems to be broiling, preferably on a hot pizza stone. Since we have both a great cast iron pan and a pizza stone, I figured I'd try making them two separate ways to see which came out better.

The most important difference, I'd say, between stone baked and pan-fried is not to brush the naan with ghee prior to cooking, since any fats will leach into the stone and cause problems later and instead, brush it with ghee after it comes out of the oven.

Naan Comparison Fried on the left, broiled on the right.

In the end, they both came out lovely but the stone-baked naan won my heart. It was lighter, fluffier and moister -- my cast iron seemed to suck out the moisture from the dough, leaving flatter, stiffer naan. I think I rolled mine out too thin too, which didn't help. Both tasted good but I'll stick to broiling in the future.

There were a lot of recipes I saw that I wanted to try. Some called for caraway seeds, roasted garlic, sauteed onions, sesame seeds, salt and more to top the raw dough before it went into the oven. Naan is definitely a tasty canvas to explore.

Pan-fried Naan

Recipe revised February 2010.

Garlic Naan [printable recipe]

Adapted from Closet Cooking
Makes 8 - 16 naan, depending how you slice it

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (105F-110F)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tbsp ghee or melted unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 head (about 7 - 8 medium cloves) roasted garlic, minced OR
  • 1 tsp minced dried garlic + 1 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • additional ghee, for brushing
  • additional salt, for sprinkling

Stir together yeast and water, let sit for 10 minutes. Mix in salt and flour, then add ghee and yogurt. Add additional flour or another tablespoon of ghee as necessary to bring the dough together. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 4 minutes in my stand mixer). Place in an oiled, covered bowl and let rise for about 90 minutes in a warm place or until doubled. Punch down the dough and knead for 10 minutes on a floured, clean surface. Divide the dough out into 8 or more balls, then roll out1 into elongated ovals.

To pan-fry: Brush one side of a rolled out naan piece with ghee and sprinkle with a little salt. In a hot skillet or griddle, lay it ghee-side down. Brush the other side with ghee. Flip after about 2 - 3 minutes. It should be turning nicely brown, with darker spots (similar to tortillas). Remove.

To stone-broil: Turn the oven to broil and preheat with the stone in the lower third of the oven (about 20 minutes, you want that stone hot). Flip a naan or two onto the stone. Wait 90 seconds and check. It should have brown spots, if not, wait another 30 seconds. (Once you do one or two, you'll know how hot your oven is and how long to wait, but it won't be more than 2 or 3 minutes per naan.) Grab the naan with tongs and remove, flipping another onto the stone to cook. Brush cooked naan with ghee and sprinkle a little kosher salt over it.


  1. I rolled mine out to 1/4" thickness which was great for the broiled and not so good for the fried. If I did it over, I'd let the fried ones be a bit under 1/2" and I bet they'd come out much better.

Rupjmaizes kārtojums (Sweetened Rye Trifle)

Rupjmaizes kārtojums (Sweetened Rye Trifle)

Every week, I post one recipe from Latviešu ēdieni.

When I returned to the States from my first two month stay in Liepāja, I brought back not only a taste for Latvian food but also an English-language cookbook by Ņina Masiļūne called Latvian National Cuisine, which has many of the same dishes that Latviešu ēdieni contains, only translated. I had found a couple of Russian import groceries and managed to get some traditional dark rye. I quickly found out that even with freezing portions, a loaf takes a long time to get through if you're only one person.

So I flipped through this book and decided on an interesting dessert named "Traditional Latvian ambrosia". It sounded interesting and I had all the ingredients on hand to boot. It was surprisingly good. I didn't think that grated rye bread would make such a nifty dessert! It does, however, and on my next visit, I was lucky enough to have another traditional bread-based dessert called maizes zupa or bread soup. That's a tale for another day though, as I plan to make maizes zupa at one of our holiday meals.

Rupjmaizes kārtojums (Sweetened Rye Trifle) [printable recipe]

Serves 4

  • 150 g (5.25 oz) dry/toasted dark rye bread1
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) preserves or jam, your favorite
  • 40 g (1.4 oz) sugar
  • cinnamon
  • 120 g (4.2 oz) sweet cream or heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Finely grate bread and toss with 20 g of sugar and sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. Whip the cream until soft peaks, then gradually adding the remainder of the sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla until it reaches stiff peaks. Be careful not to overbeat.

In a trifle dish or in small sundae/trifle dishes, layer the ingredients in the following order: rye bread, jam, whipped cream until the dish is full or you run out! Try to end with rye bread and a garnish of whipped cream. Serve with milk.


  1. You need a traditional dark rye for this, one baked with rye flour not a rye-wheat mix. Borodinsky is a popular brand baked in Brooklyn that is shipped across the States; you can find it in Russian delis. If you don't have access to it, try using the darkest, best pumpernickel you can find. My grocer has a surprisingly good one in their bakery, yours might too, or you can try Orowheat's pumpernickel.

Potato Salad

American Potato Salad

One of the things I love about summer is potato salad. However, I've never really made it myself. I couldn't tell you why, I just never got around to it, I suppose. It sounded good this week and I saw no reason why I couldn't get around to it at last, so I started looking for recipes.

I remembered some interesting salads in one of the issues of Food Network Magazine I had laying on my coffee table. Sure enough, there were two recipes, one creamy-style from Aaron McCargo Jr. and one vinaigrette-dressed from Paula Deen. Both looked good, but not perfect.

I tend to prefer creamy style potato salad over vinaigrette dressed but I don't particularly like mayonnaise (or, to be honest, the calories that come with it). So, I used my usual 70-30 mixture of sour cream and mayo. I took the best components from each: bacon from Paula's, eggs, Worcestershire and hot sauce from Aaron's, then whipped up my own take.

For a first attempt, I'm in love. The spicy kick from the hot sauce is perfect and there's plenty of crunch from the bacon and green onions so I never missed the celery (my husband really dislikes celery) common to the ones I grew up with. Plus, the Worcestershire, an addition I thought was odd (but intriguing), added unexpected depth.

It technically serves four, but it never made it past the evening. We wound up having it as dessert later on. Now that's some good potato salad!

Potato Salad [printable recipe]

Adapted from Food Network magazine (June/July 2009)
Serves 4

  • 3 potatoes (about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 lb)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 3 - 4 strips bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
  • 3 hardboiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic sauce (Kalina, for example) (optional)
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 5 tbsp sour cream
  • 1/4 tsp dill
  • 1/4 tsp hot sauce
  • salt, pepper

Chop up potatoes (peeling first, if desired) and add to boiling, salted water. Drain, allow to cool. Combine with remaining ingredients and stir well, adjusting quantity of sour cream and mayo to your taste.

Phyllo-ing Adventurous

Baklava Bite

I've never worked with phyllo (fillo) dough before. Of course, I've never worked with puff pastry either. (Can you tell I'm not much of a baker?) I saw a recipe for an interesting and easy variation of spanokopita, the Greek spinach-phyllo pastry, then one for baklava and thought, "Why not? If phyllo isn't too expensive, it's probably worth a shot."

Turns out a pound of phyllo can be had from WalMart for under $3. The recipes called for less than a half of the package. And it keeps for months. Sounded like a winner to me!

The essentials to working with phyllo dough seem to be as follows: Have all of your components ready to go, have a damp towel and some plastic wrap to lay over the dough while you work on a sheet, and butter is absolutely essential.

A Pan of Baklava Bites

Theoretically, you could probably use butter-flavored nonstick spray. I'd bet you could use olive oil or even margarine. Since I'm new to phyllo, I stuck with the basics: melted butter. Besides, brushing it on the nearly transparently thin sheets wasn't too bad, once I got the hang of not glopping it on with an overloaded brush. Tearing was almost unavoidable however. Other than treating the fragile, tissue-thin sheets with the utmost of care, things progressed quite quickly. It doesn't take any particular skill to sprinkle walnuts and cinnamon-sugar over something, after all. (Though I wish I had drizzled honey too. I missed that aspect of traditional baklava and while drizzling honey over the top before eating is good, it's not the same.)

Phyllo by itself has very little taste. Due to this, it's absolutely imperative to layer with flavor, whether brushing it with butter or filling it with your favorite feta. (I swear that the girls down the street at the market think I only come in for two things: to pay my rent and buy the fantastic, salty feta my Greek landlords bring in for family and friends.)

Easy Spanokopita Triangles

Easy Spanokopita [printable recipe]

Adapted from Rachael Ray - 30 Minutes 2

  • 10 ounces (1 package) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 4 sheets (13x17) defrosted phyllo sheets or equivalent amount in the size you have
  • 4 ounces plain feta, crumbled well
  • 3 - 4 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 - 2 large shallots or 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • salt, pepper
  • olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a small skillet over medium heat, heat oil and then add shallots (or onion) and garlic, saute for 4 - 5 minutes. Remove to a large bowl. Stir in spinach, spices, and feta, then mix in egg and sour cream.

On a large, clean, dry work surface, lay out a sheet of phyllo. The rest of the sheets should be covered with plastic wrap with a damp towel on top while you work. Working from the center to the edges, brush melted butter along the lower half of the sheet. Fold sheet over so that you have a long rectangle. Mound a couple of tablespoons of filling into the upper left corner into a triangle shape. Paint the rest of the sheet with butter, then fold up the triangle (like a flag fold, only tastier) until it reaches the other side as a nice triangular packet. Paint seam with butter and place seam-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat.

Alternative: Fold the full sheet of phyllo (after painting half) along the shorter edge so that it forms a square. Turn it so that it looks like a diamond with a tip pointing towards you. Pile a bunch of filling in the center in a log shape, ending an inch or two (depending on the size of your square) from the right and left points. Paint edges with butter, then tuck the sides in and roll from the bottom, a la an egg roll. This method results in much bigger portions than the triangles.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with tzatziki or some garlic sauce.


  1. Making spanokopita isn't as difficult as I thought it might be but it is essential you have your components all ready to go. It goes quite quickly, all considered.

. . . .

Baklava Bite

I was planning to make BakingBites' Easy Vanilla Gelato to serve with this but a couple of good sales left my freezer too packed to accommodate the ice cream maker's base. I'll have to save that for another day.

Baklava Bites [printable recipe]

From Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals 2

  • 4 defrosted small phyllo sheets
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 3/4 cups chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • vanilla ice cream or Easy Vanilla Gelato
  • honey

Preheat oven to 400F.

Combine sugar and cinnamon. Line a sheet pan with parchment and lay a sheet of phyllo on top. Brush with butter and sprinkle a third of the walnuts over it. Sprinkle a third of the cinnamon-sugar over the walnuts, then top with another sheet of phyllo. Repeat twice more and finish with the fourth and final sheet of phyllo. Cut into 2" - 3" squares with a sharp knife. Cover with another sheet of parchment and rest a second sheet pan on top.

Bake for 18 to 23 minutes or until golden. Remove and serve warm with ice cream and honey.


  1. Since I had only a quarter-sheet pan and a half-sheet pan available at the time, I cut the phyllo so it would fit in a quarter-sheet (and also because a half-sheet of baklava squares for two would be a little much!). If you make a half-sheet, double all of the ingredients' measures.

Apple Babka

My husband makes breakfast every day because I'm very much not a morning person and because he's damn good at it. Today, he decided to try a new recipe out of a Ukrainian cookbook we picked up at the library. Delicious!

A babka is similar to a dutch baby but fluffier due to the whipped egg whites. For this apple babka, a tart apple, such as a Granny Smith or other pie apple, is needed to offset the sweetness of the sugar.

Apple Babka [printable recipe]

Adapted from The Best of Ukrainian Cuisine
Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 lb tart apples (Granny Smith, etc.)
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter or grease a 13x9x2 baking dish well and set aside.

Wash, peel and core all of the apples. Grate or shred half of them, then cut the other half into thin wedges. In a medium bowl, combine egg yolks, salt and sour cream. Add flour slowly, stirring constantly. Add cinnamon, followed by all of the apples. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites to soft peaks, then fold in to apple mixture. Spread into the 13x9 dish evenly and bake at 325F for 30 - 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly.

Sorry, no picture for this one! I'm not awake enough to operate a camera before breakfast :)

Rosemary and Roasted Pepper Bean Salad

Rosemary and Red Pepper Bean Salad

My husband absolutely seems to love beans. Last week, he looked at me plaintively and said, "can we have something this week with beans in it?" How could I turn down those big puppydog eyes?

I made a simple, hot bean salad that was quite satisfying to go with our spanokopita meal. I wanted something easy that could be completely vegetarian (this can also qualify for vegan, I think) or expanded to suit a carnivore (mmmmm.. bacon and/or shredded blackened chicken). I think this one fits the bill.

Though I'm not a fan of Rachael Ray by any means and I think that reading her recipes can be acutely painful (if I see EVOO one. more. time. I swear...), I find that I really like a lot of her food. Mom let me borrow a couple of her books so I could get an idea if they contain enough good food to warrant purchasing. I'm still on the fence about it but I'm wavering.

Rosemary and Roasted Pepper Bean Salad Adapted from Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals 2 Serves 4

2 cans mild beans, such as cannelini, blackeye peas, etc. 2 tbsp olive oil 3 cloves garlic, crushed 1 - 2 large shallots or 1 small onion, minced (about 1/2 cup) 1 roasted red pepper (jarred or freshly roasted), chopped 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and minced handful fresh parsley salt and pepper

Over moderate heat, saute shallots and garlic in olive oil for 3 - 4 minutes. Add a pinch of salt, pepper, rosemary, red pepper and beans, continue to cook for about 2 - 3 minutes. Taste, adjust seasonings as necessary.

Best served hot or at least warm.

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan

This is my favorite way to eat eggplant. I haven't been feeling well lately, so having this was a comfort, even though it didn't come out as well as it has in the past (sadly shown by the photo). Every time I make this I always forget that I'd really like to peel the eggplant first because the skin can be tough and bitter (not to mention that neither flour nor egg nor bread crumbs tend to stick to it well).

Sometimes, I use a jar of sauce from the store, sometimes I make a simple tomato sauce, letting it simmer while I dredge and fry the eggplant. I always try to have enough to top my slices with more sauce.

If you have leftover slices and sauce, make a grilled sandwich with some crusty, buttered bread, eggplant parmesan slices, tomato sauce and mozzarella (or provolone, etc.). It only takes a few minutes in a hot pan to make a delicious lunch. (Or do what Alton Brown does - heat two cast iron pans on high then squish the sandwich between them.)

Eggplant Parmesan [printable recipe]

Adapted from a recipe featured by Kathy Maister
Serves 4

  • 1 eggplant, optionally peeled
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp crushed red chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp each basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, garlic powder, nutmeg, pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs or 1 cup kefir or buttermilk
  • oil
  • 12 ounces tomato sauce (plus additional for topping, if desired)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 shredded parmesan

Slice eggplant into 1/4" slices, sprinkle liberally with salt and arrange in a colander for 30 minutes. Pat dry.

In three separate dishes: Combine flour with nutmeg. Combine bread crumbs with remaining spices. Beat eggs with a tablespoon of buttermilk (or water, milk, etc.)

Dredge each slice of eggplant into flour, then egg, then bread crumbs.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 3 tbsp oil. Fry eggplant slices in a single layer (you will need to do them in batches) until golden brown, turning once. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Add additional oil as necessary for each subsequent batch of eggplant.

In a 13x9 or two 8x8 baking dishes, spread tomato sauce then layer the eggplant on top. (You will probably have to overlap some of them to get them to fit.) Sprinkle on cheeses.

Bake at 425F/220C for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Top with more sauce if desired.

Turkey Tortilla Soup with Black Bean Salsa

Turkey Tortilla Soup with Black Bean Soup

Is there anything more comforting than a bowl of soup when you don't feel good? When I was a kid, my mom used to make turkey soup out of Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers, putting quarts away into the freezer for use throughout the year.

It's been a stressful week. Between my insomnia and my husband's sick-but-not-quite malaise, I think it's time for a bowl of comfort. This soup perfectly fit the bill; it's filling, nicely spicy, thick and delicious.

This recipe originally called for 4 cups of chicken stock and could be prepared in about 30 minutes. We picked up a smoked turkey drumstick at the store the other day and decided to make smoked turkey stock from it for the base.

Turkey Tortilla Soup with Black Bean Salsa [printable recipe]

Adapted from Cuisine at Home's Cuisine Tonight special issue
Makes about 8 cups

  • 4 cups Smoked Turkey Stock or chicken stock
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 6" corn tortillas, cut into 1" x 2" strips
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with chiles
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 2 cups cooked turkey or chicken, shredded or diced
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup cream, or in a pinch, buttermilk
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack or other mild cheese, shredded
  • 1 lime's worth of lime juice
  • 1 recipe Black Bean Salsa (follows)
  • sour cream

Saute onion and garlic in a 2.5qt pot over medium-high heat. Add tortillas and continue to cook until softened, about 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, broth and spices, then bring to a boil. Remove, let stand for 5 minutes before pureeing with an immersion blender.

Stir in shredded meat, corn and cream and return to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, allow to simmer until soup begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Stir in cheese, melt. Add lime juice and taste, adjusting salt and pepper if necessary.

Add in black bean salsa and sour cream to your taste.


  1. If you don't have an immersion blender, puree the soup in batches using a blender or food processor. Be careful not to overfill and watch out for steam.

. . . .

Smoked Turkey Stock [printable recipe]

Makes about 8 cups

  • 1 smoked turkey drumstick, skin on
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 1 tsp black pepper (if whole, place into cheesecloth sachet for easy removal)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3.5 - 4 quarts water

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a 5 or 6 qt stock pot. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 2 hours. Remove turkey leg and strip off meat. Add back the bone and meat, discarding inedible bits. Continue to simmer for another hour. Let cool, strain out leaves, bone and meat.

Reserve meat and 4 cups stock for Turkey Tortilla Soup. Thoroughly chill remainder, skim off any fat, and freeze in portions for later use.

. . . .

This salsa was a hard one for me to make today. I was out of all of the fresh ingredients for salsa: fresh tomatoes, cilantro and peppers with only just enough red onion to squeak by. If you're also in a pinch, try using about half a can of diced tomatoes with chipotle chiles or other peppers. While the salsa would be better with cilantro, it isn't the end of the world to leave it out.

Black Bean Salsa [printable recipe]

Adapted from Cuisine at Home's Cuisine Tonight special issue

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, diced OR 1/2 can diced tomatoes with chipotle
  • 1/2 cup red onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced (omit if using canned tomatoes with chiles)
  • 1 lime's worth of lime juice
  • salt, pepper

Combine all, tossing well. Chill until ready to use.

Leek-Apple-Walnut Salad

Leek-Apple-Walnut Salad

Every week, I post one recipe from Latviešu ēdieni.

Latvian salads incorporating sour cream or mayonnaise as a dressing for a combination of vegetables are quite popular. They're easy to throw together, go with most anything and surprisingly tasty. This one is based on a very simple leek-apple salad in Latviešu ēdieni that we had with vareniky.

Leek-Apple-Walnut Salad [printable recipe]

Adapted from Latviešu ēdieni
Serves 2

  • 1 leek, sliced thinly
  • 1 small Granny Smith or other tart apple, cored, sliced into chunks
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 4 radishes, chopped
  • 1/4 c walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, diced (optional)
  • dash of sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • sour cream1

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Add enough sour cream to just bring the salad together.


  1. You can also use mayonnaise or a combination of the two.