Coronavirus Cancellations, New Delivery Service

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Coronavirus Cancellations, New Delivery Service
Eastern European Cooking With LUKA

 
 
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To observe coronavirus containment measures, we are cancelling all LUKA dining events and switching to a delivery-only model. Listen to the podcast or read the transcript here: Continue reading “Coronavirus Cancellations, New Delivery Service”

Okroshka: A Controversial Russian Chilled Vegetable Soup

Okroshka, my way

Okroshka is a cold Russian soup of chopped vegetables, with kvass—or, less commonly, kefir—as the broth. The word okroshka is rooted in the Russian verb kroshit’ (крошить), meaning ‘to crumble’. Generally believed to originate with boatmen on the Volga River, the original recipe consisted of only dried fish and kvass. The poor, toothless drunkards would soak their daily ration of dried fish in kvas, then crumble the rehydrated flesh and slurp it down with the resultant broth.

We’d probably be right to assume that more elegant variations on the theme arose when these tough customers had access to eggs, meat, vegetables and herbs on dry land.

Like most soups, okroshka is a great way to use up what’s heading south in your ‘fridge. If you have vegetables beginning to soften or leftover cooked meat, stop mumbling and start crumbling. You can include just about anything in a batch of okroshka. And, who says you can’t prepare one single bowl at a time, when we do just that with the chilled soup known as breakfast cereal?

There are hundreds of recipes for okroshka. I made the batch pictured up top the way I like it, with the vegetables chopped very, very finely, for ease of digestion and absorption. I know some Russians will grumble about my crumble, and say “It is not okroshka!”

I know this because I have already received such feedback. Well, they didn’t have to eat it. Anyway, I used the following ingredients:

okroshka prep

 

1 bit of black radish
1 surly knob of daikon
2 wee carrots
1 impressive cucumber
1 unassuming yellow onion
1/4 cup dill fronds
1/4 cup parsley leaves
2 limp scallions
Gubernija Kvas
kosher salt
black pepper
sour cream

1. Peel the radish, daikon, carrots, cucumber and onion. Fine dice the cucumber and scallion by hand.

Okroshka dice up

2. Rough chop the black radish, carrot, daikon, parsley and dill, then pulse to a fine mince in a food processor (This is my step. I know it’s not traditional. I don’t care, Russians.)

minced vegetables

3. Blend all vegetables in a bowl and stir in salt and pepper evenly throughout the mixture. Allow the mixture to rest in the refrigerator for half an hour. The salt takes the edge off the raw onion, making it sweeter. It also draws out the vegetables’ juices, allowing them to flavor the broth more directly.

Salted minced vegetables in the bowl

4. Pour kvas over the vegetables until the desired consistency is attained. Allow the mixture to rest in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.

5. Garnish with sour cream. Serve with black bread and cold smoked fish or meat.

Okroshka is served

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As mentioned above, there are hundreds of recipes for okroshka. Diced hard-boiled eggs and ham are very common additions, but cold, cooked meats or smoked sausage and fish are other possibilities. And if you want to make your own kvass for a truly authentic broth, my post on kvass features an instructional video.

Paprika: The Magic Ingredient in Hungarian Cuisine

Paprika

Paprika: The Magic Ingredient in Hungarian Cuisine
Eastern European Cooking With LUKA

 
 
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Transcript

Paprika is essential to classic Hungarian cooking and so it is therefore the focus seasoning for the main course at our Hungarian dinner on Wednesday March 25th. Tickets are now on sale for that event, and you can find them at lukadining.com, on the Eventbrite page, or at the LUKA Facebook page. With that in mind, I’m going to talk about the history of paprika and its use in Hungarian cuisine today. But before I bury myself in paprika, I have a couple of announcements. Continue reading “Paprika: The Magic Ingredient in Hungarian Cuisine”

Czech Cooking, Plus Some Announcements

Czech Cooking - Knedliky

Czech Cooking, Plus Some Announcements
Eastern European Cooking With LUKA

 
 
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Like many styles of Slavic and Eastern European cuisine, Czech cooking is not terribly complicated. But, it does have some unique features. John discusses some of those features in this episode, plus shares some announcements of potential interest to LUKA community in St. Louis. Here’s the link for the discounted tickets for the Czech cooking event, and here’s the transcript for this Czech cooking podcast: Continue reading “Czech Cooking, Plus Some Announcements”

Meatless Eastern European Food? Mushrooms are the Answer

King Trumpet Mushrooms: A great meatless option

Eastern European cuisine is not typically known for meatless options, but mushrooms are a common ingredient when you encounter them. It’s not surprising when you consider the fleshy texture and savory umami flavors of edible fungi. Buddhist monks have known for millennia that mushrooms can satisfy a meat craving, and there is a rich tradition of mushroom-based meat substitutes in Buddhist cuisine.

As I’ve mentioned, my visit to the Czech Republic was short. But, I was in Prague long enough to eat in a few restaurants. Because Prague is a popular tourist destination, restaurateurs know that they need to cater to a wide variety of dietary restrictions. Gluten-free menu options still don’t seem to be so common, but vegetarian and vegan dishes have become more commonplace.

I thought the upcoming Czech dinner would be the perfect time to introduce a vegetarian option to LUKA events. Mushrooms are prized in Eastern European and Slavic countries not only as an ingredient, but also as an activity. Foraging for edible mushrooms has long been a fun way to spend time with family and friends.

Two of my favorite mushroom species are the King Trumpet and Oyster. They both have great flavor and texture, so the meat-free option at the Czech dinner will feature them braised with a plant-based version of the onion-caraway sauce. I happen to know that the earthy perfume of caraway plays very well with mushrooms. I’m confident that it will be delicious.

Tickets remain for that event, but they’re going fast. Check out the event listing on Eventbrite to get your seats.

 

Czech Food: Fast, Cheap and Easy Lunches

Around this time in 2013, I was on my way back to St. Louis from Zagreb. Six months there had depleted my resources and my will to engage Croatian residence bureaucracy any further, but while in Zagreb I had finished and published my book, Dalmatian Cooking. A big sale of books to a Croatian cultural organization in New Zealand was getting me home.

Czech Republic was just a layover en route to Amsterdam, where I would stay with a high school friend until flying back to the US. I only spent four days in Prague, near the central train station downtown. I would have stayed there forever if I was in any position to go through Czech residence bureaucracy. Prague is exquisitely beautiful, and Czech food is a simple, homey delight.

And, you can eat very cheaply there. During the lunchtime hours, many restaurants in Czech Republic (or Czechia, if you prefer the more elegant name) offer a short list of basic, homestyle dishes, ready to serve and offered at a very low price, often as low of 150 Czech koruna ($6.50 USD!).

Continue reading “Czech Food: Fast, Cheap and Easy Lunches”