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An old world Easter.

For a traditional Russian celebration, there are markets to explore, a bread to bake, and a simple cheese to make


Smoked Salmon Fresh Salmon or Sturgeon Caviar Pumpernickel Triangles Butter * Sour Cream Chopped Chives Pickled and Marinated Herring Baked Ham Sour Cream Cucumber Salad(*) Pickled Mushrooms(*) Potato-Beet Salad(*) Pickled Beets Cabbage Slaw * Rye Bread Vodka or Beer Kulich (Russian Easter Bread)(*) Paskha (Sweet Cheese)(*) Colored Eggs * Coffee or Tea

* recipe follows

On a balmy spring evening, Tanya Meyer waits with other Russian Orthodox parishioners along the pathway to Holy Virgin Mary Cathedral in Los Angeles. On a bench before her are dozens of loaves of tall, cylindrical kulich - a festive sweet yeast bread - including her own, which her mother taught her to make decades ago.

As the priest, Father Joseph, approaches to bless the loaves on this Russian Easter eve, Meyer hastily lights a candle atop her kulich. Later, her family will break their Lenten fast with a lavish buffet that includes the blessed bread.

The crowd swells to pack the cathedral, and minutes before midnight, a flame is passed to light candles members of the congregation are holding. At the stroke of 12, bells ring in joyful chorus, and the clergy leads worshipers outside, through azalea-filled gardens and around the building. Then the procession reenters the brightly lit church for services that last until about 3 A.M.

On April 11 this year, similar Russian Easter celebrations will take place across the land.

The earliest Russian settlements in Alaska date back to the 18th century, but it is 20th-century immigration that has swelled the number of Russian Orthodox Americans - particularly in the Northwest, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York - who continue to observe the holiday traditions of the old country. Like Meyer's, most families include in their festivities a buffet of many dishes: fish (smoked, pickled, and marinated), warm or cold roasts (ham and turkey), and sausages; salads, pickled vegetables, and dark breads; colored eggs; and, most important, the rich kulich loaves and paskha, a sweet and simple homemade cream cheese spread to slather onto slices of the kulich.

A Russian Easter table is both a gracious and a relaxed way to entertain. In Russian Orthodox homes, the meal is served following midnight services, as a brunch, or as midday dinner. And it's an easy menu for Easter or any other party - composed of make-ahead dishes and presented like a smorgasbord, with little plates to refill at each diner's own pace.

Recipes follow for menu items with asterisks. Purchase remaining dishes from a dell (see Russian shopping information on page 175) or make them from favorite recipes. For each person, allow at least 2 tablespoons of caviar, 1/4 pound total of cooked meat or fish, 1 to 11/2 cups total of salads and/or pickled vegetables, and 1/4 pound of dark bread.

Sour Cream Cucumber Salad

PREP TIME: About 20 minutes, plus at least 30 minutes to chili

NOTES: This recipe is adapted from Leda Voropaeff's Russian-American Feasts. The dressing can be made up to 1 day ahead.

MAKES: About 4 cups; 12 servings

2 English cucumbers (2 lb. total) About 1 teaspoon salt 3 hard-cooked large eggs, shelled 1/3 cup sour cream 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 1 teaspoon Dijou mustard 1 teaspoon sugar 1/8 teaspoon pepper 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed Butter lettuce leaves, rinsed and crisped (optional)

1. Trim and discard cucumber ends. Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise and thinly slice. In a bowl, mix cucumbers with 1 teaspoon salt; cover and chili at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. Drain well and pat dry.

2. Separate egg yolks and whites. Cut whites into slivers. Add to cucumber.

3. In a blender or food processor, combine yolks, sour cream, vinegar, mustard, sugar, and pepper; whirl until smooth.

4. To serve, mix sour cream dressing and dill with cucumbers. Add salt to taste. Line a wide bowl with lettuce leaves and spoon cucumber salad onto leaves.

Per serving: 45 cal., 53% (24 cal.) from fat; 2.2 g protein; 2.7 g fat (1.2 g sat.); 3 g carbo (0.8 g fiber); 127 mg sodium; 56 mg chol.

Pickled Mushrooms

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 15 minutes, plus at least 20 minutes to cool

NOTES: If making ahead, cover and chill up to 1 week.

MAKES: About 4 cups; 12 servings

2 pounds mushrooms (2-in. caps) 1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar 1 dried bay leaf 2 teaspoons black peppercorns 2 teaspoons mustard seed 2 teaspoons dill seed 2 teaspoons salt 2 cloves garlic, crushed

1. Rinse and drain mushrooms; trim off and discard discolored stem ends. Cut mushrooms into quarters through caps.

2. Meanwhile, in a 3- to 4-quart pan over high heat, bring 2/3 cup water, vinegar, bay leaf, peppercorns, mustard seed, dill seed, salt, and garlic to a boil.

3. Add mushrooms. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Let mixture cool, stirring occasionally. Serve cool or chilled.

Per serving: 28 cal., 16% (4.5 cal.) from fat; 1.8 g protein; 0.5 g fat (0 g sat.); 5.3 g carbo (1.1 g fiber); 392 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Potato-Beet Salad

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 40 minutes

NOTES: If making ahead, cover and chill up to 4 hours.

MAKES: About 6 cups; 12 servings

1 1/2 pounds thin-skinned potatoes (about 3 in. wide) 1/3 cup white wine vinegar 2 tablespoons salad oil 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 can (15 oz.) baby beets, rinsed and drained 1/2 cup chopped red onion, rinsed and drained

Salt and pepper

1. Scrub potatoes.

2. In a 3- to 4-quart covered pan over high heat, bring 11/2 quarts water to a boil. Add potatoes, cover, and simmer until they are just tender when pierced in thickest part, 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Drain potatoes and cover generously with cold water. Drain when cool, about 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, mix vinegar, oil, parsley, and mustard in a wide bowl.

5. Peel potatoes. Cut potatoes and beets into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes and add to bowl. Add onion, mix gently, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Per serving: 87 cal., 37% (32 cal.) from fat; 1.4 g protein; 3.5 g fat (0.4 g sat.); 12 g carbo (1.4 g fiber); 123 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.


PREP AND COOK TIME: About 13/4 hours, plus 2 hours to rise

NOTES: Instead of vanilla bean and vodka, you can use 1 tablespoon vanilla; add with the milk. Tuck scraped vanilla bean pod into an airtight jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar. If making bread ahead, don't ice; let cool, wrap airtight, and freeze. Thaw in wrapper, then unwrap and ice. For a Russian finale, sprinkle soft icing with colored candy sprinkles or set small rosebuds in it.

MAKES: A 1 3/4-pound loaf; 12 servings

1 envelope active dry yeast 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 vanilla bean (6 to 8 in.) 1 tablespoon vodka or brandy 1/8 teaspoon powdered saffron (optional) 2 tablespoons milk 1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine 1/4 teaspoon salt 3 large eggs 2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied orange peel 1/2 cup powdered sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

1. In a bowl, add yeast and 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar to 2 tablespoons warm (110) water. Let stand until yeast is soft, about 5 minutes.

2. Cut vanilla bean lengthwise; scrape out black seeds and add to vodka in a cup. Add saffron to milk in another cup.

3. In another bowl, beat to blend remaining granulated sugar, butter, and salt.

4. Add yeast mixture, vodka-vanilla mixture, saffron mixture, eggs, 2 1/4 cups flour, and orange peel. Stir until thoroughly moistened.

5. With mixer on high speed, beat dough until stretchy and shiny, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup flour until evenly moistened.

6. With a dough hook, beat on high speed until dough pulls fairly cleanly from sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Dough will be soft and slightly sticky to touch. If necessary, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat longer.

Or with lightly oiled hands, knead dough in bowl until it feels smooth, pulls from your hands, and is just slightly sticky to touch, about 4 minutes. If necessary, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

7. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm place until about doubled in volume, 1 to 2 hours.

8. Line the bottom of 1 juice or broth can (46-oz. size) with cooking parchment cut to fit. Then line sides of can with parchment, extending it about 2 inches above can rim; secure with paper clip. (Or use waxed paper, buttered heavily and dusted with flour.)

9. Punch dough down to expel air, then shape into a smooth-topped ball and drop into can. Cover can lightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until dough is about 1 1/2 inches below can rim, 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours.

10. Bake on lowest rack in a 325 [degrees] oven until a long, thin wood skewer inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours (45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours at 300 [degrees] in a convection oven).

11. Let bread stand in can for 10 minutes, then remove from can and parchment. Lay the loaf on its side on a rack to cool.

12. Blend powdered sugar with lemon juice and 3/4 teaspoon water until smooth. Stand kulich upright and drizzle top with icing.

13. To serve, cut bread into rounds.

Per serving: 245 cal., 34% (84 cal.) from fat; 4.6 g protein; 9.3 g fat (5.2 g sat.); 35 g carbo (0.9 g fiber); 144 mg sodium; 74 mg chol.


PREP TIME: About 15 minutes, plus at least 1 hour to chill

NOTES: This dessert cheese is traditionally shaped in a flat-topped pyramid mold. A new 4- to 6-inch-wide clay flowerpot also works. Make cheese up to 4 days ahead. Instead of vanilla bean, you can use 1 tablespoon vanilla. To make the XB (Christ is risen in Russian) on sides, use decorator icing in a tube or toasted slivered almonds.

MAKES: 2 1/4 pounds; 12 to 16 servings

1 vanilla bean (6 to 8 in.) 1 cup (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature 1/2 cup sugar 1 carton (16 oz.) ricotta cheese 2 tablespoons finely chopped candied orange peel

1. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a sharp knife and scrape out black seeds.

2. In a bowl with a mixer, beat vanilla seeds, butter, cream cheese, and sugar until smooth. Add ricotta and orange peel; beat until blended.

3. Line a deep 5-cup mold with 2 layers of damp cheesecloth (if making more than 2 hours ahead, use a mold with a bottom drain - see notes - to get a firmer cheese). Spoon paskha mixture into cloth and pack down firmly. Set on a rack on a rimmed dish.

4. Cover airtight and chill until paskha is firm enough to hold its shape, at least 1 hour.

5. Lift cloth with paskha from mold. Peel back cloth, invert cheese onto a flat plate, and remove cloth.

Per serving: 231 cal., 78% (180 cal.) from fat; 4.4 g protein; 20 g fat (13 g sat.); 8.6 g carbo (0 g fiber); 67 mg sodium; 61 mg chol.

RELATED ARTICLE: A taste of Russia

In communities with established Russian populations, you'll find specialized markets. Recent Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union have also opened food markets, and although Easter is not part of their culture, foods for the holiday are available: smoked fish, herring mixtures, sausages, cheeses, yogurts, salads, pickled vegetables, and breads.


S & M Russian Food, 6433 S.E. Foster Rd.; (503) 771-8873. Kulich and paskha.


Many Russian delicatessens line Geary Blvd. between 18th and 22nd avenues.

Gastronom Deli and Bakery, 5801 Geary; (415) 387-4211.

Katia's A Russian Tea Room, 600 Fifth Ave.; (415) 668-9292. Kulich and paskha; order ahead at this restaurant.

Moscow Bakery Store, 5540 Geary; (415) 668-6959. Kulich and paskha.


European Gourmet Cafe and Deli, 1882 136th Place N.E., Bellevue; (425) 641-0818.


Santa Monica Blvd. has markets between N. Ogden Dr. and N. Crescent Heights Blvd.

Gastronom European Food, 7859 Santa Monica; (213) 654-9456. Kulich.

Royal Gourmet, 8151 Santa Monica; (213) 650-5001. Kulich and paskha.

Tatiana, 8205 Santa Monica; (213) 656-7500. Kulich.

Tblisi & Yerevan Bakery, 7862 Santa Monica; (213) 654-7427. Kulich.
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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Author:Anusasananan, Linda Lau
Date:Apr 1, 1999
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