Šaltibarščiai (Cold Borscht)

When we went to make this for dinner the other night, I was flabbergasted that we hadn’t posted it here yet. This is one of our very favorite summer meals, a Lithuanian cold beet soup, usually served with boiled potatoes and/or pickled herring. It’s a pretty simple recipe, and very tasty, though the color is a bit shocking to people who aren’t used to it :) This recipe probably serves about 4-6 people.

Ingredients

  • 1 32oz bottle plain kefir (you can use buttermilk if necessary, but kefir is much better)
  • Beets (you can use raw or canned, this recipe uses raw)
  • Green Onion
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 large cucumber
  • Dill (fresh if possible, but dried is fine, too)
  • Salt

Directions

  1. If you’re using canned beets, skip the steps about cooking them and just chop them up in either a dice or a julienne – otherwise, continue as written :)
  2. Peel the beets, and chop them into small-ish pieces. Boil them in water until soft all the way through.
  3. While beets are boiling, hard-boil your eggs.
  4. Chop your green onion, cucumber and dill and set aside.
  5. Once beets are soft, drain them, but keep the cooking liquid as you will add some of it to the soup later. Let beets cool.
  6. Once the beets have cooled, cut them up. You can either dice them or julienne them.
  7. Add the beets to a large mixing bowl (over 32 oz).
  8. Add cucumber, dill and green onion to bowl.
  9. Peel and chop your eggs, and add to the bowl.
  10. Pour in full bottle of kefir.
  11. Pour some of the cooking liquid from the beets into the kefir bottle and shake it around to make sure you get all the kefir out, then pour into soup.
  12. Mix everything together well, and add more cooking liquid from the beets to taste.
  13. Salt to taste.
  14. Serve with boiled potatoes sprinkled with dill, or pickled herring and onions (or both).

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Black Bread

Living in Lithuania, we ate a lot of dark rye bread, as it was extremely common. You’d have it for breakfast with cheese and salami, you’d have it as a beer snack, cut in sticks and fried, with fresh garlic and salt rubbed on it, you’d put butter on it and make sandwiches. It was dense and heavy and smelled of caraway and molasses.

You can find this kind of bread here in Portland sometimes, but not anywhere we typically go for groceries, and so when a friend of ours who happens to have a Russian husband posted that she tried this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and it turned out brilliantly, I had to give it a go.

As with any bread, it’s a time-consuming process, but well worth it if you like a good dark rye bread. It turned out wonderfully, the best bread I’ve made so far. This recipe makes 2 loaves.

Ingredients

  • 2 packages (1 1/2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F, 40 to 45 C)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ounce (about 29 grams) unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3 cups medium rye flour
  • 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1 cup bran
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast and sugar with warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Heat two cups water, molasses, vinegar, butter and chocolate until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside.
  3. Combine whole-wheat, rye and white flours in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine two cups mixed flours, bran, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds, fennel seeds, salt, espresso and shallots. Add yeast and chocolate mixtures in small amounts while mixing with a wooden spoon or bread hook. Mix until smooth and beat for three minutes. (If you don’t like whole seeds in your bread, grinding them in a spice grinder, coffee grinder or mortar and pestle allows their flavor to come through without the texture. I left them whole)
  5. Add half cup of remaining mixed flours at a time, mixing until dough becomes cohesive and starts to pull away from the sides of bowl. It will be very sticky but firm.
  6. Scrape dough off spoon or bread hook, flour counter well, and knead to make a springy yet dense dough. You might not use all of the flour mixture.
  7. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Turn once to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  8. Gently deflate dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two portions and form into two rounds. Place rounds seam down on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle loaves with cornmeal mixture, if using. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled and puffy, about 45 minutes to one hour. Slash an X into the top of a round before baking it with knife or razor blade.
  9. Bake in a preheated 350°F (177 C) oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves are well-browned, or register an internal temperature of 200 to 210°F on an instant-read thermometer. Baking time in your oven may vary — check in on the bread when it is 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through the baking time to make sure it has not super-speedily baked. Remove from baking sheet to cool completely on a rack.
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