| The Art of Russian Cuisine is almost as immense as the vast expanses of Mother Russia. Filled with 500 recipes for classic Russian dishes, it also provides a history of Russian food and culinary life. Anne Volokh, a Russian food writer who eventually emigrated to the U. S. , enlivens her work by including passages from Russian literature and historical works. She concentrates on authentic cooking, often drawing recipes from A Gift to Young Housewives written by Ellena Molokhovets in the 1870s. The result brings to life how Russians ate when their rivers ran thick with fish and aristocrats had French chefs invent elaborate dishes like Veal Orloff, made with two creamy sauces. |
Naturally, Volokh starts with zakuski, the antipasto-like ceremony that can constitute a meal in itself; including herring, caviar, salads, even suckling pig in aspic. For soups, there are peasant-hearty borschts-which are actually Ukrainian, not Russian-and spicy Selianka, an example of upper-class cooking. In Russia, each soup has a proper garnish or accompaniment; Volokh provides them all, from sliced eggs in cold borscht to yeasty garlic rolls with the hot kind. Dishes such as Beef Stroganoff, Stuffed Cabbage, proper Bliny and Pashka (the sweetened cheese dessert), require culinary expertise, great patience, or both to make. But dishes such as Roasted Chicken with Raisin-Studded Stuffing and Baked Trout with Walnut-Based Satsivi Sauce are simple but rich.
If Russian food interests you, The Art of Russian Cuisine is worth having for its traditional recipes and the enlightening exploration of their origins. -Dana Jacobi