Fast Salt-Brined Cucumbers (Malossol Pickles)

malossol cucumber pickle

Malossol literally means “little salt” in Russian. These tasty pickles are quickly cured in salt – there is no vinegar in the recipe. These are especially great in July when fresh pickling cucumbers are available. The smallest cukes have the most crunch. If you can’t find pickling cukes, Japanese cucumbers can be used, or even regular English cucumbers (quartered). I’m using a lot of aromatics in this recipe, including Russian garlic, horseradish root, black peppercorns, dill heads/seeds, and blackcurrant and cherry leaves. They can be found at farmers markets during summer (except for the leaves, which you will have to harvest yourself if you want to use them).

Crunchy Spicy Green Beans

spicy crunchy green beans, russian green beans, sesame soy green beans, fried green beans, garlic green beans

I did not used to like green beans because they always turned out bland and limp, but this recipe changed it all! It’s an amalgamation of several Internet recipes which I tweaked to my liking. It was amazing to discover how well the classic Asian flavour combination of sesame oil and soy sauce complements green beans. I usually make the stir-fry sauce taste quite hot with two (sometimes two and a half) teaspoons of Chili Garlic sauce similar to Sriracha (and in fact produced by the same company, Huy Fong Foods). When plating, I sprinkle the beans liberally with coarse sea salt for extra crunch and visual appeal. Yum!

Red Cabbage Coleslaw with Maple Glazed Pecans

red cabbage coleslaw, maple roasted pecans coleslaw, red cabbage salad, maple pecan salad, maple pecan coleslaw

By accident, I stumbled upon a wonderful ingredient that just makes veggie salads (and particularly cabbage salads) so much better. I’m sure it’s not a secret and may even be commonly used by other cooks, but for me it was a revelation. This ingredient is pecans (or walnuts) toasted with maple syrup and a pinch of salt. Salt, I find, is very important here as it counteracts and balances the sweetness of the maple syrup. Combined with tangy coleslaw sauce made with a simple combination of mayo and mustard, the taste is just incredible.

Vinegret – Winter Beet and Sauerkraut Salad

vinegret sauercraut salad russian

Vinegret is a truly wonderful combination of vibrant colors, soft and crunchy textures, and sweet and sour taste. It uses vegetables that are readily available in the winter to provide a vitamin boost. The word vinegret originated from the French “vinaigrette”, a well-known salad dressing. There is no vinegar in vinegret salad, despite what its name suggests. The main ingredients are beets, carrots, potatoes, sauerkraut, pickles, and green peas. Sometimes white beans are used instead of peas. Vinegret is a staple dish in many Russian homes; it is inexpensive to make and looks great on a holiday table!

Fiery Eggplants (Baklazhan Ogonyok)

This eggplant-based dish tastes excellent whether eaten by itself or as a condiment for steak, meatloaf, pork chops, or any kind of meat. This dish is a typical example of a Russian zakuska (a type of appetizer or an antipasto). In Russia, this dish is literally called “Little Fire” and is a popular canning recipe. Don’t be alarmed at the word “fiery” in the name of this dish. Traditional Russian cuisine is quite mild, and what may be perceived as hot by the Russian palate does not even compare to the level of hotness of other cuisines, for example Korean or Jamaican. Select small eggplants to use in this recipe, as they are less bitter and contain fewer seeds. I found these cute little baby eggplants at a local veggie store and just could not walk away without buying them. I also used a mixture of hot and mild Hungarian peppers, which are soooo much tastier than the regular bell peppers. To add visual appeal and hotness, I used red (hot) and green (mild) peppers. I also used one special ingredient from Russia: unrefined sunflower oil. If you can’t find it, using regular vegetable oil is perfectly fine. This dish is equally delicious hot or cold.