Friday, June 17, 2011

My Russian Roots

A few weeks ago I promised my girlfriend Sabina who shares my passion for Russian food, that I would write about about a favorite of ours...Kartoshaka and Silodka, translation: Potatoes and Pickled Herring. Not exactly a complicated dish, bur rather a tradition, a way of life even as some may say. A staple in Jewish cuisine, and quite popular all over Eastern Europe actually.

Its been 22 years since I came to the United States immigrating from Kiev, Ukraine with my parents when I was 8 years old. By way of Brooklyn, NY where we lived until I turned 10 and eventually ended up in Sunny Southern California. So although the majority of my life and growing up happened here in the USA and I consider America my home, my food preferences, tastes as well as style of my own cooking is deeply rooted in and influenced by my Russian Jewish heritage.

I have tons of memories watching my grandmother cook when I was just a little girl. And helping her set up a multitude of family style feasts at an uber long communal table in her living room. This sort of entertaining is a given at any Russian gathering be it a festive occasion or not. Until today some of my favorite dishes are and will always take me back to that time.

Bulls eye! There it is. The MAMA of it all. The essence of my existence. The salty briny fish that I cannot live without accompanied by the one constant of my rough Russian childhood....POTATOES. To me this is not just a dish it is the ultimate. Nothing can or ever will replace "kartoshka and silyodka". If asked to choose my last meal on earth I would not hesitate to say this would be it. Well maybe not quite the last meal, as there are wayyyyy to many things amongst them sushi and my famous katletki (a Russian lightly fried meat patty) the recipe to which I promise to share with you sometime soon.

Pickled Herring
This is the dish of my childhood. It is filled with tradition, history and customs that have transcended time and place. This is a dish I and many others eat until this day despite having lived away from its origin for decades. I've even managed (initial objections and confused looks on their faces aside) to introduce my own American-Born children to it, who are slowly gaining as much appreciation for it as I have. Tradition plain and simple. I ate this every single Sunday morning when I was a kid. These days, french toast and pancakes definitely rule in our house on Sundays BUT I still turn to my salty favorite at least once every two weeks for sure!

Not Quite A Recipe for Potatoes and Pickled Herring-Serves 4

1. Cook 10-12 red potatoes in lightly salted water until fork tender.
2. Remove from heat, drain and toss with some butter, 2 crushed garlic cloves, and sprinkle with handful of fresh dill. (You may choose serve the potatoes plain, simply boiled with just butter)
3. Get yourself some delicious pickled herring. Los Angeles (West Hollywood in particular) is full of Russian Grocery stores where "silyodka" is sold in every way, shape and form. Preferably you can by a whole pickled herring and fillet it yourself. I warn you it is messy, takes practice, patience and rubber gloves, BUT so worth the effort. There are however a million wonderful options sold as fillets packed in oil and spices. The possibilities are endless and readily available at most grocery stores.
4. Serve the herring with a few sliced raw onions on top and the HOT potatoes.

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