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In my last post, when I enumerated the odds and ends of greens that were dwelling in my fridge, I didn’t mention the two bunches of young sorrel that had been keeping them company. That’s because I had set them aside to try my hand at making schav, an Eastern European soup sometimes referred to as green borscht.

The character of sorrel is sour – in a good way like lemons are sour, but in this case not citrusy or floral – due to the presence of oxalic acid; its tartness is mitigated by cooking. Since I had never made schav before, I set out to do an utterly basic version, reserving any culinary experimentation for future investigation. Some recipes include potatoes or eggs (beaten and added to the soup as it cooks to thicken it or hardboiled as an addition for serving), but I went with just a bit of diced carrot and onion sautéed at the outset.

Instead of relying on raw eggs and the tempering technique required to thwart their propensity for scrambling when added to hot soup, I opted for a flour and butter roux cooked with the aromatics, added a few cups of very light chicken broth (very light because I didn’t want it to dominate the flavor), brought it to a boil and then down to a simmer, added the sorrel and stirred in a little sour cream which also softens its acidity. (Those of you who have been following me lately know that that was not sour cream. 😉)

I plopped a dollop of “sour cream” in the middle and scattered some herby garnish and cracked black pepper on top and that’s where I stopped.

The inner workings. Pretty good considering it was a maiden voyage.

Schav can be served warm or cold but I had been tasting continually as I was going along, so sadly, it was gone before I had a chance to sample it chilled.

Parting is such sweet sorrel.

Orthodox Easter – Pascha and Kulich

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Most holidays come equipped with delectable, traditional foods and Orthodox Easter is no exception; it occurs on the Sunday following the first full moon that appears on or after the spring equinox – May 2, in 2021. As an Equal Opportunity Celebrant, I make it a practice to sample as many of these treats as possible around such festive occasions, not because of any personal porcine tendencies of course, but in order to altruistically share information with anyone who might be unfamiliar with these delicacies.

Yeah, right.

According to Wikipedia, the Eastern Orthodox Church, officially the Orthodox Catholic Church, is the second largest Christian church with approximately 220 million baptized members. The majority of Eastern Orthodox Christians live mainly in Southeast and Eastern Europe, Cyprus, Georgia and other communities in the Caucasus region, and in Siberia reaching the Russian Far East.

According to ethnojunkie, each region has its own distinctive, specialty baked goods that are prepared in celebration of the holiday. Many are sweet breads called pascha (or some variant), from Greek/Latin meaning Easter, and ultimately from Aramaic/Hebrew meaning Passover. Let’s check out two of them.

If you go out in search of pascha, you’ll discover vastly divergent varieties depending upon the heritage of the bakery you land on. Polish versions I’ve sampled are puffy, yeasty, a little sweet and are designed to be pulled apart and shared at the table. Some other Eastern European and Russian styles are more like a cheese-filled bread, with veins of sweet, white dairy goodness running throughout. This photo was taken surreptitiously in a Russian market. Shhh!

Shown here is Romanian pască. This particular example comes from Nita’s European Bakery at 4010 Greenpoint Ave, Sunnyside, Queens – look for the awning that reads Cofetaria Nita. It is unique (at least in my experience) and undeniably stellar. This dense delight, about nine inches in diameter, is actually a two-layered affair, with a rich topping/filling that is virtually a raisin-studded, hyper-creamy manifestation of cheesecake that sits atop a sweet cake-like bread; the religious theme is easily recognizable.

Here’s a view that reveals the layers. If you like sweet desserts, you’ll love this.

On my recent peregrination through Brooklyn’s Little Odessa on Brighton Beach Avenue where Russian and Former Soviet Union shops abound, it seemed that every market was selling kulich, a Russian/Slavic Orthodox Easter bread. Look closely behind the eggs in the first photo and you’ll see an array of them. (Look even more closely behind the kulichi and the sign for яйца and you’ll see packages of the Italian Christmas treat, panettone. Pretty much every market was offering them as well. In terms of taste, they’re pretty close although panettone is a little richer, however I have yet to determine why both are sold in this neighborhood during Orthodox Easter. But I digress.)

Not as sweet as pascha, the cylindrical kulich is often baked at home in a coffee can to achieve the characteristic shape; this diminutive example stands only about five inches high. The Ukranian legend reads куліч (cake) пасхальний (paschal) and around the beltline з великоднем (Happy Easter) христос воскрес (Christ is risen).

It’s somewhere along the bread <-> coffeecake continuum, shot through with raisins, and always dressed with a snow-white sugar-glazed cap and colorful sprinkles.

з великоднем!

Luda’s Dumplings

Instagram Post 12/1/2017

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The spirit springs from Eastern Europe but the spin is straight outta Brooklyn. We ordered the Wild Shrimp (made with parmesan and ricotta), roseate hue courtesy of beet infused dough, and the Classic (pork, beef and onion) because if you’re doing a tasting of anything, always start with the classic. Adorned with our choices of fried onions and bits of roasted mushrooms, Luda’s Dumplings also offers seven other toppings (including 🥓 bacon!) and even more sauces.
In addition to these perfectly delicious pelmeni, Luda’s Dumplings, 3371 Shore Pkwy, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn serves four other varieties including chicken breast, spinach & cheese, loaded potato, and sweet cheese (in a chocolaty dough). Four more reasons for me to go back!