If you are reading this blog, then I assume you are an adventurous eater who is curious about modern Russian cuisine. Have I got an adventure for YOU! This is okroshka - cold soup made with vegetables (such as cucumbers, radishes and potatoes), boiled eggs and bologna. It is an acquired taste, but the soup is extremely popular in Russia, especially in spring, when first fresh vegetables and herbs appear. People make it at home but it is also often included as a seasonal item in the menus of cafes and restaurants. I've already talked about the Russians' love of soups, such as borsch or yellow pea soup, so here is another favorite.
Okroshka is to the Russians what gazpacho is to the Spaniards: a cold, refreshing liquid snack for the hot summer weather. I remember watching Almodovar's Women on the Verge of the Nervous Breakdown one day, and the characters would go to the fridge and take a few sips of gazpacho. This made me think of a housemate I had when I was a student and rented a room. His wife would make a big pot of okroshka and he would spend his day opening the fridge door at regular intervals and eating a few spoonfuls of the soup right out of the pot. Glad I didn't have to share my meals with that family :).
"Okroshka" comes from the word "kroshit," to dice. The liquid that is traditionally used is kvas, a fermented drink made from bread - that should be the subject for a whole different conversation, remind me to tell you what kvas is and what it tastes like :). Some people, including me, prefer to make it with kefir - a drink made from cultured milk, similar to drinkable yogurt or buttermilk. Kefir is sold in many supermarkets in the US nowadays and is worth trying. For the soup the plain (unsweetened) flavor should be used, but it also comes in various fruit flavors. Even my picky kids like it. If you can't find kefir, regular buttermilk will work, too. I prefer to dilute the kefir with water mixed with lemon juice so that it is not so thick and rich.
3 large radishes
2 spring onions (white and green parts)
1/3 English cucumber
1 medium potato, boiled with skin on and peeled
3 hard boiled eggs
3 slices bologna
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 cups kefir (can be substituted with buttermilk)
2 cups ice cold water
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 tablespoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
Dice radishes, onions, cucumber, potato, eggs and bologna. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Adjust seasoning. Serve cold.