The Russian heritage cookbook, 320pp.
by Lynn Visson
The Overlook Press, New York, 2004
Cooking on page 32
Lynn Vission grew up in New York surrounded by Russian food and culture. Her mother is from St Petersburg and her father was from Kiev. Their circle of friends came from all over Russia, many fleeing to the United States before or during the 1917 revolution. In her introduction, she recalls that they ‘discussed food with the same deadly seriousness they devoted to any other topic. To them gastronomy was a creative discipline in no way inferior to painting, music or ballet.’
In her attempt to preserve traditional Russian cooking, Visson collected more than 400 recipes. Many were given to her by friends (their names are noted on the recipe and at the end of the book). Others she adapted from old Russian recipes.
In addition to being a writer, Visson is also a scholar and interpreter. I checked this out of the local library and hope to track down her other food-related books—The Moscow gourmet and The art of Uzbek cooking.
Page 32 has two recipes for cucumbers. I had everything on hand for the second, which came from a person named Catherine Woronzoff.
3 medium cucumbers, peeled and cut into 2-inch strips
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced parsley
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Combine all the ingredients except cucumbers and beat well. Add cucumbers and marinate in refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Drain and serve on toothpicks or on black bread. Serves 6.
How it played out
We go through a lot of cucumbers. I love the crunch and the fact they are so low in calories. I use them in salads and find them to be a great snack straight out of the fridge.
My cucumbers (a variety called Lebanese in Australia) were on the small side, so I used four. While I hate to waste the goodness of the skin, I caved in and peeled these. Aren’t I cooperative? Also, I used a beautiful French salt, sel de guérande, that daughter Libby gave me for Christmas.
I got about eight 2-inch strips from each cucumber. I tipped these and the pre-mixed dressing into a large container with a lid, and gave it all a good shake. Then popped it into the fridge for the morning.
Served for lunch on my homemade sourdough rye bread—let me know if you want that recipe.
I’m partial to sour and bitter flavours, so the absence of sugar and the use of equal parts of oil and vinegar in this recipe are perfect for me.
Others may feel the need to add extra oil or a touch of sugar, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
Oh wait, if I decide to serve them as appetisers on toothpicks, I’ll have to slice them a lot more thinly. Otherwise, no change at all.
Given that Libby brought me that amazing salt from France, I thought you might like a glimpse of the French village we stayed in when we visited. Or maybe you want to read about the etiquette of the baguette.