This process of testing out recipes from cookbooks I rarely use is actually a pretty fun project and I’m learning a lot about my own cooking style. I’ll confess that I sometimes pick recipes similar to what I already make regularly, but this project is forcing me to try new things on the fly that I might not give a second thought. Since it is healthy for our brain to try new things, I’m guessing that it’s healthy for our diet and taste buds to do the same. So far, I’m pleased with the two recipes I’ve tried, and I’m leaning towards keeping this particular cookbook.

For recipe #2 of “Russian Food & Cooking”, I chose to do the Beetroot Caviar (or Ikra iz Svekly), which is sometimes known as “poor man’s caviar”. The cookbook uses red beets, but I was excited to put my island spin on things, so I used Big Island-grown organic, Golden beets from Ohana Organics Farms in Puna. I also used Maui sweet onion instead of yellow onion, and diced tomato instead of tomato puree. The book suggests variations at the bottom of the page, and I chose the variation to add one clove of crushed, raw garlic to the caviar. I also had to serve mine on club crackers because I had some younger taste testers that are not fans of rye bread. This beetroot caviar is a great pupu (or appetizer) to serve for vegans, vegetarians, or any beet lover. I would certainly make this dish again and I even might try serving it on rice crackers next time. Overall, this was a simple dish to make, it was flavorful, and made a colorful presentation.

*A few things about the book itself:

It’s beautiful. Not only pleasing to look at, but the pictures really do a great job at drawing you into the ‘story’ of the food. Most of the recipes have multiple photos to show you the more complicated steps in the cooking process. This is important because some of the recipes are labor intensive and it saves you time to be able to see what you are supposed to be doing along the way without the guesswork. For those of us who don’t know how to make a perfect Russian dumpling (or peljmeni) we NEED all the visuals we can get.

Secondly, the cookbook has an authentic feel, and that alone scores major bonus points from me. I feel like this is true home-style cooking from a Russian household and not some watered-down American version of what we expect. Russia is a gigantic country with so many varied cultures and regions, that it is hardly the bland, cold weather cuisine I had expected. Shame on me for assuming.

Should you feel the need to make delicious beetroot caviar from Russia, you can find the full recipe in this cookbook, which is available on Amazon.

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