Russian summer cuisine
Russian summers can be hot, and it doesn’t make sense to eat hearty meals like pelmeni (пельмени) or borscht (борщ). So what do Russians eat during warmer months then?
Summer is a season of cold soups, and Russian cuisine has a number of traditional soups that are served cold. For example, svekolnik (свекольник) – delicious beetroot soup without a heavy beef broth. Another cold soup that amuses a lot of foreign visitors to Russia is okroshka (окрошка). Okroshhka looks rather odd and unappetizing, but is in fact very tasty. The dish resembles famous Olivier salad, but there is also radish and gherkins are substituted with fresh cucumbers. Moreover, it is served with kvas (квас) or kefir (кефир; fermented milk drink) poured all over. People usually season okroshka with sour cream, mustard, horseradish or mayonnaise. It does sound pretty unusual, doesn’t it?
Fresh salads like vinegret (винегрет) or tomatoes + cucumber + lots of greens, seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice are perfect for warmer months. Often Russians simply cut cucumbers, tomatoes, radish and serve them on a plate with bunches of dill and parsley on the side.
Russian summer expericne would not be complete without shashlyk (шашлык)! Shashlyk is a traditional Russian BBQ. Usually, it is marinated pork skewers grilled over an open fire – so very filling and tasty!
There are also cherry vareniki (вищневые вареники) – tasty and sweet dumplings filled with cherries. Sometimes, cherry vareniki are served as a main rather than desert!
We have already mentioned kvas (квас). Kvas is a fizzy rye bread drink, sometimes referred to as Russian cola. While the production process is similar to beer making, kvas has very low alcohol content (0.05 – 1.5%) and is considered a non-alcoholic drink.
Then there is kompot (компот) – a delightfully refreshing drink, very similar to punsch. It is usually made from fresh or dried fruits such as dried apricots, and each household has its own recipe.
Kissel (кисель) is another Russian traditional non-alcoholic fruity drink. It has a very unusual texture thickened by corn or potato starch. Kissel can be served hot or cold.
Blackcurrant, strawberries, gooseberries, cherries, apricots… you name it! Berries and fruits are ultimately associated with summer months. They are eaten raw, on its own, used in baking and making delicious jams.
Meanwhile, watermelon/melon season commences in August only.
If you are craving something naughty, you should try sharlotka (шарлотка)! Sharlotka is a Russian version of an apple pie – a delicate sponge filled with apples. Only 5 ingredients are used in baking it!
All in all, it is fair to say…summer cannot come soon enough!