Friday, July 10, 2015

Khlodnik (A cold summer soup in the Slavic style)


1/2 lb of hardy greens (fresh beet greens are traditional, but I'll bet chard or kale, etc would work too)
3 cups  Chicken stock, chicken broth, or veggie stock
1.5 cups of Black Bread Kvass (or ginger ale, or Zima)
1/2 cup of sour cream
2 Tbsp  fresh snipped dill,  (or 1 teaspoon) of the dried stuff
1 Tbsp of chopped chives
2 large radishes, or 3 small ones, sliced not diced
1 dill pickle, diced
1 small cucumber, diced
1 small beet (cooked, peeled, diced)
2 teaspoons of sugar
optional (1/2lb of meat, cubed, - veal, beef stew meat, ham, diced bologna, etc)
salt, pepper, to taste
ice cubes
2 hard boiled eggs chopped

Cook beet greens in boiling salted water for 25 min. (Kale and Chard will wilt much faster like 5-8 min.)  Drain, squeeze out excess liquid, chop. (You can even use the stems, as long as you chop them).  Meanwhile cook beet until tenderish maybe 15 min, Cook meat if you are using it.
In a large bowl combine kvass or substitute, stock, and sour cream and whisk until sour cream is well incorporated.  Add, radishes, cucumber, pickle, dill, chives, and when ready beet, greens, and if using, cooked cubed meat.  Add sugar and salt and pepper to taste and stir.  Cover and chill.  Ideally at least 4 hours.  It does well overnight or next day too.

To serve, put an ice cube or 2 on the bottom of each bowl, fill with chilled soup, then top liberally with chopped boiled eggs.

Yields 6 to 8 servings

It's a lovely cold summer soup, refreshing and designed for once the cucumbers and radishes are ready for harvest. Pair it with bread, sandwiches or maybe homemade bread.  Goes well with tea, lemonade, ginger ale, cold vodka, etc.  Polish style Khlodnik typically has more beets (say 3 even 4 or 5) and fewer other veggies (and maybe even a tablespoon of tomato paste).  Poles often float halved or quartered boiled eggs on the top, instead of chopping and sprinkling.  Russian style, emphasizes other veggies and has only 1 or 0 beets.  If you make it with no beets, and maybe add some boiled potato, mustard, and sour it a bit, it starts shading toward another Russian soup called okroshka.  Traditional okroshka adds a teaspoon of mustard, horseradish to taste, and is a bit sourer than khlodnik (add some kefir, or buttermilk, or lemon juice, or vinegar, or substitute all the stock for kvass). Svekol'nik is another Russian cold summer soup in the vicinity here, but I'm inclined to believe that khlodnik, okroshka, and svekol'nik are all distinct.  Belarussian style, adds garlic, uses no beets, adds dairy and nowadays often uses shrimp instead of other meat, maybe some fennel. Some recipes will use yoghurt or kefir or buttermilk to make it creamier, and maybe a little lemon juice or vinegar (not much) if your kvass doesn't come out sour enough.  Ukrainians call it kholodnik, and I've found recipes for it that are similar to the Russian version.  But, I also found a reference to Ukrainian Jews over a century ago making kholodnik with mushrooms and blackberries to sweeten it (and presumably no meat so as not to mix meat and dairy), and eating it for breakfast.  Further south, and in the Caucuses it starts blending into the Ottoman soup cacik.  This dish works lovely vegetarian, but probably won't work right without some kind of dairy to set off the dill and kvass.  Kvass is the hard part, and the recipe for it is below, but you can substitute other things and still get a wonderful soup.  You want something vaguely carbonated, that will be light when chilled, and add a little flavor, maybe some acidity.  Ginger ale worked.  I'll bet a Zima, or a shandy, or alcoholic lemonade would too.  Beer is less traditional than kvass, but sometimes used in Okroshka.  If there is a little alcohol in the final soup, it's OK, but there shouldn't be much.  If you do use real black bread kvass it will add a richness, and yet still also be light and refreshing, and the hint of mint will pair with the cucumber well.  Don't neglect the pickle, the contrast of the fresh cucumber and the pickle is also great.  Polish style will come out pink, Russian style is ideally be a mix of white and green, with maybe some pink.

Black Bread Kvass
1.5 lb or Staled Black Bread - cubed
1.5 Tbsp of Mint
1 lemon, cut into chunks
10 cups boiling water
1/2 cup of sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 package active dry yeast
8 grains of white rice (don't ask me why)

Place bread cubes on baking sheet and back at 325 for 20 min, to dry out.  Transfer to large crock (crock pots work fine, as do stoneware crocks if they are big enough and can be sealed).  Sprinkle mint, add cut up lemon.  Add 10 cups of boiling water, cover tightly and let sit for 5 to 6 hours.
Strain liquid through cheesecloth, pressing down on the back of the bread with a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible, but without pressing the sediment through the cloth.  To strained liquid add yeast, cream of tartar and sugar.  Stir will. Cover.  Let stand for 8+ hours.  You can compost the bread, lemon,& mint.  Next day, strain it again through the cheese cloth, put it into a 1 quart bottle.  (A 2 liter bottle works fine too).  Add 8 grains of rice, seal.  let stand 8 more hours. Strain once more through cheesecloth into fresh bottle.  Refrigerate until use.  Yields 1 quart.

The result is somewhere between a beer and a Zima, but the alcohol level is pretty low, in line with a non-alcoholic or small beer, with a flavor that doesn't really have good analogs to my American/Western European palate.  You can drink it chilled, much as you would a beer or Zima, or you can add it to soups and sauces.  The same basic strategy works with almost any kind of staled bread, so it's a great way to use bread that is just beginning to go bad, but not yet moulded. Kvass served the role in Eastern Europe that bread pudding and French Toast served in Western Europe, productively using up bread that was about to go bad. Wheat, rye, and barley breads all work well. Whiter bread will yield less flavor and color, and taste closer to Zima.  Adding a little lemon juice, and maybe a little post-fermentation sugar, is nice if you're gonna drink it rather than use it in soups and sauces.  Berry, raisin, and other flavorings get used sometimes at the very end too.

If you add honey and the spit of two or more people of rival factions making tentative peace at the fermenting step, the result is sacred to the Norse god Kvasir, and having the factions drink the kvass that results a few days later is a classic way to cement successful peace talks, in the Norse and Slavic traditions.  If you make a triple batch in 3 separate crocks, (called  Boðn, Són and Óðrerir), mix them, add mead at the end, and maybe a drop of the blood of a scholar or poet, the result is a symbol of skáldskapar mjaðar and used in ritual work to gain knowledge, wisdom or poetic inspiration. Hmm, I seem to be drifting ... More recently, kvass is  seen as a competitor to cola in Eastern Europe, and one that symbolizes valuing Eastern tradition over Western colonization.  The big brand is called Nikola, (a name which also sounds like Not-Cola) and markets its drink as promoting "Anti Cola-nization."  Get it?

My recipes here are heavily based on Darra Goldstein's 1983 book "A la Russe: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitality" which is my favorite Russian cookbook, but I've tinkered some on my own, and consulted the web for a bunch of Polish variations.  And, you know, the Prose Edda ...

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