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what's cookin'? Hell if I know.

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what's cookin'? Hell if I know.

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A while ago, when I was all about soupmaking, nw1 recommended the cookbook Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila Latourrette. I decided to make it part of the Amazon order that also included books for my Diana Wynne Jones project, and it has been here waiting for me to use it ever since... but it got warm in the meantime and soup wasn't sounding like a good idea.

Night before last, that changed, and I decided that soup to feed me and the fella would be fun. I brought the cookbook along to work and had the fella look at it during carpool time and pick out a soup that sounded good to him from the June section (it being June, it seemed the place to start). He chose Solyanka.

I had never heard of this dish before. However, at the bottom of the page it says, "'The classification of traditional Russian soups has been traced to 16th and 17th century annals. Solyanka was originally applied to any food by the peasantry. Today Solyanka denotes a savoury, tart soup in which sauerkraut or pickled cucumbers are one of the main ingredients.'" All righty then!

Solyanka (Cucumber-Fish Soup)
2 large cucumbers (fresh or pickled)
3 tbsp butter
2 onions, chopped
6 c water
1/2 c vodka
2 white fish fillets (cod or haddock) cut into small chunks
1 bay leaf
2 tsp chopped capers
1/4 c green olives, pitted and chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon cut into thin slices (garnish)
fresh parsley (or dill) finely chopped

Peel and halve the fresh cucumber. Scoop out the seeds. Cut the cucumber into thin slices, sprinkle them with salt, and place them in a bowl in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Rinse and drain the slices before adding them to the soup.

Melt the butter in a soup pot and saute the onions over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the water, vodka, fish chunks, and bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pot, and cook the soup for 20 minutes.

Add the cucumber slices, capers, olives, salt and pepper. Cover the pot and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf and serve the soup immediately. Garnish each plate with 2 lemon slices and some finely chopped parsley.

I didn't know how I'd like this soup, and neither did he who picked it. It was interesting - which is not a euphemism for yucky, that's just what it was. It doesn't really suit my palate in a long-term way - I could never make a quadruple batch and live on it for a week, I'm not even going to take it for work today, it's too soon - but I could eat it and enjoy it for one night. It's actually a good choice for this kind of really experimental, as in "We'll go out for Subway if we can't eat this" experimental, cooking - as I told the fella, the likely outcome was that he would like it and I would not, in which case I would make him take home the leftovers. The actual outcome is that I have two bowls worth of leftovers, not a huge commitment or enough for me to get sick of it, but I would not order something like this in a restaurant because I am reluctant to pay restaurant prices for foods that have the odds that I WON'T like it that this one did. It's the kind of thing I'd taste if someone else had it and then forget the name of it - highly unlikely with this kind of dish; I don't think that I've ever eaten out in a Russian. So yeah, this is a better way. The best way, of course, would be if someone who ate it regularly as part of their own cuisine made it for me. *grin*

I can't quite describe how it tasted. It was fishy, but not in an unpleasant way. It smelled... Russian... while it was cooking. I don't even know what the hell that means, but it did - it might be reminding me of my other rare exposures to the cuisine? I could also see this coming out of a German kitchen (German: "Ok, see, you boil the fish, and then you add the sauerkraut and you boil them too..." Non-German: "WHAAAAT?!"). I may be better able to express the experience of eating it when I get to the leftovers. Maybe.

I served it with multi-grain bread, a peeled whole carrot and sliced Muenster cheese. It was a decent meal.
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