Vyeri, vyeri good...almost lyike Russian


Today's post comes to you directly from Siberia, Texas.

A blizzardy, ice-cicly 15 degrees, with a windchill hovering around the big "O" certainly makes North Texas feel more like Siberia than...well, than North Texas. And when I think of Siberia, I think of a feast I got to share in one evening...

Twenty-some winters ago, I took Z to a supermarket and watched as she wandered from aisle to aisle like a slowmo pinball, staring in absolute awe at the quantities of groceries available. The fresh veggies, the canned and frozen ones; bread on the bakery shelves and frozen dough in the cases; beef, pork, lamb, fish, chicken; boxes of mixes for this and for that. And plenty of all of it. No queues of grumpy, elbowing, "hey, the back of the line is back there"-pointing shoppers.

Behesht e! Behesht e, Dana joon!

"It's paradise!" she exclaimed in her Farsi-by-way-of-Uzbekistan accent. Z had insisted on cooking dinner for us all that evening and wanted to buy some meat and vegetables to make soup and mantu, Uzbeki dumplings. So we went to the supermarket, she picked up a small package of meat, a handful of veggies and potatoes, and since I was sure we had flour at home, we left to get started on the feast.

As she cooked, she told stories of how she and B had met after he'd gotten stranded in Uzbekistan; how happy they were to have long-lost relatives in Amyerika; how life was in Uzbekistan (according to her, not the worst since B was a doctor); how pearls, furs and diamonds were inexpensive and how food was a luxury there; and on and on while she cut up the meat and veggies for the soup, and rolled and stuffed the mantu dough.

All the while, I was wondering how she was going to feed about 20 of us with the groceries we'd purchased. Like matryoshka, Russian nesting dolls?? Somehow we'd be surprised by the contents of the soup pot?

Each guest's bowl was lovingly and proudly filled with broth and tiny pieces of meat and vegetables. In the spirit of true Uzbeki hospitality, our hosts dished out the "best" to their guests.

I've never had a more watery "soup" than that evening. But I don't think I've ever heard two people "savor" and "mm and yumm" over their food more than Z and B did that night. This "paradisaic" soup was the richest food that they'd had in a very long time, and it was a splurge for them to use enough meat to make the soup taste just slightly more appetizing than the dishwater they were used to. The potato mantu, on the other hand, were delicious.

As the years passed, her soups got thicker and thicker, to where you could actually taste the ingredients, the chicken, the vegetables, the cilantro, the spices.

One time Z came over for lunch. I'd made a good warm soup out of beets and red cabbage, kind of a non-traditional vegetarian borscht. "Vyeri, vyeri good...almost lyike Russian." I took it as a compliment.

So as I'm rummaging through my fridge today looking for something "warming" to make while this Arctic front blasts through the region, I see a beet, some red cabbage, onions, and start thinking about throwing together a big pot of borscht. Well, something borscht-like, anyway. Even J has pronounced it vyeri, vyeri good....almost lyike Russian :)

Let me know what you think and if you've got any good "Siberia" stories :)

Banana's "Vyeri, Vyeri Good...Almost Like Russian" Borscht

2 onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups red lentils 1 beet, shredded (I did this in the processor)
1 large carrot, shredded
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup ruby quinoa, washed
1/4 cup dried dill (or 1 cup fresh)
2 veggie soup cubes
1 tablespoon Bragg's liquid aminos
1 tablespoon powdered limu omani (dried lime)
or 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
fresh ground pepper

Heat a large soup pot over medium high and add the onions. When they're fragrant and starting to color, add the garlic. Stir for about a minute, then add the lentils, along with enough water to cover. Cook till the lentils are soft.

Add the remaining ingredients and let simmer till everything is soft. Season with lemon juice, pepper, and salt. If desired, serve with a dollop of sour cream or Greek-style yogurt.