I love Russian food. I know, it's heavy and often unsophisticated but to me, it's pure comfort. Last night in an attempt to sneak in some pasta before Passover, I boiled up some Siberian pelmeni, meat-filled dumplings, which I served with sour cream. I used fresh, decadently rich homemade sour cream from my favorite Russian market. To serve with it I made a quick cucumber salad composed of cucumbers and seasoned rice wine vinegar. I also made a beet salad with chunks of orange, a splash of blood orange olive oil and some vinegar.
The Russian market I go to has a huge deli selection with lots of salads. They also always have some sort of treats on the counter to tempt me. Latest temptations? Syrniki, a kind of cheese pancake and blini. The blini just screams "party". I could see buying a batch, picking out some salmon caviar and cracking open the vodka.
Syrniki is something I figured out how to make with some help from a couple of Russian friends. After last night's Russian feast, it's the perfect breakfast. Heavy, yes. Unsophisticated, yes. Delicious, oh yes. You do need to buy a very firm type of cheese called tvorog to make them, Ii the cheese is too creamy it won't work. But fortunately Russian markets always seem to carry quite a variety of this cheese.
1 cup firm farmers cheese "tvorog"
3 tbsp flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
butter for frying and extra flour for dusting
Combine the cheese, egg, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Mix very well. Dough should be firm enough to form into balls that don't lose shape from too much moisture.
Roll into balls about the size of a ping-pong ball. Roll the balls in flour.
Melt some butter, or a combination of oil and butter for a lower smoking point, in a frying pan (cast iron works well). When hot, flatten the balls to about 2/3" thick and pan fry them over medium heat until golden brown on both sides. After the first side is done and you've flipped them, lower the heat a bit, and cover the pan loosely, to make sure they cook through. Carefully place the pancakes on a plate, allow to cool and firm up before serving. Top with a dollop of sour cream.