That way, you can grow most of the good things that build today’s entry, Okroshka. It’s a chilled soup, making it perfect for dialing down the swelter enveloping us. Generous helpings of herbs take full advantage of gardens beginning to hit their stride, and they aid in the soup’s refreshing mission.
An aside, this is the first time a Russian dish has been featured on these pages, but it probably won’t be the last. As cold as Russia gets in winter – ask Napoleon, – temperatures soar just as dramatically in the summer, inspiring cuisine to cool diners. Okroshka accomplishes this by starting with a buttermilk base, and then by adding all variety of minced fresh herbs. “Okroshka” is Russian for “crushed,” after all.
Additional cooling comes from cucumber juice, derived from squeezing a grated cucumber. Ever wonder what 2/3 of a cup of cucumber juice looks like? Here you go:
As refreshing as all this is, okroshka has a couple flavorful, spicy tricks up its sleeve too. A dollop of hot mustard keeps things interesting, while freshly-grated horseradish adds a little heat too, while maintaining the garden theme. As it’s the first time this journal has relied on horseradish grated “from scratch,” here’s the root sourced from the local market:
Before the soup is served, various fresh herbs are laid along the bottom of each bowl, along with julienned cucumbers and radishes. Finally, a quail’s egg is hard-boiled and halved. As hard-boiled eggs are anathema, a little shredded chicken, baked with mustard and horseradish, was substituted. This is one of the bowls, awaiting its soup:
The result is creamy and refreshing, but with a hint of heat – a combination that intrigued when Saveur listed the recipe in its June/July 2017 issue. While utmost respect goes to those who grow their own, the rest of us may rely on garden abundance popping up in farmers’ markets and in grocery stores everywhere about now.
(Chilled Buttermilk Soup with Herbs)
- 8 quail eggs (*1)
- 2 seedless cucumbers, one julienned and the other grated
- 2 cups loosely-packed fresh herbs, such as dill, mint, celery leaves, cilantro, or sorrel, plus more for garnish
- 1 quart buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons freshly-grated horseradish
- 2 tablespoons hoy mustard
- 10 radishes, julienned
Hard-boil the quail eggs, then submerge them in a bath of ice water to halt the cooking process. Peel the eggs and halve them. (*1)
Place the shredded cucumber in a fine-mesh sieve set over a small bowl. Press on the cucumber until it yields 2/3 of a cup of liquid. (*2)
In a food processor, place the two cups of fresh herbs, along with two tablespoons of cold water. Pulse until the mixture is finely-chopped, but not liquified.
In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, cucumber juice, horseradish and hot mustard. Stir in the chopped herbs. Season generously with salt and refrigerate until well-chilled.
Divide the remaining fresh herbs, julienned cucumber and radish, and the quail eggs (*1) equally among eight bowls. Pour some soup into each bowl and serve.
1 – As mentioned, hard-boiled eggs are about my 67,527th-favorite thing, just ahead of a really bad sunburn. In their place, I marinated two boneless, skinless chicken thighs in horseradish mustard for an hour, the broiled them for eight minutes per side, shredding them when they cooled.
2 – It likely will take an entire seedless cucumber to produce the requisite juice. Of course, if you’re patient (I’m not), you can get close to 2/3 of a cup, then place the squeezed cucumber shreds in the sieve and allow them to “drip” for an hour. Eventually, you’ll get enough juice that way too.