Best to Have a Green Thumb

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:Cucumber Juice

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:Horseradish

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:Okroshka Herbs

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.



53 thoughts on “Best to Have a Green Thumb

    1. Cool and refreshing, actually, particularly when the temperatures, they get a-sweltering.

      Still, Eliza, too much work to make it worth the effort. Just the amount shown today took over half an hour to extract.

      If it weren’t for this recipe… The sacrifices I make for you, my readers!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, no doubt, Eliza, cucumber juice offers allurements of all sorts. In fact, a little was left over after the soup, leading to quite the refreshing gulp, let me tell you.

        Another use also came to mind. As cucumber juice already is exuberantly green, how about simmering it over a low heat, causing much of the water to evaporate, leaving behind, well, hyper green? A perfectly superior, all-natural, alternative to green food coloring, wouldn’t you think? Mint frosting is sure to be on the menu at some point, and it’s worth a try!


      2. Much appreciated, Eliza!

        No, haven’t heard of the dish, hence the need to Google it…

        Well, I just investigated, and am glad you suggested it. Definitely joins “The List,” and when it’s attempted, you’ll get praise befitting an inspirer!


      3. Well, thanks for the suggestion, Eliza. It was a good one, and this morning produced a promising recipe (from Food & Wine). Plus, it’ll be the first foray into Swiss cuisine!

        Thus, into the rotation Basler Leckerli goes, and you’ll see the results here, when its turn comes in a couple years. Maybe a few months longer, as it is something of a “holiday” treat.

        That is, unless you outdo me and try the recipe sooner. Keep your curiosity, Eliza, and you’ll surprise both of us. You did tell the rabbi, right, that was in Year Two of your Three-Year Plan, to make Basler Leckerli?


      4. Looking forward to seeing yours! And yup, I did. By then I’ll be eating what I make so it’ll be worth it 🙂
        I took a picture for you. Let’s just figure how to share it. Why can’t you just attach pictures to comments? It was just a small brownie cake that flopped, it rose like a cake more than brownie like, cut and iced.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Can’t wait to see the pics, Eliza!

        I’ve seen people post pictures, and even videos, but I’m not sure how such wonders are accomplished. Sorcery, maybe?

        You know, that’s the way baking goes for everyone, ever since people started cooking things lo those many millennia ago. We try, think of something we can improve the next time, and keep the recipe going from there. A recipe never is a destination, but a dialogue.

        Aesthetics aside, how did they taste, Eliza? Make a change here, and an adjustment there, and things will turn out better the next time.

        Not just in cooking, but in life in general.


      6. Yeah I’ve learned that more baking powder makes it into more of a cake. Or less oil. Messing with the recipe a little. But as brownies it’s the best – gooey.
        I made it into a six and it was cute. For a lil girls birthday.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Quite true Eliza!

        And your generosity remains torrential. Brownies for a little girl (and her friends), hummingbird cupcakes for your own friends.

        At one point, forever ago it seems, you told me you really don’t bake. Maybe not. Maybe Old Eliza didn’t, but Renaissance Eliza most definitely does. How fortunate for those in your circle!


      8. A great idea, and a worthwhile purchase for sure, Eliza!

        Around here, stores sell chef’s squeeze bottles for a dollar apiece. I don’t what that works out to in the UK – about 70 pence?

        Little matter. Your notion is a good one, and I think you’ll have little difficulty making it happen!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. What an unusual combination of tastes … not aware of quail egg supply here!

    You sure have an interesting eclectic collection of recipes Keith 🙂

    that cucumber juice looks inviting, might just try it with a few of those herbs for a summer drink … far too cold now to entertain the idea 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely a good idea, Kate, something to keep in mind for your summer.

      Have you ever tried gazpacho? It’s a Spanish tomato soup, usually served chilled in mid-summer. After the tomatoes, cucumbers are the most prominent ingredient, and they go a long way to keeping things refreshing.

      Of course, gazpacho also is served heated in the winter, though by that time of year, we must rely on hothouse tomatoes and cucumbers, which aren’t nearly a good as are just-picked.

      Still, those ingredients are in ready supply up here in North America right now, I made up a quart for you, heated it in a stockpot, and am sending it to you with the team still rising. Happy eating!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You call it being spoilt, Kate; I think it’s more of a karma-type situation.

        You’ve made such an effort to spread happiness and sunshine, it’s only natural a little will come back to you. Think about it, the next time you’re sipping soup, still steaming a little and satisfying you through and through – would you be where you are now if you hadn’t been such a nice sort? You give warmth, you get warmth.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Noted, Kate.

        So…I won’t mail you a bottle of Scotch when you pass the Bar Exam.

        I was going to offer you a “good” bottle of scotch too, but I dropped the adjective. Because, really, how can you tell if it’s “good?”

        Before trying scotch, I fancied it might recall butterscotch.

        No. No, it did not. What a disappointment.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Ha! 🤣

        Not enough scotch tape in the world to reassemble that particular dream, either. Then again, just as well scotch tastes like angry cough syrup, else I would have been a total lush by this point.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I really like cucumber juice. It’s so refreshing on a hot day. The herbs look delicious, as well. I had never thought of a “chilled” soup. Sounds invigorating with these high temperatures! The hot mustard will surely clear the sinuses.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It does, Tamara, that’s for sure!

      Chilled soups are steamers’ lesser-known cousins, but hey have their own spot in the culinary universe.

      Have you heard of gazpacho (Spanish tomato soup)? You can serve it hot or cold, depending on the time of year. Delicious both ways!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, it is, Tamara. Kind of like what you’d find in a red can, except lighter, and much more sophisticated too.

        You owe it to yourself to find gazpacho, especially as tomatoes seek perfection, and find it, in another month or so.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This looks great! We’ve been regularly getting highs in the upper 80s recently, so this sounds like the sort of dish that would be perfect right now! I’ve been making strawberry cucumber smoothies nearly every morning. I think cucumber is one of the most refreshing foods out there. I’m so happy they’ve regularly been coming in my produce delivery boxes since my cucumber plants are not bearing fruits yet.

    I’m surprised that this dish only had a hint of heat between the horseradish and the mustard. I think all of my experiences with raw horseradish have been quite fiery! I tend to stay away from the plant for that reason but now your post is making me reconsider.

    Have you tried quail eggs? They are the tiniest little things. They take a very long time to peel, particularly if they are fresh. I made a batch of tea eggs with quail eggs once, quite a project! I know you changed the recipe based on your taste preferences. However, going with the chicken likely saved you a bit of time as well!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Likewise, Summer, though maybe even a few degrees warmer down here, a few dozen miles from the Mason-Dixon Line. Your namesake season sure is pulling out al the stops this year. Never fear, though – cucumbers to the rescue! Ah, those wonderful miracle-boxes that show up on your doorstep every week.

      It’s funny, horseradish is is quite assertive, as is hot mustard. They definitely have a pronounced presence in the soup, too, yet they merely tease, and don’t overwhelm. What gives? The buttermilk, that’s what I think. Just as crema in Mexican cooking does wonders to tame the peppers, Russians discovered similar qualities in buttermilk.

      As for quail eggs, no. I’ve seen them once or twice in the local supermarket, but a mild distaste for eggs just edges out my curiosity. That doesn’t mean my interest packs it up and calls it a day, though.

      Now that I learned you’ve worked with quail egg, I have to know – what did you think? Sounds like a lot of work, but do they yield a flavor noticeably different from that of chicken eggs?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In regards to the quail eggs, I did not think they were so different taste-wise than a chicken egg. I love their speckled appearance and tiny size. My main reason for including them would be appearance, to be perfectly honest.

        Thinking about them makes me wish I had some in the fridge to incorporate into a dish. lol I haven’t purchased any in months, since I typically can’t get them at regular grocery stores.

        I bet you’re right about the buttermilk. Dairy foods do an amazing job putting out some of the heat in extremely fiery foods.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Quail eggs have found their way to the local grocers once or twice, though sourcing them otherwise requires a trip into the city, to shop at the specialty wholesalers chefs frequent. To be honest, Summer, I’m not that crazy about eggs, and going to the expense, fighting traffic, trying to find parking and undertaking all other difficulties in search of something that offers little aside from novelty… Well, I’m just not that much of a foodie, thank you. I’ll just wait around until 2021 or 2022 for them to show up again at the regular supermarket.

        For that matter, the local grocers even featured turkey eggs once. Didn’t even try them, as eggs generally fall into the “Meh” category for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. “I’m just not that much of a foodie.” Ha! Even foodies have the right to dislike certain foods as much as sunburns. Speaking of sweltering, meal looks perfect for Houston summers.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Oh my, Crystal, much appreciated!

        Point well received. Knowing what one doesn’t like is as vital to forming one’s culinary persona as is knowing what to pursue.

        From what I remember of Houston, you could pull something from the oven, yet still, it’d be cooler than summer temps.

        Sure okroshka “works” warmed as well (I experimented with a half-cup), yet it finds its excellence in the fridge.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Very true, Crystal. “Absolutely,” to both questions.

        One should lead to the other. “I don’t care for that” becomes, after some consideration, “Yet, yet…what if I change this and monkey with those?”

        Of such journeys cuisines evolve.

        All manner of human endeavors, actually.

        Liked by 2 people

      6. Have you seen duck eggs? I’ve heard they are larger and stronger tasting than chicken eggs. It sounds like you would not be a fan! Hahaha

        I wouldn’t bother chasing after foods I wasn’t fond of either. I don’t really think there’s a good reason to force yourself to try every single thing out there if you don’t want to! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      7. Yep, I’ve seen duck eggs, but I can’t remember where. Maybe at one of those specialty wholesalers I told you about in the city’s warehouse district.

        Glad you understand my being careful about eggs. While I don’t dislike eggs, they really aren’t favorites, either. Best to reserve enthusiasm for food that actually has earned it. Which is most of them, actually.

        Oh, have you ever bought fresh, organic, eggs straight from the farm? One of my friends took his first post-university job in Lancaster, PA (a city amidst Amish people in some of the surrounding countryside). Anyway, one of the farms was selling eggs, and though I didn’t care much for them, a desire to try a novel experience led to a purchase. I’m telling you, Summer, never were yolks more vibrant, both in color and in taste!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Nancy!

      Glad you like it. Look for more wonders in the months and years ahead. Please, keep commenting, too, as it fuels creativity and leads to all sorts of great conversations!


  4. I’m not surprised the Amish have come through for some of the best eggs around. I really enjoyed their restaurants and cuisine overall when I visited the area. I purchased a cookbook when I was visiting that is full of Amish recipes. It’s spiral-bound and not something that you can find on Amazon. However, the simple, hearty dishes remain some of my favorites.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely, Summer! Oh, have you ever had Shoofly Pie?

      At first I was hesitant to try it, as people told me it was reminiscent of Fig Newtons (which I loathe). Nope, everybody, much, much better! In fact, I might just travel back, and even help with a barn-raising, if it’ll get me more Shoofly Pie!

      At the roadside stand where I bought my first Shoofly, each pie came with a hand-drawn flyer featuring a smiling Amish man seated at a table, napkin collared and knife and fork in hand, dreamily anticipating dessert. The caption read, “Pa! Pa! Eat you some more Shoofly Pie!” Charming.

      And I mean that sincerely, not in the sarcastic Millennial I’m-So-Much-Cooler-Than-Everything sense.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes! Shoofly pie may have been my first introduction to the cuisine. Delicious! The ham loaf or ham balls in pineapple sauce might be my all-time favorite Amish dish. I haven’t made it in forever. Now I wish I was having it this week. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Here we are, discussing djon djons and flying fish, then suddenly my state, and that on the other side of New York from you, makes a power play.

        Though our tastes may wander, and our travels my intrigue them, there’s something wonderfully satisfying about “home” cooking, is there not?

        Liked by 2 people

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