Monday, July 20, 2009

Corn Chowder

I can't recall when I was introduced to corn chowder. Our family had creamed corn, which was sweet and delicious and I guess my vision of corn chowder is based on that because since I've lived abroad, I've noticed that Europeans and Russians don't eat that much corn except a sprinkling here or there in a salad. My wife's family is from Altai and out there on the steppe, they had fresh corn. In the past five years, canned corn has become a 'normal thing' here.

Corn chowder is actually more of a fall dish, but I had the corn chowder blues and I had to make a little batch. My variant is rather a scrappy little thing made with bits and pieces. Here in Russia, it is possible to get small deli cuts of pork and sausage at any super market. I used a small pieced of well marbled, smoked pork shoulder, But you could use bacon, which might be even better. This recipe makes about 6 cups.


2 240 g (8 1/2 oz) cans whole kernel corn
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped celery (about 1 stalk)
1 1/2 cups milk
150 g smoked pork shoulder, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken bullion (1 bullion cube in 1 1/2 cups water)
5 waxy new potatoes, diced into 1 cm cubes
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp vegetable oil
fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish

You will need a blender or food processor for this recipe

Prepare all ingredients before cooking. In a medium sized pot, heat the oil on medium heat. You won't need much oil becasue the pork will supply enough to flavor the soup. Add the pork and saute slowly for about 3 minutes, then add the onions, garlic and celery and saute until tender, about 5 - 7 minutes.

When the onion and pork mixture is tender, add the chicken broth and the potatoes. If there isn't enough liquid to the potatoes, add a little more water. Bring to just before a boil, reduce heat and cover. Let it simmer for about 10 - 12 minutes or until the potatoes are almost ready. New potatoes should cook pretty quickly.

In the meantime, put your corn and milk in a blender or food processor and blend until very smooth and creamy. Use a spatula to pour the corn and milk mixture into the chowder. Mix the creamed corn and milk in with the chowder. Salt and pepper to taste, reduce heat and let it simmer on very low heat for about 3-4 minutes. The corn chowder should be a fragrant, chunky soup that isn't too thick. You can thin it out with a bit of milk if needed.

Garnish and serve. Goes well with a green salad and seafood or chicken.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Simple 3 Fruit Salad

The Side Board Kitchen has received a request from the lonely NY bachelor to supply a healthy recipe with fruit. Nothing could be simpler than selecting fruit you like, washing it and then eating it. To justify the existence of the SBK, however, some tips on preparing this ultra no-brainer might be handy.

Simple 3 Fruit Salad for One
The real business end of a fruit salad is managing proportions of the salad with the size of the fruit. In general to make a portion for one person you don't want much more than 1 1/2 cups of fruit - about 1/2 cup of each kind of fruit. If the salad is part of a larger meal, even less is needed. The 3 fruit combination is well suited to individual servings as you don't wind up with a lot of unused parts of cut up fruit or a lot of extra uneaten fruit salad as it doesn't keep well for more than a few hours. A happy rule of thumb is that it is easier to prepare a fruit salad for 2 or more people than for one. Invite guests!

1/2 sweet crunchy apple
6-8 seedless grapes (white or red or a combination)
1/2 cup ripe melon - honeydew or cantaloupe are good
2 Tbsp fresh blueberries or red currant
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp powdered sugar or 1 tsp warm honey dissolved in 1 tsp hot water

Any type of sweet crunchy apple will do - Red or Golden Delicious, Winesap, McIntosh or other local apples. Ask you grocer if in doubt. Wash the apple and cut in half. Remove the skin on the half that you'll be using and use a teaspoon or a vegetable scoop to remove the seeds and bitter core. The apple flesh needs maximum exposure to release flavor. You can do this by cutting it into 1 cm cubes. Place the cubed apple in a serving bowl. If you want to have a fancy salad, you can julienne the apple, which is to slice it into very thin matchsticks. This isn't difficult, but it takes a bit of practice to be albe to do it by hand quickly. I'll post an entry later on how to do this later, but it is also quite simple to get a julienne slicer from the store. Julienned fruit and vegetables are not only very attractive and this, I am convinced, affects the taste as well. There is somehow more love in it.

We have a julienne shredder like this one to the left. You can zip through an apple in a few strokes.

There are also hand held kinds available like this one on the right that work like a potato peeler. Easy clean up but I am not certain about how well they do the job.

Add the washed and halved grapes and 1/2 cup of the melon cut up into cubes the same size as the apple to the bowl.

Next, mix the 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar or honey with the 1 teaspoon of hot water and sprinkle it on the salad and toss a bit. If fruit is sweet to begin with, you ask, why add more sugar? Good question. Powdered sugar causes the natural fruit sugar to come out as well as creating a light glaze around the fruit which gives it a nice glazed appearance. Ordinary sugar works as well, but it doesn't dissolve easily and makes the salad taste like it has sweet sand in it. Honey works, too, but it is sometimes a hassle to get honey to the right liquid state to coat all the fruit. You can add more powdered sugar or honey depending on how sweet you like your fruit salad.

After that, add the 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice. Apples and other fruit have a tendency to turn brown when cut up and the lemon juice helps to preserve their color.

Finally, top with the fresh blueberries or red currants. Chill, if desired, or serve immediately.

As I mentioned before, for single servings, its a handy rule of thumb to limit your salad to three main ingredients so you don't have a a fridge full of half cut up fruit. Alternatively, you can make 2-3 portions and have one for dessert and one as a ready made breakfast the next day or one to take to work in a plastic container for lunch.

You can add a variety of texture and color to your fruit salad by topping it with different natural ingredients like:
  • dried fruit - raisins, cranberries, banana chips or cut up dried apricots
  • nuts - salted or unsalted sunflower seeds or almonds
  • yogurt or kefier for non fasting periods
Other good 3 fruit salad combinations:
  • pears, bananas and strawberries
  • pineapple, banana and kiwi
  • mango, orange and green apple
  • raspberries, pears and mandarin oranges
Up next, I'll post some delicious recipes for coleslaw and slaw-like salads which combine fruit and vegetables.

Take care!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Baja Crab Cakes

I forgot to add this recipe which I made last week for some guests. This is my own spin on crab cakes for the fast. I make this with a combination of surimi, the Japanese imitation crab sticks, and shrimp. Surimi is widely available. You can use canned crab meat as well, if you can afford it.

The key is soy mayonnaise, lime juice and onion crackers – these ingredients bind the little cakes without egg. Some cooks use cornstarch, but this changes the texture and consistency of the cakes. Unlike fish cutlets, crab cakes made with surimi are quite dry and needs a moister binding agent than just bread or crackers so that the cakes hold together when you fry them.

The green chilies available in Moscow are usually pretty mild but still more exciting than green bell pepper, which you can use as a substitute if you need to. If you want something with more kick, fee free to add hotter chilies or 1-3 tsp of Tabasco sauce.


500 g surimi / imitation crab sticks

500 g shrimp meat

1 cup finely crushed onion crackers

2/3 cup each finely chopped onion, celery and green chilies

¼ cup (packed) fresh chopped cilantro leaves

¾ cup soy mayonnaise

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp dry mustard

Juice of 1 lime

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp cajun salt

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

½ c white flour

¼ c tempura batter

Salt, pepper to taste

½ cup vegetable oil for frying

To make the crab cakes, remove the crab sticks (surimi) from their individual wrappers, cut the sticks in thirds crosswise and then use you hands to break up the meat into stingy pieces in a large bowl or pot. Rise shrimp and press out excess water using cheesecloth or a sieve. Grind the shrimp in a meat grinder or chop very finely with a knife. Chop up all vegetables very fine. Add minced shrimp and vegetables to the crab meat and add lime juice and spices. Using your hands or a big spoon, mix the ingredients well. I like to use my hands to break up the surimi even more and make sure all the ingredients are well distributed. Finally, add the soy mayonnaise and mix well. The resulting mass should stick to itself pretty well.

Use the mass to form 3 cm balls and place them on a 20 x 30 cm piece of waxed paper or baking paper.

Mix the flour, tempura batter, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Coat the balls one at a time with the flout-tempura mixture and form them into rough patties about 2 cm thick. You may need to wash your hands every now and then to keep the mixture from sticking to your hands. It is important to make the cakes all roughly the same size so they cook evenly.

Heat the 1/2 of vegetable oil in a large pan for 3-4 minutes, or until you're sure it is hot and fry the cakes in the hot oil in small batches of 3 to 5 for about 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Placed the cooked crab cakes on a plate layered with paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Serve Baja Crab Cakes with guacamole and Spanish rice and plenty of cold beer.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Foil Baked Fish

The health benefits of fish are well known but preparing fish can be a hassle for many. Here is a simple technique for baking individual portions of fish in about 20 minutes and involves very little clean up. Foil baking is especially suited to frozen fish, which is easier to store and more cost effective if you want small portions or eating alone. Cod, tilapia, pollock or sole are good mild white fish you can buy in the frozen section of most supermarkets. There are anywhere from 2 - 4 fillets per pound, depending on the fish.

Never soak frozen fish in hot water. To thaw frozen fish, simply remove it from the package and holding one or several frozen fish fillets in your hand, run warm (but not hot) water over it until any ice falls off and the fillets can gently be unstuck from each other. At this point, it is ok to re-freeze any unwanted fish fillets. Continue to run warm water over the fish you want to cook until it becomes slightly pliable. Pat the fish dry with a clean towel or several paper towels. Now you are ready to bake your fish.

You will need:

a baking sheet or dish, preferably one with a small edge

25 -30 cm of aluminum foil

one or two frozen fish fillets

vegetable oil, olive oil or sesame oil

any combination of onion, garlic and or ginger

lemon or lime juice

salt, pepper


a small quantity of fresh herbs such as thyme or marjoram

dry prepackaged seasonings for fish, if desired


Small amounts of olive or plain vegetable oil can be infused with fresh herbs, dark sesame oil, dry seasonings, garlic, ginger or onion for 5 minutes to create unique flavors that can enhance the mild flavor of white fish fillets.

Savory Foil Baked Cod

Preparation time: 25 minutes

1 frozen cod fillet, thawed
1 shallot or 1/2 of a finely chopped onion
1 1/2 Tbsp of oil
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
sea salt to taste
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed or sliced very thinly


Place the fish fillet on the foil lengthwise and salt. In a small bowl, mix onion, garlic, oil, fresh herbs and lemon pepper. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. Brush onto fish fillet and close foil loosely.

Place fish on the baking pan in a 180 C or 350 F preheated oven for 20 minutes. Serve with rice or vermicelli noodles and a bit of margarine. Liquid from the fish will be savory and can be poured onto the rice as well.

Foil Baked Asia Pacific Tilapia
Preparation time: 25 minutes

2 frozen tilapia fillets, thawed
1 shallot or 1/2 of a finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp finely minced ginger
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed or sliced very thinly
sea salt and pepper to taste


Place the fish fillets on separate pieces of foil lengthwise and salt. In a small bowl, mix garlic, oils, soy sauces and ginger. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. Brush onto fish fillets and grind a bit of fresh pepper on, as desired. Close foil loosely.

Place foil fish packets on the baking pan in a 180 C or 350 F preheated oven for 20 minutes. Serve with rice topped with 2 tsp of dark sesame oil and soy sauce.

Foil Baked Lemon Sole or Hake

Preparation time: 25 minutes

1 - 2 frozen sole or hake fillets, thawed
1 shallot or 1/2 of a finely chopped onion
1 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil
2 tsp of lemon juice
1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
sea salt to taste
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed or sliced very thinly


Place the fish fillets on separate pieces of foil lengthwise and salt. In a small bowl, mix onion, garlic, oil, and fresh herbs together. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. Brush onto fish fillets and top each fillet with 1 tsp of lemon juice.

Place fish on the baking pan in a 180 C or 350 F preheated oven for 20 minutes. Serve with rice or vermicelli noodles and a bit of margarine.

After preparing fish in this manner several times, it will go faster and you might be inspired to experiment. Good luck!

The Apostles Fast

In the Russian Orthodox Church, the Apostles Fasts lasts from June 15th to July 11th (NS) this year (2009). In the Moscow Patriarchate, it is a mild fasting period with frequent allowances for oil, fish and wine. The fast ends with the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul on July 12.

Stricter fasting days during this fast are on Wednesdays and Fridays, with no fish allowed. Beans are a good source of protein and Georgian cuisine makes use of them in a variety of bean dishes called 'lobbio'. Georgians use either kidney beans or green beans, walnuts and a spicy sauce called adzhika to make lobbio, but a bit of vinegar, onion and BBQ sauce make a suitable substitute. Here is a quick and filling sandwich for 2 people.

Lobbio Sandwich
preparation - 15 minutes

For the filing:
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 can red kidney beans in tomato sauce
1/2 shallot, chopped finely (or 3 Tbsp minced onion)
2 tsp BBQ sauce
1/2 tsp red wine / apple cider vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar

2 pita pockets, cut in half and carefully opened
1 ripe tomato
3/4 cup finely chopped iceberg lettuce
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, stems removed
juice of 1/4 lemon wedge
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

In a skillet on medium heat, warm the vegetable oil for about 30
seconds and then add the shallots. Saute shallots for about 1 minute
or until they become a little soft and then add the beans along with the
tomato sauce, the BBQ sauce, sugar and vinegar. Stir well and simmer on
medium heat for 5-8 minutes.

In the meantime, wash the tomato, cut in half and then cut halves into very
thin slices. Using a good sharp knife, chop up the lettuce and
cilantro and mix them together in a bowl. Sprinkle the juice of the 1/4 lemon on
it and toss it a bit.

Divide the lettuce and cilantro mixture into 4 parts and fill the pita
halves. Spoon in about 3-4 tablespoons of the warm beans and top with
tomato slices and chopped walnuts. Salt and pepper as desired.


Welcome to the Side Board Kitchen

Hello everyone.

This blog is dedicated to a particular (bachelor) friend who has recently moved to New York, to all striving Orthodox Christians with little or no kitchen savvy and anyone who is interested in understanding more about the culinary habits of one of the worlds oldest confessions. The richness of the Orthodox tradition might suggest hours of painstaking labors and many, for the sake of love, endure this to glorify God and bring delight to friends and family. The principles supporting the Side Board Kitchen blog are less ambitious, however. The aim of this blog will be to demonstrate how to prepare quick and easy meals in harmony with the Orthodox calendar of Feasts and Fasts and empower the less adventurous with basic culinary know how.

As some of you know, Orthodox Christianity offers a curious mix of lifestyle experiences. We are irregular vegans, temporary fish eating lacto-ovo vegetarians, complete abstainers and then all meat feasters, depending on the day. Fasting in Orthodox tradition doesn't mean the complete abstention from food, but the periodic abstaining from certain foods and limiting the intake of food according to the conscience and the principle of satiety. The dietary restrictions of Orthodoxy may seem to follow a inscrutable Byzantine rhythm, but the cycle of fasting and feasting is actually quite simple. The essence of the Orthodox diet is not weight loss, ascetic heroism or blind obedience to 'food rules' but a moderate middle way in our relationship to sustenance so as neither to be blinded by the weight of the flesh nor paralyzed with fear about breaking the rules, which are essentially guidelines provided for achieving harmony between body, mind and soul. Fasting in the Orthodox Church is, along with prayer and repentance, a way of life and as such affects our day to day behavior in a visible way. It is the outward aspect of an inner attitude which provides both opportunity for personal growth as well as consolation and strength.

The guidelines for fasting in the Orthodox Church come from several sources. The primary source is, of course, the Old Testament which establishes fasting as a bodily practice for coming closer to God. Feasting, an aspect of Orthodoxy that is often misunderstood by the average person and greatly underrated by the pious as irrelevant, is also an important part of Orthodoxy and the Old Testament is replete with celebrating God's mercy and loving kindness with the gifts of the earth which He gave us for our enjoyment.

The Jews practiced fasting in several modes. Complete abstinence from food was rare, but the practice of xerophagy, (Hebrew, lit. 'dry eating') which is the practice of abstaining from meat, dairy products and oil on Wednesdays and Fridays, has been preserved in Orthodoxy and forms the basis of routine fasting in Orthodoxy practice today. The monastic diet, depending on the community and the rule followed, is predominantly meatless but otherwise contains dairy products and fish at regular intervals. Many Orthodox communities around the world have modified fasting (and feasting) to reflect what is locally available. In Russia, for example, the rules for abstaining from oil are milder than in some other places. In China, Africa and other countries, for example, abstaining from meat is less dramatic than it is in North America and Eurpoe becasue meat plays a less important role in diet in general.

The brass tacks for fasting in the Orthodox Church are laid out in the daily Orthodox Calendar. For a daily guide to fasting, you can go to the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Chruch calendar online or the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America calendar online. Another important source for fasting is a book called The Lenten Triodion, which gives instructions on how to conduct Church services during Great Lent and provides a commentary on fasting and its significance for Orthodox Christians. Here is a link for more online literature concerning the practice of fasting.

In this blog, I will strive to share my love for God, friends, food and fasting in such a way as to provide a glimpse of this way of life in practical terms - recipes and techniques that are quick and easy enough for busy people to use. In many places like Russia or in big cities in the US and Europe, it is easier to find vegetarian and even vegan restaurants and cafes but this can be an expensive way to keep the fast as well as feasts.

It is my hope that this blog and the recipes posted here will help my friend in New York and anybody else to prepare food for themselves and start to celebrate the important events in their lives in the more intimate environment of their home, sharing their table and way of life with others.