Russians serve blinis with all kinds of toppings, not just caviar. Because the blinis are small the toppings are finely chopped to sit on top easily. The Russian zakouski table is a large table holding hors d’oeuvres that are served before the meal. Blinis are always a part of it. Traditionally they are made with yeast, but this method makes excellent ones. Blinis freeze well.
Makes about 45 blinis
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup buckwheat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp salt
- Pinch sugar
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
Combine all-purpose and buckwheat flours, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together egg, salt, sugar and buttermilk. Stir liquid ingredients into dry ones. Let stand 20 minutes.
Melt 1 tbsp butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Drop batter into pan in ½-tbsp portions; do not crowd. Cook about 1 minute or until mixture bubbles and bottom is crisp. Turn over and cook second side for another 45 seconds or until golden. Repeat, adding butter as needed.
Sour Cream and Caviar
If real Russian caviar is available then this is the only way to serve it other than eating directly from the jar. These garnishes can be used with the other toppings too. Substitute salmon caviar or 4 oz chopped smoked salmon.
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled
- ½ cup finely chopped red onion
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 oz (30 g) or more caviar
Separate the egg yolk from white, then grate both into separate dishes. Place onion in a third dish and sour cream in another one. Serve with the caviar for guests to help themselves.
Russians would probably use Matjes herring for this, but my method uses herring pieces that are pickled and then jarred.
- 1½ cups chopped pickled herring
- ½ cup finely chopped red onion
- ½ cup peeled and finely chopped tart apple
- 2 tbsp chopped dill
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Combine herring with red onion and apple in a medium bowl. Stir in dill. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Russian Mushroom Caviar
Many Russians can’t afford real caviar so they make mock caviar with finely chopped vegetables. Mushroom caviar is wonderful. It looks like the real thing and has a subtle, interesting flavour. It will keep, refrigerated, for about a week. You can use regular cultivated mushrooms, if desired, but portobello mushrooms give the darkest, most caviar-like look.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 lb (500 g) portobello mushrooms, coarsely chopped
- 1 tbsp chopped garlic
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Pinch cayenne
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 2 tbsp sliced green onions
Heat 1 tbsp oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until golden, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Add remaining oil, raise heat to medium-high. Add mushrooms and garlic to pan and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until all the mushroom liquid evaporates and the mixture is dry, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
Spoon onion and mushroom mixture in food processor and process until minced but not puréed.
Combine the minced mixture with cayenne, lemon juice, dill, sour cream, green onions, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.