Russian Recipes and Lore 


Darra Goldstein will sign copies of Beyond the North Wind at Rockridge Market Hall. Book published by Ten Speed Press.

 Purchase this book.


Award-winning author and food scholar Darra Goldstein will be signing copies of her new book, Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore, at this Market Hall event, where you’ll also get to taste two of the recipes: Beet Salad and Steamed Buckwheat with Sauteéd Mushrooms & Onions. The book explores the heart of Russian food with 100 recipes for pickles and preserves, infused vodkas, homemade dairy products, puff pastry hand pies stuffed with mushrooms and fish, and seasonal vegetable soups.

With 50 years spent studying and writing about Russian culture and food, Goldstein is able to assure readers that this cuisine is not heavy or bland, and it goes way beyond borscht and potatoes. She delves in with statements like, “What is Russian is the thousand-year-old practice of fermentation, the pickling and culturing and curing of vegetables, grains, fish, and dairy products that enabled the Russians to survive their long winters.”

“It’s the sour tang of kvass and sourdough rye bread and the comforting earthiness of whole-grain porridges. It’s the foraged mushrooms and berries that each year are transformed into a dazzling array of pickles and preserves. It’s the wanton glory of Russian pies with their myriad shapes, crusts, and fillings.”

Readers will delight in Goldstein’s evocative storytelling and essays on the area’s little-known culinary history, as well as the book’s gorgeous photography.

Darra Goldstein Book Signing: Beyond the North Wind
Sunday March 1, 2–4pm 

Rockridge Market Hall
5655 College Ave, Oakland
No charge except for purchases.
Info: here


Recipes from Beyond the North Wind

Reprinted with permission from Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore by Darra Goldstein, copyright © 2020. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Photography credit: Stefan Wettainen © 2020

Beet Salad
Свекольный салат 

Beets are for more than borscht. They also make vivid salads, which the Russians take in various directions, mixing in walnuts and prunes for a touch of the sweet, or onions and garlic for a savory edge. This refreshing version gets a nice kick from horseradish and vinegar, along with tartness from grated apple. The quality of the sunflower oil is crucial here—only a good, nutty oil will bring out the best in the other ingredients. Like borscht, this salad tastes even better on the second day, or even the third. 

Serves 4 to 6 

1 1⁄2 pounds beets
1 large carrot
1-inch slice of horseradish
1 tart apple (such as Granny Smith)
1⁄4 cup minced red onion
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cold-pressed sunflower oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sour cream

Preheat the oven to 425°. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and bake until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on their size. Let cool.

Peel the beets and put them through the grating disk of a food processor. Peel and grate the carrot, horseradish, and apple. Transfer the grated vegetables and fruit to a medium bowl. Add the onion and season with the salt and pepper. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and sour cream and mix to combine. Chill before serving.

Steamed Buckwheat
Гречневая каша  

Kasha, or cooked buckwheat, is the most essential of Russian foods, basic and traditional. The recipe included here is the only one in this book that exactly replicates a recipe I published in A la Russe thirty-seven years ago, and the reason is simple: I haven’t found anything that improves upon the old-fashioned method of baking buckwheat rather than boiling it on top of the stove, as most contemporary cookbooks recommend. These groats turn out richly flavored and fluffy. Just be sure to use whole roasted groats. (Raw green groats will need to be roasted first; see Note.)

What has changed since I published my first Russian cookbook is the awareness of kasha as gluten-free, which has brought it newfound attention. Although we treat buckwheat like a grain, often boiling it like rice or grinding it into flour, it’s actually a member of the rhubarb family, native to Central Asia. The edible groat is the fruiting part of the plant, technically known as an achene. Buckwheat’s cultivation in Russia has been documented as early as the thirteenth century. Its name (“Greek porridge” or, affectionately, “the Greek one”) derives from the active trade with Greek merchants who plied the Black Sea and introduced a number of foodstuffs to Russia. Buckwheat is an amazing crop, so sturdy that it thrives where even hearty grains such as rye struggle. Little surprise, then, that the Russian peasantry called kasha “our dear mother,” always there for them in times of need.

Buckwheat can also be a dinner-party savior. If you learn at the last minute that a gluten-free guest is arriving for dinner, you can just pull out the kasha. It’s a great accompaniment to meat, and when mixed with mushrooms, onions, and herbs, it becomes a guest-worthy main dish.

Serves 4 to 6 

1 cup coarse-cut buckwheat groats
Unsalted butter, cut into bits, for greasing the pot, plus 2 tablespoons
1⁄2 teaspoon salt |2 cups boiling water

In a large frying pan, toast the groats over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the grains begin to turn a darker shade of brown.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 1 1⁄2-quart covered earthenware casserole. Add the groats and the salt. Pour the boiling water over all and dot with the butter. Cover and bake for 20 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated and the groats are fluffy.

To roast raw buckwheat, preheat the oven to 300°. Spread 1 cup raw groats on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until browned, stirring occasionally, especially toward the end.


Although I love the taste of plain steamed buckwheat, the master recipe can be riffed on in numerous ways. Here are a few of them.

Mushroom Kasha. Mushrooms both complement and intensify the flavor of buckwheat. I sometimes use broth from soaked dried mushrooms in place of boiling water. To make a mushroom broth, soak about 3 ounces dried wild mushrooms in 2¼ cups room-temperature water for 1 hour. Strain the broth into a measuring cup, adding water if necessary to yield 2 cups of liquid. Pour the broth into a saucepan and bring to a boil, then add it to the groats in place of the water along with some of the chopped rehydrated mushrooms.

Kasha with Sautéed Mushrooms. Another way to add mushroom flavor is simply to stir some sautéed mushrooms into the groats before baking.

Kasha with Sautéed Onions. Add sautéed chopped onions to the groats, along with a tablespoon or two of snipped fresh dill, before baking. When you add mushrooms, onions, and herbs to the kasha, you end up with a dish complex enough to serve on its own as a casserole.

Groats Cooked with Egg. If you want a less fluffy porridge, crack 1 egg into a small bowl and whisk lightly. Pour the egg over the groats in the frying pan, stirring well to coat each piece. Cook the groats over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until all the moisture from the egg has evaporated. Then proceed as directed in the master recipe.

Buckwheat Porridge. For a creamy consistency, which the Russians like when they serve buckwheat porridge for breakfast, in a large saucepan, boil 1 cup groats with ½ teaspoon salt in 2 cups water over medium heat, uncovered, until the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 cups whole milk and simmer the groats, covered, until very soft, about 20 minutes. Serve hot. I sometimes stir dried cranberries or blueberries into the porridge for texture and a hint of sweetness.

Buckwheat Croutons. An excellent use of leftover groats is to make buckwheat croutons, a classic accompaniment to Borscht.