Tapas, Russian Style

Back in the 1990s, you could barely walk a city block in Manhattan without passing a restaurant that served tapas, the Spanish appetizers that spread like wildfire through eateries from Moscow to Mumbai. Russia is sitting on an appetizer goldmine all its own - a delicious, uniquely Russian class of food called zakuski, or little bites.

Zakuski all share one important characteristic: they combine particularly well with a cold shot of vodka, which often requires a bite of something flavorful to clear the palette of its fiery taste. Of course, they go just as well with wine, champagne or fruit juices, especially cold cranberry juice, which resembles mors, a popular Russian berry drink.

Zakuski come in both cold and hot varieties and are served all at once, sometimes before the guests have sat down at the table. A typical zakuski table would also include pickles, pickled mushrooms and tomatoes, as many salamis, cured meats and sausages as you could find, small meatballs, various thinly sliced hard cheeses, horse radish, mustard, a basket of black and white breads, and more. One of the most beloved zakuski are pirozhki - small pies stuffed with a variety of fillings, from eggs to wild mushrooms. Here are the recipes for two popular types, one stuffed with cabbage, another with potatoes.


1 lb. 11 ounces dough

1 small head of cabbage

2 tbs. milk

5 hard-boiled eggs, diced

3 tbs. butter

1 sprig of parsley, finely sliced

salt and pepper to taste

1 egg


1. Place thinly sliced cabbage into a bowl and add boiling water.

2. Place cabbage into strainer, drain water.

3. Heat butter in a pan, then add cabbage and fry for 3-4 minutes.

4. Add eggs, parsley, salt and pepper.

5. Roll dough into a thin sheet. Using a glass, cut out circles from dough. To each circle, add 1 tablespoon of filling. Fold edges of dough, forming an elliptical shape.

6. Let bake for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees, then brush with egg.

7. Let bake for 20 more minutes.

For potato filling:

3 potatoes

1 small onion, diced

1 sprig dill, finely sliced

3 tbs. butter

salt and pepper to taste


1. Boil, then mash potatoes.

2. Melt butter in a pan over low heat, then add onions, letting them simmer until golden brown.

3. Add onions, dill, salt and pepper to mashed potatoes. Follow steps 6-11, leaving out step 10 (potato pirozhki are traditionally not brushed with an egg).

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