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Kerry Kubilius

Russian Culture Monday: The Zakuska

By May 18, 2009

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A zakuska (plural: zakuski) is a Russian appetizer or hors d'oeuvre served before the main meal. Russian cuisine features an endless number of zakuska recipes, and they run the gamut of a basket of black bread with butter to labor-intesive fish dishes. If the zakuska table is set to impress, as it might be if you are the guest of an enthusiastic cook or celebrating a special occasion with others, these "little bites" can seem like a meal by themselves. All kinds of pickled vegetables, smoked fish, dishes seasoned with fresh dill, and, of course, caviar, are common to the zakuska table. Vodka is likely to be offered as a way to wash down these "little bites."

Served alone, a zakuska makes tempting snack, finger food for a party, or an accompaniment to a light meal. If Russian culture interests you, one way to share that interest is to master one or two zakuska recipes to prepare for guests or to bring to potluck dinners. The easiest and most representative zakuska is buttered bread topped with caviar, but there are hundreds of zakuska recipes that you may encounter as a guest at a Russian house, on menus in Russian restaurants, or in Russian cookbooks.

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Buttered Bread with Caviar photo credit: iStockphoto/gh19

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