For the past five years or so, I’ve been catering a holiday party for a local dentist and his staff. These folks love to have fun and are always extremely creative in each year’s theme, going all out with games, food, and drinks to suit the occasion. The most recent theme was the Winter Olympics, and since the 2014 games were hosted by Russia, I thought what better time to present one of my all-time favorite party foods and a quintessential Russian holiday staple: the buckwheat blini.
Buckwheat’s name is somewhat confusing. Many people mistakenly think buckwheat is a type of wheat, and therefore, must contain gluten. However, not only is buckwheat a safe alternative for those adhering to a gluten-free diet, it technically isn’t even a cereal grain! The kernels, called groats, are actually the fruit seed of a broadleaf plant related to rhubarb. High in dietary fiber and packing a much lower glycemic load than cereal grains, buckwheat can provide a satisfying alternative to breads and pastas. It is a good source of magnesium, a vital mineral that aids in our body’s calcium absorption and supports a mass of issues from heart health to constipation to insomnia, and manganese, which promotes thyroid, bone, and nerve health. Buckwheat also contains rutin, which is part of the vitamin P group of the vitamin C complex. Dr. Royal Lee noted the importance of rutin in buckwheat: “[…] buckwheat meal is now known to be a source of a fraction (as is rice and barley) that is very useful in increasing tissue permeability and thereby lowering blood pressure.” Read the article here.
Traditionally, these bite-sized pancakes are made with refined white flour and buckwheat flour, at a ratio of around 2 to 1. I’ve upped the buckwheat content and replaced the refined flour with arrowroot to produce a much healthier version that just happens to be grain and gluten-free to boot. In Russia they’re commonly topped with sour cream and pickled herring, smoked salmon, or caviar, but there’s no need to stop there. Their unique earthiness is complemented by many sweet and savory applications, and they stand up to numerous bold and assertive flavors. Plus, they are very versatile, with no need to be reserved solely for the cocktail party buffet line. They are equally welcome on the breakfast table (you can make them larger, if you like) served with honey, maple syrup, yogurt, or fruit, or for lunch or dinner topped with sautéed vegetables, meats, eggs, and/or cheese. Heck, I’ve even used them as sandwich vessels.
Makes approximately 24
3/4 cup buttermilk (click here for a homemade buttermilk recipe)
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup arrowroot
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter, plus additional for cooking
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons carbonated water
1/2 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
8 oz sliced cold-smoked salmon
Fresh dill, for garnish
Lemon wedges, for garnish
1. Place all blini ingredients, except carbonated water, in a blender and blend on high until completely combined. Pour into a bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Gently whisk in the carbonated water.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Brush with a little butter. Spoon tablespoon-sized scoops of batter into pan, being careful not to crowd pancakes. Cook blini until bubbles form on the top, about one minute, then carefully flip over and cook the other side to golden-brown, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate or baking sheet as you continue cooking the remaining batter. If serving with salmon, cool to room temperature.
3. Top each blini with a small dollop of sour cream and an artfully placed slice of salmon. Garnish with dill and lemon.
*Make Ahead: The blini can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated overnight. Serve at room temperature or warm in a 300 F oven until crisp.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
·chemical- and hormone-free meat
·pastured-raised, organic eggs
·whole, unrefined grains
·virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
·whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
·pure, clean, spring water
·raw and/or cultured milk and cream products