I have to tell you that I did not invent this name for it! Had I done that, I would’ve come up with something a bit more – ummm… – original. But this is the name you find in the menus of all Russian restaurants (Original’naya Zakuska), and the reasons it has made its way to our Shavuos table are twofold: first, “the original” original appetizer is dairy, although I make it pareve; second, it’s the combination of colors again, white and green. Once it appeared, years ago, it has become everybody’s favorite, and justifiably so – it is delicious. It is also fast and easy to make – but it disappears even faster!
I apologize for a blurry photo, but my feline helper Barmalei was again nudging my elbow. By the time I realized that looking at this picture, you might think you’ve already had a few shots of vodka, it was already done. There isn’t much to it, really. As a dairy variation, you need some cream cheese, or a combination of farmer cheese and sour cream mixed to a consistency of cream cheese. As I serve it not only on Shavuos, but any time kids and grandkids grace this house with their presence, I had to create a pareve alternative, since meat would usually be served as a main dish. So – Tofutti is my best friend! – I use Better than Cream Cheese. And it is, really! You put as much garlic into it as you can stand (vampires never dare to visit this house), and lots of fresh dill. A dash of salt, a pinch of pepper, mix well and serve.
I use an ice cream scoop to form balls, but you can be as creative as you want. Hollow out small tomatoes or cherry peppers and fill them, carve cucumber cups, or make rosettes, in other words, look at it as play dough and play with it.
By the way, my cousin says that it isn’t originally Russian because she and her husband had it in Turkey. I looked it up, and sure enough, it is similar to one of the Turkish meze, or starters, but the Turkish meza is made of strained yogurt, sometimes with added feta cheese. Although quite tasty, it is a dip, rather than a spread, and we want something substantial to spread on that chunk of pull-apart challah traditionally made for Shavuos.
- 1/2 lb cream cheese or Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (alternatively, mix farmer cheese with sour cream to the consistency of cream cheese)
- 3 – 4 or more garlic cloves, squezeed
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
- Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and mix well.