Fun Dinner Benefits Russian Exchange
The Russia International School Project was begun in 1991 after Russia’s Minister of Education invited educators from the United States. The course that the Ministry and Orthodox Church endorsed was called, Christian Morality and Ethics, a Foundation for Society.
“The group was a cooperative effort by most of the churches in the U.S. Seventy denominations were represented,” says Dr. Susan Hice. “A speaker came from International School Project to Jamestown. They wanted a teacher in each school to be trained.”
After realizing this was something she could do, Hice traveled to Perm, Russia, in 1993 and returned in 1996 when she visited two cities. In 1998, she made a commitment to return at least once each year, but admits she has gone as many as four times in one year.
“Early on, Judy Vining agreed to partner with me in this and as time went on, others joined our efforts.”
Initially, the two women recruited friends to go with them to work in areas in which they were experienced or had a talent. A waitress taught the owner of a new restaurant the appropriate ways of customer service. A superintendent of schools gave workshops to teachers and administrators. A world class pianist did a concert tour and put on master classes and some American teachers put on workshops for the Russian teachers.
Soon the Russian teachers joined the Americans on their team, forming Russian/American Mission Network that is now called Perm Mission Network. The group switched to putting on English camps for the Russian schools about ten years ago. The Russian people organize the camps. One year a team from Houghton College set up a ropes course for the outdoor education camp. There are always people who teach puppetry or who put on plays and someone who puts on a science class.
“It varies from year to year,” says the Jamestown woman. “It has to be fun. Strong values can be taught, but you have to be sure whatever you do translates to another culture.”
Throughout the years, the network has worked in orphanages and in other venues and continued to do this today.
After visiting with the people and becoming friends, Hice wanted to invite them to come to the U.S. to reap some of the same benefits she and the others had gotten when visiting the Eurasian country. She wanted to work together with the teachers “to do something beautiful in their lives and our lives, as well.”
“We have found the people to be so loving and caring and so ready to be friends and to share their lives with us, as we share with them,” she says. “Early on, I felt it wasn’t right to just go there to share our skills and enjoy their culture, but that we should be inviting our friends to come here to experience our culture and learn about our country firsthand.”
For the past 20 years, the local group has brought six to nine Russian people, who are mostly teachers to the U.S. for 26 or 27 days to be immersed in the American experience.
The trips begin with a weekend in New York City, before arriving at Houghton College for a week. They are taken to Niagara Falls for a day before spending ten days in Jamestown. The culmination to the trip takes place with five days in Washington, D.C., and surrounding area.
During their time here, the teachers with an occasional student, are hosted by families and have the opportunity to visit schools, universities, cultural institutions and churches.
The highlight of their time in Jamestown is to treat the community to a Russian dinner, which they spend two days preparing. This year the event will take place on Saturday, March 23 at 6 p.m. in the Levant Wesleyan Church fellowship hall. Vining had chaired this amazing event until her passing about seven years ago. It is now chaired by Kathy Moore and Joyce Klau.
“In addition to preparing a menu of authentic Russian dishes, the teachers prepare a program of entertainment for the participants,” adds Hice. “We welcome everyone to come to this event.”
The profits from this dinner are crucial to the continuation of this important program.
Because of this connection with Russia, four teachers have come as part of a fall program to teach at Jamestown Community College. A youth orchestra came one year, as well.
Hice’s translator in 1993, a high school teacher, became her personal friend and through her she met a lovely neighbor girl. Hice felt strongly that she should invite this girl to live with her and attend school here for a year.
“It took three tries but in 1996 she was allowed to come when she was a college student. I really felt like this was something I wanted to do. The Russian woman now teaches English and German at a university in Perm.”
Hice has made almost 30 trips over the last 26 years, mostly to the city of Perm. Others in the group have made over 10 trips.
“We are a network that loves each other on both sides of the Atlantic,” she says and adds “You can’t out give a Russian.”
She stresses that the success of the program is due to many people and states that nine people are pivotal in the planning. Almost everyone involved has a Houghton College connection.
Below Kathy Moore shares some of her favorite Russian recipes, even though the Beef Stroganoff is the only recipe that will be included in the dinner menu.
“When traveling around Russia, you get to taste some wonderful foods. There are varieties of the same dish. Since I am not able to get the same spices that are found in Russia, I have made my own recipe for Plov. In Russia, Plov is made with lamb, beef or chicken. I love making it with chicken.”
She uses three different colors of fruit to garnish the delicious Pavlovas.
“This recipe is named after the famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. Some say the recipe originated in Australia or New Zealand but it was named after this talented Russian ballerina. Russians now make this dessert and consider it their own.”
“Borscht a traditional soup served in Russia and other Scandinavian countries. The following recipe is my own version of Borscht. I need to confess that when I don’t have beef, I use chicken. My family prefers my chicken variety. One time I made it with ground round that I had cooked and had on hand. So the varieties are limitless.”
Tickets for the Russian Dinner and evening of entertainment are $15 advance sales or $18 at the door. Please call 708-6215 for tickets. Levant Wesleyan Church is located at 1670 Lindquist Drive, Falconer, New York 14733.
Plov, A One Pot Meal
If you are fortunate enough to live in a town with a Russian Store, you will be able to purchase Plov spice mix, and you can skip the * ingredients.
2 c Basmati rice, prepared
1 tsp salt
3 chicken breasts
20 cloves garlic, divided
1 stock celery, cut into 2 to 3-inch pieces
2 onions, quartered
4-5 c carrots, peeled and shredded
2 onions, diced small
*2 T cumin
*2 T coriander
*1 tsp dry dill
1/2 c golden raisins
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro for garnish
Wash rice and put in a large glass bowl. Add water to about 1-inch above the rice. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Cover with microwaveable plastic and tuck ends inside bowl. Place a plate over the bowl and cook for 20 minutes. Let rest inside the microwave while finishing preparation of recipe.
Put chicken breasts in pot with 1 quart of water, onions, 10 garlic cloves, celery and salt. Cook for about 25 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Saute onions and remaining garlic, that has been cut into small pieces, until translucent. Add carrots and continue sauteing for about 7 minutes. Remove from stove. In a large pan or serving dish, mix the rice with spices and raisins. Shred cooked chicken using two forks or with fingers. Add chicken and vegetables and 1 cup of strained chicken stock. Garnish dish with fresh cilantro. Bake in oven or microwave until heated through. Served with a dollop of sour cream.
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 c sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1-8 oz pkg cream cheese
1 c heavy whipping cream
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla
Assorted fresh fruit, peeled, sliced or diced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Draw 6 or 8 circles on parchment paper with a dark pen. Turn upside down on a cookie sheet. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until soft peaks form. Add 1 cup sugar very slowly, while continuing to beat egg whites. This will allow the sugar to dissolve. Fold in lemon zest. Put meringue inside a piping bag and then pipe onto the circles on parchment paper. Be sure to do it on the opposite side. Pipe a bottom first and then make an edge or circle on top of the bottom. Add two more circles on top of each other. They should look like little baskets. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Turn off oven, leaving meringue inside for 3 or 4 hours. This will help dry them slowly.
In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer to cream the cream cheese with 1/2 cup of sugar and the vanilla. In a separate bowl, whip cream until small peaks form, about 5 minutes, being careful not to whip it into butter. By hand, combine cream with cream cheese mixture, making sure they are well mixed. Refrigerate until you are ready to assemble.
Assemble Pavlovas just before serving. Place meringue basket on a small dish and fill to the brim with the cream mixture. Arrange fruit on top. Serve immediately.
2 lbs sirloin steak or another quality steak, frozen
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 T butter
2 T oil
Large package mushrooms, portabella or white
4 cloves garlic, minced finely
3 medium onions, diced small
2 T steak sauce
2 tsp mustard
2 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 c half and half
3 T paprika (Hungarian paprika, if possible)
2 T cornstarch
8 oz sour cream
1/2 cup of diced parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Remove meat from freezer and defrost for about 1 hour. While it is still slightly frozen, slice meat into thin slices. Marinate in vinegar. Let rest about 30 minutes.
Clean and slice mushrooms and set aside. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet. SautÈ onions and garlic until translucent. Set aside. In the same skillet, cook sliced meat until all the meat is cooked. You may have to do this in batches. Remove meat from the skillet. Add steak sauce and mustard to drippings and cook about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off heat. Add the onion/garlic mixture. Dissolve beef bouillon cubes in 2 cups boiling water in skillet. Combine paprika and cornstarch with half and half. If mixed this way, there should be no lumps in gravy. Add sour cream, stir everything slowly until it starts bubbling. Set heat on low. Add mushrooms and bring to a boil again. The gravy should be thick and creamy. Fold meat into gravy, being careful to keep slices whole. Add parsley, salt and pepper. Turn off the heat. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
In Russia, Beef Stroganoff is traditionally served with fluffy mashed potatoes or with rice. Serves 8.
Russian Olivye Salad
3 medium chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken
6 large russet potatoes, peeled
6 large carrots, peeled
3 c frozen peas
6 hardboiled eggs, diced
3 large dill pickles, diced small or 2/3 c dill pickle relish
2 medium sweet onions, diced small
1/2 c fresh dill, finely chopped, divided
1 c mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the chicken breasts in half and cook in about 2 cups of water to which a small amount of salt has been added. Cook for about 20 minutes. Boil potatoes and carrots in a separate pot at the same time, also for about 20 minutes or until soft. Drain vegetables. Cool and then dive. Let these cool. Remove chicken from water and let cool. Cut in cubes. (If using rotisserie chicken, remove skin and bones and dice the meat.) Place chicken in a large bowl. To the chicken, add eggs, dill pickles or relish, onions, peas and fold in mayonnaise. Salt and pepper to taste. (Sometimes I add a little yogurt or milk if the salad is to dry.) Use 1/4 cup dill in the salad and the other 1/4 of cup to garnish. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 6-8.
Russian Cabbage Salad
1 large head cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp cider vinegar
Place vegetables in a large non-metallic bowl. Mix with salt. With clean hands, grab a bunch of the cabbage and carrot mix and squeeze. Repeat for about 3 to 4 minutes. You will notice that the cabbage is breaking down. Continue to do this for a little while. Let the mixture rest for about 5 minutes. Add cider vinegar and pepper to taste. Squeeze mixture again for about 2 more minutes. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until ready to serve.
4-5 bay leaves
2 T coriander
4 large beets
1/3 c vegetable oil, use a tablespoon at a time
2 large sweet onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut in about 6 pieces per thigh
4 raw carrots, diced
3 large raw potatoes, diced
1 c cabbage, shredded
6-8 cups beef or chicken broth
1 small can tomato paste
2 tsp sugar
Tie spices in cheesecloth, leaving a long string to attach to the pot’s handle. If your pot doesn’t have a handle, place the extra string under the lid. In a large pot with a lid, cook beets until tender. Set aside and let cool. Wear gloves to peel and dice. Heat skillet with tablespoon of oil. Add onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until translucent. Remove from skillet and add to the big pot. In the same skillet sear chicken chunks. Remove and add to large pot. SautÈ the carrots by themselves. Remove and add to large pot. Repeat this with potatoes, cabbage and last the beets. Add beef broth, tomato paste and sugar. Cover and bring large pot to boil over medium heat. As soon as it boils, lower heat and cook for about 30 minutes. Add dill and remove spice bag. Serve Borscht in bowl decorated with a dollop of sour cream. Serve with crusty garlic bread.