Kulebiaka (кулебяка)

And now, for the pièce de résistance…

(For the record, my kulebiaka did not look like that at all, but to be fair, that’s not what I was going for, so it all worked out.)

I made a few changes to the original recipe to make it simpler and save myself some time, and I was impressed that the end result yielded no appreciable difference in taste or quality. In fact, aside from the puff pastry, it tasted exactly like the kulebiaka I got at my favorite St. Petersburg bakery. If this didn’t go against all the diet rules I’ve established for myself, I’d make it all the time. Seriously.

(Serves 8 really hungry people)


For the pastry:

2 packages (4 sheets) frozen puff pastry (I recommend Pepperidge Farm)
a little flour

For the salmon filling:

4 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 cup sliced onion (about 1/4 of an onion)
2 tablespoons dill
1 1/4 lb fresh salmon
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 lb fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (about 3/4 onion)
1/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/6 cup dill
2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped


To prepare the salmon filling:

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Prepare each salmon filet in parchment paper and drizzle with the wine, coarsely sliced onion, and dill (use more or less as desired – I used about 1-2 tablespoons of the wine per filet).

Close the parchment paper over the filets, creating sealed pockets. Once oven is preheated, bake for 20 minutes or until salmon is cooked through (it should easily flake when tested with a fork).

With a slotted spatula, transfer the cooked salmon (minus the onions) to a large bowl, remove the skin and bones (if necessary), and separate into small flakes with your fingers or a fork.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms, reduce the heat to moderate and, stirring occasionally, cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft. With a slotted spoon, transfer the mushrooms to a small bowl and toss with lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and a few grindings of pepper.

Melt 2 more tablespoons of butter in the skillet over high heat and drop in all but 1 tablespoon of the finely chopped onions. Reduce the heat to moderate and, stirring occasionally, cook 3 to 5 minutes, until the onions are soft but not brown.

Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper with a rubber spatula and scrape in the mushrooms.

Now melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the skillet over high heat. Drop in the remaining tablespoon of chopped onion, reduce the heat to moderate and, stirring frequently, cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until soft but not brown. Stir in the rice and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring almost constantly, until each grain is coated with butter. Pour in the chicken stock, bring to a boil, and cover the pan tightly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 12 minutes, or until the liquid is completely absorbed and the rice is tender and fluffy.

Turn off the heat and stir in the dill with a fork. Add the cooked mushrooms and onions, rice, and chopped hard-boiled eggs to the bowl of salmon and toss together lightly but thoroughly. Taste for seasoning.

To prepare the pastry:

Defrost the pastry dough in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. When defrosted, unfold and place dough on clean, lightly floured surface. If there are any cracks in the dough, use water to smooth it out.

Assembling the kulebiaka:

There are many ways to do this. Traditionally, kulebiaka is made as one large pastry, like this one:

My aunt made individual-sized square ones with rounded corners. I decided I’d do something different and make them triangular – smaller and easier to handle. They ended up being the perfect size for me and my guests, especially with all the other rich, heavy food I served.

First, cut the two pastry sheets into four equally sized squares.

Prepare egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, scrambled in a bowl). Fill half of each square with salmon filling, on a diagonal.

Brush seams and press together to seal; crimp sides with a fork.

When all the pies are formed, refrigerate for a few hours.

Remove from refrigerator and brush top with egg wash. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until pastry is flaky and golden (I recommend keeping an eye on it after it’s baked for 15 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn). Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes and serve.

Serve with sour cream and dill. Careful, the inside will be hot when you first cut into it – sour cream helps with that, too!

Another warning: eat slowly, or you will want to eat all of them. Trust me, I know this from experience.


Back to Perricone.

So, I was really bad yesterday. The holiday was my day off from Perricone and I took full advantage – I ate sushi with the white rice, I ate a BBQ pork hom bow, I ate cheesecake, I ate chips… not to mention the Russian feast and even more cheesecake later. And chocolate. Don’t forget the chocolate.

I’m resuming a normal eating schedule today, fortunately – all the less-than-healthy food yesterday has made my stomach not very happy. It was worth it, but I learned that I can’t/don’t want to eat the way I used to. The rice in the sushi rolls, which I used to believe to be integral to the sushi experience, seemed extraneous and a detraction from the delicious raw fish. I could’ve gone without the bread on the hom bow and just eaten the BBQ pork filling. The mini cheesecake from the market, while thoroughly delicious, proved to be too much sugar and rendered me useless for about an hour while I tried to get over the jitters (seriously – not cool). I can’t say I regret the kulebiaka, though. It wasn’t all that healthy, what with all that sauteing in butter (and let’s not even touch the puff pastry), but it was too amazingly delicious to have any regrets.

The point of all this? I needed a day to eat badly to realize how much better I feel when I eat well. So today? I’m mostly back to Perricone, and will be completely back when I eat the rest of my leftovers from last night.

Day 14.

It’s officially the last day of the two-week feast/diet experiment. Weigh-in tomorrow!


On the menu: Omelet of 3 to 4 egg whites, 1 egg yolk, and a few sliced mushrooms; 1/4 cup steel-cut oats; 4 almonds; 1/2 cup blueberries.

The reality: Omelet of 3 egg whites and 1 egg yolk with a few sliced mushrooms, a handful of spinach, and a sprinkling of feta; 4 cinnamon almonds; 1/2 cup blueberries and strawberries.

Summary: Ah, Saturday morning breakfast – my favorite. By now you should recognize that I love both spinach and some kind of cheese (preferably of the crumbly, goat-originated variety) in my omelets, so those had to be added. I’m once again facing a blueberry shortage, so I used up the rest of the container and supplemented with the few strawberries that still looked viable. Time to go grocery shopping…


On the menu: 3-ounce can water-packed tuna; romaine lettuce salad made with 1/2 cup white beans, 1/4 cup feta cheese, 4 cherry tomatoes, and sliced red onion, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

The reality: 3-ounce can water-packed tuna flavored with a tiny bit of pesto; romaine lettuce salad made with 1/2 cup navy beans, 1/4 cup feta cheese, 4 cherry tomatoes, and sliced red onion, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and a little bit of pesto.

Summary: I really did use very little pesto. Also, I don’t seem to have any white beans, so I figured navy beans would work, too.

Afternoon Snack

On the menu: 1 slice of turkey breast; 4 almonds; 1/2 cup strawberries.

The reality: 1 slice of turkey breast; 4 cinnamon almonds; 1/2 cup strawberries.

Summary: I’d just gotten back from numerous trips to numerous markets, including a visit to Pike Place to pick up strawberries and blueberries. These strawberries were amazing – tasted incredibly fresh, which is more than I can say for the ones I got from Trader Joe’s last week. Fortunately, I got a bunch of ’em. Hopefully the blueberries will be equally delicious. Somehow, I don’t doubt it.


On the menu: 4 large shrimp, grilled, baked, or broiled on skewers with mushrooms, onions, and cherry tomatoes; 1/2 cup Cuban black bean soup; romaine lettuce salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

The reality: 4 cooked shrimp with San Francisco seasoning from Whole Foods on a salad of mushrooms, red onion, 4 cherry tomatoes, and romaine, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice; 1/2 cup Cuban black bean soup.

Summary: I hadn’t planned on doing any skewering anyway – I didn’t have the right shrimp for it – and after a day of preparing an Easter feast, I didn’t feel like investing a lot of time in dinner preparation. This was actually quite good and very easy, which was exactly what I was seeking when I started making dinner at 7:30.

Bedtime Snack

On the menu: 1/2 cup cottage cheese; 4 almonds; 1/2 pear.

The reality: 1/2 cup cottage cheese with cinnamon and Splenda; 4 cinnamon almonds; 1/2 pear.

Summary: Last meal of the experiment! And one of my favorites, because I got cottage cheese!

Today’s Exercise

I was quite active today – I walked to and from the market (not far, but it still counts), to Safeway and part of the way back with heavy groceries. I also had many culinary adventures that required a lot of standing, stirring and scooping – not to mention lifting heavy pots full of root vegetables. For conventional exercise, I spent 12 minutes on the stationary bike and 35 minutes on the elliptical to try to make up for the fact that I had to do some taste-tests of the food I was making this afternoon.


Ah, the last day. I’m anxious to see what effect this has had on my weight tomorrow morning, but I also know that I feel better and my skin is looking really good now. In general, I like what I’ve been eating and I plan on continuing eating this way.

Borscht (борщ)

My aunt’s borscht is famous in our family. She makes it every Christmas; the brilliant red complements the holiday perfectly, in my opinion. She has spent many years honing and fine-tuning the recipe, which originated from one of her many cookbooks, and I finally took it upon myself to obtain this coveted family recipe.

She does add a secret ingredient, which can be substituted by another secret ingredient – both of which proved impossible to find at either Whole Foods or Safeway. I don’t think this recipe absolutely needs these things, so for now, her secret is safe with me.

Also, if you are like me and don’t own a car, it may be wise to either take multiple trips to the grocery store throughout the week or flag down a friend who can provide transportation. Root vegetables are heavy. My arms are sore from all the grocery-carrying.

And… last but not least… the amount of soup this generates could feed the Russian army, so feel free to halve the recipe. I should’ve. I had no idea.


1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
some butter or shortening (for sauteing)
2 small carrots or 1 large, peeled and sliced into small disks
1 peeled, diced turnip or parsnip
14-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 pounds beets, cubed, making 5 cups
1 pound white, green, or red cabbage, shredded
1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced
2 quarts plus 2 cups chicken stock


Prepare all the ingredients as directed.

Heating the butter in a 10-12″ frying pan, saute the onion and garlic until they are limp and white. Add the carrots, turnip, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and vinegar to the pan and mix, then add 2 cups of stock to the frying pan.

Add the beets. Cover the pan and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the 2 quarts of stock to a boil, then add the shredded cabbage and diced potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes.

When the beets are ready, dump the entire contents of the pan into the stock. Simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes to combine flavors.

Season to taste with salt, pepper, sugar, and/or vinegar. Upon serving, garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a bit of dill.

My aunt’s tips: Always make the soup at least 1 day ahead – the flavors need time to mingle. The taste should be slightly sweet. You can add a tiny bit of sugar if need be. The cabbage and carrots also add sweetness.

Day 13.

One more day! I’m anxious to see what the scale says on Sunday morning… my measurements are back to where they were before the February cookie-baking craze, so I’m hopeful my weight is at least back to where it was. Regardless, I’m sticking with this eating plan – I like that I’m never hungry and that I get to eat such good food.


On the menu: 2-4 ounces smoked salmon; 1/2 cup plain yogurt; 1/2 cup blueberries; 1 tablespoon chopped almonds.

The reality: 2 ounces peppered smoked salmon; 1/2 cup lowfat plain yogurt with Splenda and cinnamon; 1/2 cup blueberries; 4 cinnamon almonds.

Summary: This was a nice, light breakfast… it also used the last of my smoked salmon for the week and most of the blueberries I just got yesterday. As a side note, are blueberries out of season now? I had some trouble finding them fresh when I was ordering my groceries this morning…


On the menu: Grilled chicken breast; green salad topped with 1/2 cup white or soy beans, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice; steamed asparagus.

The reality: Serenada chicken (the remainder of the leftovers from last week; probably about 4 ounces); salad of romaine lettuce, spinach, 1/4 cup chickpeas, 1/4 cup three-bean salad, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and pesto, topped with 1/2 tbsp shaved parmesan; TJ’s microwaveable asparagus.

Summary: Shockingly, the serenada chicken was still good after a week. I used the rest of the leafy greens (except for a few leaves of spinach, which will probably go in the omelet tomorrow morning). I didn’t want to open another can of beans, so I just used the rest of the chickpeas and filled in the extra space with three-bean salad. I decided to add a little pesto to the dressing, which was yummy, and I got a new container of parmesan on my grocery shopping adventure yesterday, so I decided to utilize it. Last but not least, I love the way Trader Joe’s flavors its microwaveable asparagus – very simple, but quite tasty.

Afternoon Snack

On the menu: 1 hard-boiled egg; 1/2 cup strawberries; 4 almonds.

The reality: 1 hard-boiled egg seasoned with a little salt and pepper; 1/2 cup strawberries with a little Splenda and sprinkled with cinnamon; 4 wasabi-soy almonds.

Summary: I wanted something dessert-like, so I sweetened the strawberries a bit, which I don’t usually do. I do enjoy salt and pepper on my hard-boiled eggs, but we already knew that. Which reminds me, I need to learn how to make hard-boiled eggs… I’m on my last ready-made one now.


On the menu: 6 ounces grilled bluefin or albacore tuna steak; 1/2 cup grilled zucchini, eggplant, and red or green bell pepper lightly drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese; tomato salsa (preferably fresh).

The reality: 6 ounces parmesan crusted tilapia; 1/2 cup zucchini, mushroom, and green bell pepper sauteed in olive oil and garlic and sprinkled with chili pepper flakes and 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese; tomato salsa from TJ’s.

Summary: I didn’t have any eggplant left after the ikra yesterday, so I just did the same saute from yesterday and added bell pepper and a few chili pepper flakes for an extra kick. I enjoyed it. Also, with the fish, I do have tuna, but I didn’t want to defrost the entire pack and have leftovers, so I just baked the tilapia (from Safeway). It didn’t want to come off the baking sheet – it just kind of flaked off – so it looks messy, but it tasted delicious.

Bedtime Snack

On the menu: 2 ounces sliced turkey breast; 4 almonds; 4 cherry tomatoes.

The reality: 2 ounces sliced turkey breast; 4 Tuscan almonds; 4 cherry tomatoes.

Summary: I had my snack tonight right after half an hour at the gym, while watching Super Size Me and being grateful that I know how to eat well and take care of myself. Just thought I’d throw that in as a side note.

Today’s Exercise

I walked a total of 3.5 miles today – to and from work, then to and from Whole Foods. I also spent half an hour on the stationary bike, once again reading Harry Potter. I’ll probably do more tomorrow – I have a bunch of errands to run and I may get back on the elliptical.


I’m looking forward to this weekend, when I get some good sleep and cook delicious Russian food – and eat whatever I want on Sunday. However, I’m going right back to this diet on Monday. I ordered groceries and will be running around gathering the rest of my ingredients for the week tomorrow. I do like eating like this. I just need to figure out how to incorporate a little more variety. I miss tacos. And stir-frys.

Day 11.


On the menu: 4 ounces smoked salmon; 3 ounces plain yogurt; 1/2 cup blueberries; 1 tomato slice.

The reality: 4 ounces peppered smoked salmon; 3 ounces plain yogurt with Splenda and cinnamon; 1/2 cup blueberries; 1 tomato slice.

Summary: A tomato slice? Really? That was random. I almost replaced it with almonds, but I decided to just go with it, see if it surprised me. Turns out slices of tomato are not full of surprises. This did make for quite the colorful breakfast, however. I very much enjoyed eating all that smoked salmon – 4 ounces is a lot. I probably would’ve been fine with 2, but I decided to do as I was told, for once.


On the menu: 6-ounce can crabmeat, dressed with 1 tablespoon mayo; 1/2 cup lentil soup; large romaine lettuce salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

The reality: 6-ounce can crabmeat, dressed with 1 tablespoon mayo and a little salt and pepper; 1/2 cup lentil soup; large romaine lettuce salad dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, topped with a little parmigiano reggiano.

Summary: Canned crabmeat doesn’t have a lot of flavor to it, so I added some salt and pepper. Next time I think I’ll add lemon juice, or maybe some olive oil – that would probably be tasty. I should get sea salt at some point, but I think kosher salt is acceptable. I also added cheese to the salad because I like it.

Afternoon Snack

On the menu: 1 hard-boiled egg; 4 cherry tomatoes; 4 almonds.

The reality: 1 hard-boiled egg with a little salt and pepper; 4 cherry tomatoes; 4 wasabi-soy almonds.

Summary: Didn’t I just have a hard-boiled egg yesterday? Oh well… good thing I like them.


On the menu: 6 ounces roasted chicken breast; 1/2 cup Manhattan clam chowder; 1/2 cup grilled tomato topped with sliced tomato and 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese.

The reality: 6 ounces leftover chicken serenada; 1/2 cup Whole Foods Spicy Manhattan Clam Chowder; 1/2 cup misto alla griglio topped with sliced tomato and 1 tablespoon parmigiano reggiano.

Summary: I was very happy to discover that my leftovers had not gone to waste. The misto alla griglio was really tasty with the tomato and parmigiano reggiano. And I really enjoyed the clam chowder. Mmm. Whole Foods knows what it’s doing.

Bedtime Snack

On the menu: 1/2 cup cottage cheese; 1/2 cup blueberries; 4 almonds.

The reality: 1/2 cup cottage cheese with a little cinnamon and Splenda; 1/2 cup strawberries; 4 cinnamon almonds.

Summary: Yay! Cottage cheese! But my blueberries went bad… boo.

Today’s Exercise

Walked to and from work, then spent an hour on the stationary bike reading Harry Potter. I burned just over 300 calories on the machine, so it actually wasn’t too bad – this is my favorite exercise when I just feel like being cozy.


I keep thinking about Russian food and what I’m going to eat on Sunday. I think that’s a sign I’m getting bored with my diet. I’m going to have to get more creative with my cooking, I think. I just got some cookbooks in the mail and fully intend to try them out next week.

Maybe I’ll have dim sum… or Thai food… or sushi. But I’m definitely doing the Russian Easter Sunday thing. Then I’ll go right back to my meal plan on Monday.

Anyway, besides the food boredom, I still feel pretty good. I’m almost out of krill oil, so I ordered more, but I don’t know when that will get here and there may be a few days I go without… we’ll see how that works out.