Nothing beets borscht . . . in its hundred and one incarnations three of which are lovingly detailed here by Blanksteen, including a version which is made sweet and sour with the addition of prunes. And speaking of prunes, cold fruit soups and compotes abound here--that's the Polish and Baltic influence. Nut sauces and coriander used to flavor everything from chicken to string beans come from the Caucasus and bliny, those marvelous buckwheat pancakes always served with lots of vodka are known throughout the USSR. Blanksteen, a sophomore at Yale, is an unabashed Russophile and these carefully chosen recipes--some gathered on her visit there--are introduced with quotes and comments by Gogol, Tolstoy and Gorky on Old Russian holidays and eating rituals. Everything here is rich and heavy and all of it comes in large portions, and Blanksteen gives particularly enthusiastic renditions of kvass Russia's famous bread beer, pascha--the wonderful and wonderfully fattening Easter cake and kolbasa--a favorite sausage which you're urged to make yourself. Good? Da.