Sunday, January 3, 2010

Long-awaited Borscht

After my recent realization that I had never made borscht, I wondered if maybe my whole life had been leading up to the moment when I would develop "my" borscht recipe, without which I had never been a complete person, never genuinely Polish or Hungarian, never able to claim any connection to the Carpathian Mountain, and moreover could never really represent my family's history in any sense, let alone at the kitchen table. Which is to say that I was overreacting.

But so it begins--and until I retrieve my own grandmother's
recipe, I'm going to begin with this one, which I adapted only slightly from the "in the spirit of more-with-less," Simply in Season.

Winter Borscht
8 cups water
2 tbsp oil (I used vegetable oil but sunflower oil might be nice)

1 big onion, chopped
2 cups potatoes, chopped
2 cups beets, chopped
1/2 head cabbage, shredded (I used green, but I suppose red would work too?)
1/2 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 cup pearl barley

2 bay leaves
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped (or 2 tbsp dried)
1/2 cup fresh chives, chopped
salt + pepper (about a tsp of each)*
possible sour cream/plain yogurt for serving

1. Heat oil in a large soup pot (seriously, very large) and add the onion. Saute till it starts to brown, about 10 minutes.
2. Add everything else--except for the fresh dill, if you're using fresh--and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.
3. Add fresh dill and simmer for maybe another few-10 minutes, or until the barley is cooked.
4. Serve hot (of course: it's winter) and possibly top it with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt. Some dark bread would be good too.

*This amount of salt yields a soup that's mildly sweet, which I think I like. But add more salt if that's what you're into.

New Recipe in Town!

I'm shamelessly into anything orange in autumn (outfits, places, vibes), and I look forward to the return of sweet potatoes and butternut squash as though they were the closest of friends; a two-way embrace sort of situation. You understand. So in November I revisited one of my favorite spots for uncomplicated and in-season recipes--that table at the farmers market--in hopes of finding an appropriately simple yet ceremonious way to welcome these dear vegetables back into my life. And behold:

Butternut Squash with Leeks, Sage & Fusilli Pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
4 leeks, tender white part chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small chunks about the size of dice (aim for about 2 cups)
1/4 cup dry Marsala
fusilli pasta*
lemon zest
1/4 tsp dried sage (or you could take it another direction and instead use
a pinch of nutmeg)
salt + pepper
grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese

1. Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and let them soften for a minutes or two. Add the butternut squash, salt, pepper and nutmeg (if you're using it). Saute until lightly golden, or for about 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, start boiling some salted water for your pasta. Add the fusilli when it boils.
3. Add Marsala to the skillet and let it boil away. Add a splash of the pasta cooking water and continue cooking until the butternut squash is tender when pierced with a fork but still holds its shape (about another 5 minutes).
4. Drain the fusilli when it's done but save about 1/2 cup of its cooking water.
5. Add the fusilli to the skillet. Add the lemon zest and sage (if you're using it). Add a bit more olive oil and salt and pepper, and toss everything together until it's blended. You can add the pasta water to make a more saucy texture if you like (the starchy water is good for this).
6. Serve with grated cheese.

This is the tastiest thing in the world! I've also replaced some of the squash with sweet potatoes (I was a little short on squash one time) and that was tasty as well.

*The original recipes implies that this can be mixed with a ton of pasta; I'm more interested in the veggies than the pasta, so I made 1-2 servings of pasta (rather than 4-6 servings) and that gave me a more Sarah-appropriate ratio of delicious squash to pasta. Although it is still tasty thinned by more pasta: Karen QB's rendition was yummy without a doubt.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Summer Pizza Adventure

The return of warm days are always a subtle reminder that I've spent another winter season doing something that approximates hibernation, but with a lot more eating. And I guess a lot of reading. Sometimes knitting. So maybe it's not like hibernation at all except for the fact that my house starts to feel like a safety cave and I sometimes fail to visit friends and places I love as frequently as I'd like. So this May, I took a much-needed trip to Philadelphia to the home of my friend, Andy, with the company of Caroline, where we all ate a completely silly amount of wonderfully prepared and beautifully colored food--on a backyard patio too (the novelty!).

Perhaps the most satisfying of the foodmaking was the two pizzas,* which, while they looked totally normal, were filled with a variety of experimental surprises; I think the general idea was how can we put this food on a pizza rather than should we.

One of the pizzas is pretty traditional, except for the fact that it was SO DELICIOUS. Let me share the simple magic: chunks of fresh tomatoes + slices of leeks (I think the goal was to use all the leek we had leftover, so it was a lot of leeks: do not be shy about the leeks) + mozzarella cheese. The other pizza was, I think, sauteed potatoes, squash and garlic with CUMIN (can't live without cumin, though, no, I did not travel with my own spice jar) + feta + mozzarella.

So, ok, maybe you had to be there. And maybe this post is more about friends and the outdoors than it is about recipes. But I promise that there was something revelatory about this pizza party and at least part of it had to do with eating pizza.

*This is not to disparage Caroline's delicious breakfast pie, which contained eggs, cream, leeks, and...hash browns!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

lunch sandwich of the month

trouncing even the portabello-swiss-sprout-l-t i invented at the sandwich store earlier this month, i present to you a sandwich that so delights me that i took a picture of it on my work computer, risking some measure of embarrassment.
whole wheat bread
white bean spread (mashed up beans/lil bits of miso paste+tahini/lemon/pepper/thyme)
avocado (to relieve crushingness of winter)

yes!! what is your lunch of the month?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Holiday Feasting: Granny Recipe #2-ish

This year I got SO EXCITED for Thanksgiving. It was a little unreasonable--my Mom and I were swapping recipe ideas a month in advance. But the idea of The Harvest is almost my ultimate fantasy, and I like to think of the Thanksgiving meal as the forum for making these fantasies manifest. In my most elaborate day dream, I raise traditional North American crops--this means corn, beans, squashes--using traditional methods. Realistically, there've been homegrown onions, potatoes and squash raised in my parents' backyard. And I'm aware that until I start eating deer meat (and/or meat of any kind), my obsession with historically accurate meals and food-raising is a little bit of a joke. I mean, it's already a little bit funny. But now I've shared my secret, so when I post some recipes from my new favorite book, Log Cabin Cooking: Pioneer Recipes & Food Lore by Barbara Swell don't be surprised. I love everything about it.

But back to Thanksgiving dishes! I thought I'd shake up my family's traditional meal with the wildness of a cornbread stuffing. My family rarely uses recipes, so please excuse all the estimations. And it was modeled after my grandmother's stuffing, which features grated carrot and sausage.

I used equal amounts of cornbread from a mix (sweet, textured) and anadama bread (more savory, refined), and set those out to get good and stale. Use whatever combo you like, but it probably equaled about 1 loaf of bread in total. Dump all that into a big bowl and add 2 stalks of celery and half an onion that have been sauted in butter. Add to that mixture a grated carrot, 1 cup of sliced sausage (I used a vegetarian "sausage"--you know it) and about 1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds. Also add some dried herbs, such as oregano, basil and thyme (oh, those were homegrown too!). To this add broth little by little until the stuffing starts to stick together when squeezed. It just needs to be damp enough to handle getting baked in the oven for about an hour. I baked it covered for about 45 min and then uncovered it for the last 15 min to achieve the wonderful tender/crispy texture.

Now desert! I was intrigued by this story of banana pudding from my friend Andrea's blog, Caketime. My Mom had recently introduced the family to the "bottomless apple pie" (read: pie without a bottom crust) after realizing that what was most beloved was warm sweet fruit and not soggy crust bottoms. And so the thought of a banana cream pie without the pie crust seemed completely appropriate. I can agree that after all the banana + wafer + whipped cream layering it was a lot pudding! But it was also super delicious. Thanks, Caketime!

And, sidenote: these wafers are worthy of the adjective "ultimate."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Update on the Feta-Stuffed Zucchini: Gorgonzola is also excellent when no feta is available.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


When I made Talya's recipe for Kasha Varnishkes, I remembered the ridiculous joy of the Bowtie pasta, also known as Farfalle in Italian for their butterfly shape. So I decided to embark on a "Excuses to Eat Bowtie Pasta" mission, which brought forth the following recipes.

Roasted Corn and Tomatoes w. Bowties
2 c. corn (frozen or the soon-to-be-plentiful FRESH)
1 or 2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
some fresh basil or cilantro
salt and lots of black pepper
olive oil
appx. 2 c. dry farfalle (or 1/3 of the box)

I didn't actually roast the corn, but I did sort of blacken it in a cast iron skillet. So get your corn cooking in some oil and then get the pasta started. Add the salt and pepper right away (because it smells so good). Add the garlic when the corn is nearly done (after 10 min. or so at medium high) so it can get heated but not burned. Drain the pasta when it's done and mix in the corn, chopped tomatoes, herbs, and any more salt, pepper or oil you think it needs after a little taste-testing.

Pasta Salad w. Pesto and Bowties
1 zucchini, sliced thickly on the diagonal
2 portobella mushrooms, chopped
1 c. grape tomatoes, halved
1 can chickpeas (or you might choose to use a 1/2 can IFF you don't love chickpeas)
2 cloves garlic, diced
3 tbsp pesto
salt and pepper
olive oil
appx. 2 c. dry farfalle (or 1/3 of the box)

Start the pasta and heat some oil in a large pan. Add the garlic, then the zucchini and chickpeas, then the mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook covered on medium heat so everything gets good and juicy, appx. 8-10 min. Turn off the heat when the veggies are cooked (but not mushy). Mix in the drained pasta and the pesto. When the mixture is no longer hot (appx. 10 min.) mix in the tomatoes. Enjoy at room temperature! (But more like summertime room temperature than wintertime room temperature.)

Summery Pasta Salad w. Bowties & The Spices
1 c. corn
1 c. black beans
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 scallion, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1/4 c. lime juice
appx. 2 c. dry farfalle (or 1/3 of the box)
some shakes of the following spices, depending on your preferences:
coriander, cumin, cayenne, chili powder, black pepper, salt

Cook the pasta and let it cool while you chop (you can mix a little oil into it so it doesn't stick together). Then mix everything in a large bowl with the pasta and let sit (or refrigerate) to let the flavors "develop."