Monday, September 27, 2010


I recently made Borscht. It was the first time in forever, like over 8 years ago forever and it was so well received this time around by friends and family that I'm wondering what took me so long.
My friend who lived in Russia for some time says that this is a German Borscht, the Russians and Romanians don't add beets. I am a huge fan of beets, my favorite way to eat them is with a splash of lemon juice. I love the earthy aroma that fills the house when they're simmering. It's like nothing else.
I know that borscht can be eaten cold, but our house prefers it hot with the play of cold sour cream.
Like most of my cooking, I tend to make a lot but the recipe can easily be parred down. Honestly though, since it's a two day process I'd make a lot and freeze some for no brainer meals down the road.

What you'll need for the Borscht
A really big stew pot or two medium ones
8 cans beef broth
1 to 1 1/2 quarts water
3-4 lbs bone in beef shank Why so much you ask? Because it's a very fatty and once you get rid of the fat you've not a lot of meat left. Yes you could use a leaner cut but the fat and the bone imparts an excellent flavor so just go with it.
3 medium onions finely chopped
3 cups of cooked beets chopped
2 lbs carrots (I use baby carrots for simplicity sake)
4 lbs red potatoes cut to about 1 inch bites
1 small head cabbage shredded
1 cup Red wine
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
Fresh Dill (the little container you get at the store) chopped with some sprigs reserved (optional)
Beef bullion cube (optional)
Salt & pepper
Sour Cream

First things first, sear the meat in a frying pan making sure the outer surface is nicely carmelized and brown. Remove the meat to your stew pot and deglaze the frying pan with the red wine (you can use the beef broth but I highly recommend the wine), once that is done pour the wine into the stew pot along with 4 cans of the beef broth. Set this to simmer as low as possible for about 4-6 hours. This will make sure your meat is amazingly tender and flavorful. Once it's simmered, remove all the meat from the stock, cover both and set to refrigerate overnight.
The next day take your meat and trim off all of the fat and gristle and chop into about inch size bites. Next skim off all the fat from the stock and don't be surprised if the stock is gelatinous, this is a good thing.
Place the stock back on the stove at medium heat, add the remaining four cans of broth about half the water, the meat, carrots, onions, and potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and let cook until the root vegetables are almost but not quite done. Add the beets, cabbage, the red wine vinegar and about 1/2 of the dill, we want to error on the side of caution, we want to taste the dill but we don't want our borscht to taste like a dill pickle, we can add more later if we like.
Now, your broth should be hearty but not terribly thick and there should be plenty of it so add enough water to cover your solids with about an inch of broth, from there refine the salt and pepper add a bullion cube if needed and let simmer until the cabbage is almost tender (don't let it get mushy, that's just gross!)
Your borscht is done!
Dish it up, add a dollop of sour cream and garnish with dill if desired. Serve with a nice rustic bread for a wonderfully hearty and delicious meal.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

This soup has become a a cool weather staple in our house, making an appearance at Thanksgiving and Yule dinner as well as at regular meals. The flavors meld and mellow making it just as good if not better the next day around so make extra.
It's also great for potlucks since you can just as easily let all the ingredients cook on low in a slow cooker over the course of the day. It's also super easy to vegitarian/veganize if you're diet is a meatless one. I include both options, I hope you enjoy this soup as much as we do.

1 large butternut squash
1 very large onion
2-3 large cloves garlic
fresh ginger root
Nutmeg berry
Chicken stock or (V) veggie stock
Optional: two roasted red peppers
Cream or cream substitute

Take the large butternut squash and cut it into quarters, scoop out the seeds and brush the skin and flesh with olive oil. Roast the squash (we use the grill, but the oven works too) until the skin is blistered and black and the flesh is almost cooked through. Let them sit until they're cool enough to handle then peel off the skin and any parts that are too charred. If you're adding the red peppers do the same with them. (Taking them off the grill and putting them into a seal-able plastic bag for a few minutes seems to help the skin separate from the flesh making it easier to remove.)
Meanwhile, heat a stew pot with a glug of olive oil and add one large chopped onion, 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced, a tablespoon of fresh, finely grated ginger, a teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Add the squash and two cans of chicken/veggi broth then let simmer at a bare bubble until everything is pretty much falling apart.

Here you have two options, you can use an hand blender for a semi-chunky soup... or my personal favorite is to process small batches in the blender for a wonderfully smooth puree. (If it seems too thick, I'll add another can of stock.)
Garnish with the cream or substitute (either soy milk to Tofutti sour supreme would have the right consistency for garnishing as shown in the pic) and cilantro, serve and enjoy!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bacon and Potato Quiche

Much like scrambled eggs with bacon and toast, quiche is a popular breakfast food in our house. It was brought into our culinary orbit by our dear friend Rosemary and has been a staple ever since.
She used the tried and true recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook as her starting point but like all good cooks branched out in other flavors with a play of ingredients.
For my daughter, it isn't edible unless bacon and potatoes are involved, When she was younger not much else could be involved although as she gets older she has learned to appreciate my now not so subtle inclusion of onions and peppers.
I used to use Betty as my starting point but with so many under my belt it's just as easy to make them off the top of my head which is what I did with this one. The measurements are approximations since no utensils were used. Keep in mind, this is enough for two quiche...quiches? I'm not quite sure on the plural.
Crisp about 6 strips of bacon, drain and let cool then finely chop.
Finely chop 1 large onion, 1 small red pepper, 1 small yellow pepper and *optional* 1 medium green tomato
Also finely mince about 2 tablespoons of fresh chives
Mix these ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

In another bowl crack 6 medium eggs (or 4 large)
Add a scant 1 cup of heavy cream and a scant 1 cup of half & half. *Note, this quiche has a firm custard like consistency.
add a pinch each of dried basil, thyme and garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.
Beat mixture until ingredients are incorporated.

Line a tart pan with a rolled out pie crust and cover the bottom with the bacon mixture some frozen hash browns and shredded cheese of your choice. Pour egg mixture over that and sprinkle top with more bacon mixture.
Bake at 400 for the first 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool completely and serve at room temp or chilled.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Berry Chicken Salad

This is one of my favorite summer meals. Light, cool, easy to prepare and high on the yum factor.

Bag of greens: I prefer the kind that has herbs and veggies mixed in.
Chopped grilled chicken: This chicken I grilled the night before, all I did was toss it with lemon pepper prior to cooking.
Dried Cranberries
Fresh Strawberries (and blueberries if you have them)
Mix and drizzle with your favorite raspberry vinaigrette.