PASA Local Food Month: Preserving the Harvest

Posted on September 15, 2012. Filed under: challenge, freeze, garden, local, technique | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Crushed tomatoes.

The idea of eating fresh, local food all year long is a delightful proposition: Crisp garden flavors delight our palates, and as one food craving begins to be satisfied, another one emerges. In turn, we help create a system of support for our farmer neighbors. When I lived in California, I gardened year-round and shopped farmers’ markets several times a week; I simply–and happily–changed my diet according to what was available. Alas, that’s a lot harder to in Pittsburgh. To be sure, there are a few options for buying local food all year long: Kretschmann Farm has a winter CSA, Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance runs a year-round farm stand, and you can pick up locally raised meat and eggs at the Pittsburgh Public Market. But let’s face it, winter is pretty bleak around here; I can’t grow lettuce in my garden in January or pluck Meyer lemons from trees while I walk my dog (seriously) like I did in February in CA.  So what’s a local food fan to do?

Preserve the harvest.

Preserving food for winter sounds daunting at first, but, with a bit of patience and practice, it’s easier than you think it is. Yes, you’re going to have to plan in advance, you might have to follow instructions, and it’s going to get messy. But it’s totally worth it. Think about how marvelous it’ll be to have bright-tasting tomatoes in January or lusty blueberries in March. You can make it happen. (OK, you probably should have started this in May, but there are still things you can do in September. Hello, sauerkraut.)

Perfect pesto servings, ready to freeze.

Freeze:

This one is easy because it doesn’t take a lot of special equipment–we all have freezers, right? Blueberries are a fantastic fruit to freeze; separate the berries individually on a baking sheet, let them freeze, and store in an airtight bag. Easy. Tomato sauce freezes pretty well, too. If you have a vacuum sealer you’ll be able to keep food longer, but a freezer bag with all the air sucked out will work perfectly fine. My favorite thing to freeze is pesto. Do it right, and it’ll taste almost as fresh as when you made it over the summer; all you have to do is blend basil, olive oil, toasted pine nuts, garlic, salt, and parmesan cheese. Protip: Freeze it in ice cube trays or cupcake pans; you’ll have perfect serving size.

Jar:

Preserving food in sealed glass is the classic way of extending the harvest. You can make jams and jellies, sauces and chutneys, and pack your shelves with goodness. I made strawberry jam for the first time this year, and as autumn begins to take hold, I can remind myself of the flavors of spring by cracking open a jar. The upside to making your own jams is you can control the sugar content. The downside is that it takes a bit of finesse to perfect your recipe; I have a grape jelly that’s more like a beverage than something I can spread on toast.

If you’re looking to get in the jarring game, there’s still time: you can find late-season tomatoes at farmers’ markets and it’s prime time to make Concord grape jelly! (Yes, I’m going to try again.)

Peach Shrub

Shrub:

My latest obsession. A shrub is an old-timey way of preserving the harvest; records date back to the time when the US was still a British colony (and it’s likely shrubs were made before that, too). Basically, you crush fruit, and mix it with an equal part sugar; let the mix sit in the fridge for a day or two. After that, you strain off all the solids, and then add an equal part of vinegar. The result is a savory-sweet flavor reminiscent of the fruit you started with. Shrubs are a hot trend in cocktails today, but you don’t need to be a drinker to enjoy the pungent sweet flavor of a shrub; just add Pittsburgh Seltzer and you have the world’s best fizzy drink.

Ferment: 

Pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi are all foods that are brought to you courtesy of  preservationist bacteria. Fermentation is one of the oldest methods of keeping perishable food edible for long periods of time. OK, a kosher dill pickle doesn’t taste anything like the cucumber that got it started, but sometimes preserving the harvest means creating a whole new flavor. You don’t need any special equipment for this one, but you do need to pay particular attention to sanitation. Also, the fermentation process releases some–unique–odors. Personally I find the smell of pickles in brine to be a beautiful thing, but if you don’t you might want to use a fan to circulate the air.

Peppers on cooling rack, ready to dry.

Dry:

My hot pepper plants were prolific this year, and I wasn’t sure what to do with them. I made a few salsas (those will extend the harvest, but a September salsa in January isn’t pretty) and put a few in recipes, but I still had too many. So I decided to dry them. Think about all the wonderful dried foods there are: fruit leather, herbs, sun-dried tomatoes. What they have in common is that they are all flavor…concentrated. The most efficient way to dry food is with a dehydrator–but they can be expensive, so don’t run out and buy one if you’re not going to use it. An oven set to the lowest temperature will usually do the job, and if you’re especially diligent you can dry food in the sun–it is the original dehydrator after all.

PASA CHALLENGE

I posted this blog as part of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s Local Food Month challenge. Leave a comment below by Sunday, Sept 23, sharing what you’re preserving this winter, your favorite food preservation story, or any recipes/tips you have in your playbook. Winner will be picked at random and will receive a signed copy of Marisa McClellan’s remarkably informative book Food in Jars and a $25 gift certificate to the East End Food Co-op! Hooray for free things!

Meanwhile, try to get cracking with a preservation project. Visit a farmers’ market, raid your garden, or check out a local farm. Be creative and have courage! Feel free to ask me for advice, too.

For more on PASA’s local food month, check out the rest of the challenge.

UPDATE:

We have a contest winner! Congratulations to Sarah Leavens!

Method: I used random.org’s random number generator. The list of numbers is as follows:

1: Emily S.

2: Amanda W.

3. Catherine

4: Julia

5: Katie O.

6: Dora

7: Sarah

8: Lori D.

9: Food Me Once

10: Leah L.

11: Marieella

12: Leigh W.

13: Damarias

14: Jeralyn

15: Jackie @ Auburn Meadow

16: Brigid

17: Jackie

(15-17 via PASA blog). Winning number, generated at random, is 7.

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Impatient Garlic; Heavenly Jam

Posted on June 26, 2012. Filed under: garden, local, patience | Tags: , , , , , , |

Gardening can be risky business.

I nicked my arms pawing through my raspberry bramble yesterday; I suffered no serious damage, but I’ll certainly wear long sleeves from now on when I pick berries. Two days prior to the bramble burst, I, a la cartoon, stepped on the spiked side of a rake. The result was just as you’d expect–a long wooden handle unexpectedly flying toward me at light speed (note: the expected comedic outcome is not at all hilarious when it happens to you). I was able to block the handle before it broke my face, but my left forearm still evidences the incident.

Worse than the brambles and the bruises, though, was what I did to my garlic: I harvested too early.

Last year, I waited 20 days between cutting the scapes and harvesting the garlic heads. The end result was that I had a number of small, but fully formed, heads of garlic. So I figured I’d proceed in the same way this year. As I thrust my hand deep into the garden soil, the heads felt firm and full. So I pulled all of them, except for one. Most of garlic was huge, bigger than ping-pong balls. There was cheering and photo-taking. And then there was sadness.

I looked at the garlic heads. All of them were covered in just a thin layer of paper skin, and some seemed malformed. Garlic shouldn’t be flat on one side, right? Two from the harvers were still…bulbs. Like a small onion, except layered with inedible pre-paper instead of savory flavor. Why did this happen?

Lack of patience. Gardening, just like cooking, requires patience for the best result, and I blew it. Five of the heads look salvageable, but I won’t have certainty for another two weeks. All I can do now is be extremely…patient…with the curing process.

Happily, I had a pick-me-up designed to comfort me after my gardening woes: Strawberry Jam!

I’ve started playing with canning and preserving, and, after a questionable chicken soup experiment (nobody died, but nobody volunteered to eat more than one bite of the soup, either), I decided to make jam. Strawberries were in season, and I bought a lot of them from several farms. The jam making process is straightforward: crush berries, boil with pectin and butter, add sugar, and then jar. I’ll leave the specifics to the experts.

Best way to serve the jam? Take a thick slice of crusty bread. Toast it. Slather with a little bit more butter than you think is good for you. Top with thicker layer of jam. Smile.

Looking for something to listen to while you eat your toast and jam? I have two stories on this week’s edition of Essential Public Radio’s Allegheny Front:
An Interview With Legendary Environmental & Social Justice Activist Vandana Shiva
Seed Savers & Seed Libraries Aim to Restore Biodiversity and Preserve Unique Flavors

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Garlic Scape Pesto

Posted on May 31, 2012. Filed under: easy, garden, healthy, recipe, Uncategorized, vegetable | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Garlic scape pesto with garden-fresh snow peas.

One of my favorite things about my gardening hobby is that it has offered me a world of new challenges (and I love a good challenge). It’s not always a joyous introduction, as was the case of my hostile introduction to the spinach leaf miner. They are, ironically, eating my beet greens while the spinach sits, undisturbed, only three feet away. Happily, most of the learning opportunities are positive. Recent example: answering the question, “What Does One Do With Garlic Scapes?”

Last year, I grew garlic for the first time. It was a modestly successful attempt, certainly encouraging enough to try again this year. I planted the bulbs from the largest head last autumn, and (not so) patiently watched as the plants grew up this spring. I’d learned last year that you need to cut off the scape (the immature flower) when it begins to curl, so that the garlic plant could put all its energy into bulb development. I also learned that the scape was edible–it has a mild, chive-garlic flavor. What I didn’t learn last year was what to do with the edible scapes, so I just chopped them and added to whatever I was cooking. They certainly enhanced the flavor of a dish, but I wasn’t highlighting the flavor.

Last week, my friend, writer Sherrie Flick, suggested making a pesto. I’d already made ramp pesto (miss you, dear ramps) this season, and that was a success. So, why not try scape pesto?

Blend:
5 Garlic Scapes
Slightly less than 1/4 Cup Roasted Almonds
(Soak almonds in water for 10 minutes before blending, add 2 Tsp of the water)
1/8 Cup Grapeseed Oil
1/8 Cup Parmesan cheese
Pinch of salt

The pesto is terrifically versatile. I used some on grilled chicken. But the real highlight was tossing the pesto with some garden-picked snow peas and a teaspoon of bacon fat. The dish tasted like springtime bathed in rich butter; yet it was fairly low in calories and cost less than a dollar to make. Win!

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Spring Garden: Spinach, Snow Pea, and Scape Stir Fry

Posted on May 26, 2012. Filed under: easy, garden, healthy, recipe, Uncategorized, vegetable, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I feel like for the last few months I’ve been beginning nearly every post with an apology for not writing very often: “So busy with school,” “other writing projects,” “traveling,” etc. I probably need to reorganize this space in a better way, too. Point is, so sorry for not writing here for over a month, I’ve been very busy finishing school (I’m a master of studying food now), with writing projects (stories on food & the environment for The Allegheny Front, a weekly column in Pittsburgh City Paper), and traveling (mostly around Pittsburgh; it’s been beautiful here). I’ve also been spending a lot of time in my garden, and now I have some delicious treats to eat.

Ramps might be the first edible sign of spring, but spinach is one of the first garden crops to really pop from the ground. I’ve been eating from my spinach patch for three weeks now, and that’s forced me to be awfully creative; one can only eat so many spinach salads or lightly wilted spinach. Luckily for me, my garlic started to scape (see my post on harvesting garlic for more information on garlic scapes), and the snow pea plants are producing (a bucket-load) of pods. That sounded like a promising start to a new recipe, so I rode my bike down to a wonderful little market called the Lotus Food Company; they sell house-made tofu, and it’s ridiculously inexpensive. I also purchased a bottle of black vinegar enhanced with “fruit and vegetable juice.” That’s about all that was written in English on the label! It’s a wonderfully complex vinegar with apricot and spice flavors. All in all, I had the makings of a terrific stir-fry.

Add 1 Tsp. Vegetable Oil to a medium-hot pan.
Pan fry Half-Pound of Firm Tofu, cut into 2-inch squares until brown.
Set aside.

While the tofu is cooking, mix:
1/4 Cup Chicken or Veggie Stock
1 Chopped Garlic Scape
2 Tsp. Soy Sauce
2 Tsp. Mirin
2 Tsp. Black Vinegar
1 Tsp. Minced Ginger
1 Tsp. Corn Starch
1/2 Tsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
Set aside.

Wash and pat dry:
4 Cups Spinach
(Spinach should be loosely packed. Also, I didn’t measure this precisely.)

Wash, and halve:
Two Cups Snow Peas

Chop:
Two Garlic Scapes

Saute the spinach, snow peas, and scapes for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat.
Return tofu to pan.
Add sauce mixture.
Cook for 1.5 minutes, remove from heat, and allow dish to rest for 1 minute before serving.
Top with Toasted Sesame Seeds

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More Thoughts on Ramps

Posted on April 16, 2012. Filed under: foraging, hodgepodge, local, recipe, Uncategorized, vegetable | Tags: , , , , , , |

My story about foraging for ramps aired Saturday on The Allegheny Front. They’re a marvelous little plant, and the experience of waking up (VERY) early to wander through the woods and harvest my own food was pretty incredible. I’d never foraged for anything before, and memories of that morning keep popping up. Now, when I pass a forested hillside, I wonder if ramps are growing on its slope. (I’ve cursed at several “No Trespassing” signs preventing me from scrambling up the hill and checking it out for myself!) I’ve considered foraging in my urban environment–but, I don’t know enough about urban foraging to decide what to harvest (though I did enjoy a nice snack of dandelion greens from my backyard the other day). This exercise was much easier to accomplish when I lived in Los Angeles; street-side rosemary grows everywhere and fruit trees overhang many sidewalks (protip: they are fair game if they are on the public side of a fence).

Back to the ramps. I touch on this in the story, but it’s worth repeating: if you forage for ramps, don’t over-harvest; experts say you should only take 5% to 10% of what you see (if you leave the bulbs in the ground you can harvest a bit more, however). If you see ramps at a restaurant, farmers’ market, or festival, don’t be afraid to ask about where they came from. This is especially pertinent if you see ramps on the West Coast–ramps don’t grow in California, so you might want to inquire about how they got there. I’m not discouraging the popularity of ramps (they truly are terrific), but we all need to be sure to consume them in a sustainable way, or we’ll be out of luck in a few years. Ramp population recuperation time is tremendously slow, and if they’re over-harvested the land where they grow can easily be overrun with invasive species.

If you do get your hands on ramps, what should you do with them? Here are a few ideas:

Quick and Easy Grilled Ramps:

Wash and dry ramps.
Rub with olive oil and salt.
Grill until ramps are just slightly charred.
Season with pinch of salt and a dash of balsamic vinegar.

Pickled Ramps:

The basic ratio is 1-1-1 rice wine vinegar, water, and sugar–plus a pinch of salt.
Boil those ingredients and pour over (washed) ramp stems.
I also added a few black peppercorns, whole coriander seeds, and pinch of dried ginger.

You’ll just be using the stems for this one. Better make use of the greens, too, right? Render a few slices of bacon, and add chopped ramp greens to the bacon fat. Add three eggs (beaten), the cooked bacon, and handful of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
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Frozen Food Test: Trader Joe’s “Reduced Guilt” Baked Ziti

Posted on March 28, 2012. Filed under: frozen, review | Tags: , , , , |

It’s been quite some time since I’ve conducted a Frozen Food Test. I suppose that sometimes a bright idea falls by the wayside in the midst of trying to complete graduate school. Well, as Thesis Madness comes to a head, I figured it would be an opportune time to test a convenience food–hopefully the result would be a palatable and nutritious meal. Trader Joe’s has had a pretty solid track record in my previous tests, so off I went to try their baked ziti.

PROS:

  • The pasta has a surprisingly enjoyable texture; good mouthfeel, and cooked al dente. I was surprised a frozen pasta could reheat so nicely.
  • Chemical free–all of the ingredients listed were actual food!
  • Only 320 calories. 12g protein.

CONS:

  • Almost no cheese. What’s the point of baked ziti if there is no cheese? Also, if you microwave it, the cheese doesn’t get toasty. Fail.
  • Small serving size. This is more of a snack or side dish than a meal.
  • High in sodium.
  • Not an immense time saver if you cook it in the oven.

OVERALL:

This was OK. It wasn’t terrible for a microwaved side dish, but serving it as a side means I     have to either cook or reheat something else, so I doubt it would save a ton of time (I had mine with leftover grilled chicken). The flavor is decent, but it pales in comparison to my own baked ziti (that’s a link to me cooking the ziti–check it out!). Would I have it again? Doubtful, only because it’s a sin to call something “baked ziti” and not have a layer of golden, melty cheese on top. It’s a good thing cooking is my favorite form of procrastinating.

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Gorging on Cal-Mexican Food: An Brief Look at Food and Place

Posted on March 8, 2012. Filed under: hodgepodge, rant | Tags: , , , , , |

My father pointed out that I came home with a bag of leftovers every day on my trip home to Northern California. “You seem a little bit obsessed with Mexican food, Hal B,” he said.

Big Art was correct. My Mexican binge was totally by design. I made a point to have a meal at a local Cal-Mex restaurant each day I was home, and I also made it a point to order more food than I needed; pozole, two tacos, a burrito all ended up wrapped and saved for a late-night snack. I stopped at a (pre-trendy) taco truck ON MY WAY to lunch–I could see the restaurant from the street where my hands were dripping with chile verde. My belly bulged on the flight home.

I think it’s terrific that, in this period of globalization, regional specialty food still plays prominently on the palate. Although there is a remarkable pizza maker just outside of Pittsburgh (and another delightful one just down the block from me), New York still haunts my dreams. Good BBQ is simply smoke, spice, and meat, and a exceptionally enjoyable one has just opened in Pittsburgh. Yet, the truly transcendent joints are the ones that perfume the air south of the Mason-Dixon line. And, for me, Mexican food is best from a strip mall/truck/hole-in-the-wall in California.

Why? People argue it’s the water that makes a New York pizza special. However, “imported” water, though not commonplace, feeds dough outside of New York. The pizza isn’t any better because of it.

A lot of this has to do with the food you “grew up” on. I have a deep preference for East Coast Angle-Chinese food; the greasy kind with iconic dishes. I judge by wonton soup and chicken & broccoli. My brother, who was 3 years younger when we left New York, has the opposite reaction. He prefers the authentic* Chinese food of the Pacific Coast. Less grease, thinner wontons, more seafood. This isn’t limited to childhood memory, either–though childhood influence in generally the strongest.

Specific geography can play a part in flavoring food. The first oysters I had were grown in the cold-water of Tamales Bay. Small, briny, deep mineral flavor. They FLOORED me. I figured I’d love all oysters after that, but that wasn’t at all true. The large, warm-water Gulf oyster didn’t make me dance inside. I learned that the size and flavor of an oyster are directly affected by the ecology of the local waters and the breeds that can grow in it.

I also think a lot of this has to do with the food-culture of the place. There was a recent New York Times article written by a vegetarian complaining about the lack of vegetarian food in Kansas City. He made some valid points, but he missed the big one–it’s a beef town. He went on to complain about the lack of “ethnic” restaurants in the city, ignoring the fact that Kansas City hasn’t been a historic center of multi-ethnic immigration. Does he think that “ethnic” should be ubiquitous? What a dink.

I’m fascinated between the connection between food and place. It’s an issue that I’m going to continue to explore. I hope you will, too. Share your stories.

*Authenticity is a complex concept, so I won’t spent too much time on it here. For the sake of this piece, let’s just say that it’s generally agreed that the Chinese food in San Francisco is characterized as “more authentic” than the food on the East Coast because it’s more directly connected to the foodways of China. There are holes to be poked in this argument–not to mention the fact that I’m totally lumping a heterogenous culture into one cuisine called “Chinese food”–but that’s the basic idea. 

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Tiki Memories

Posted on February 20, 2012. Filed under: booze, hodgepodge, travel | Tags: , , , , , , |

As Tiki Month draws to a close, it seems appropriate to pay homage to the great Tiki cocktail culture. I’m not a mixologist, so no recipes today; instead I’ll share a bit about my two happiest Tiki memories. It beats working on my thesis, right? (Note: I actually really love working on my thesis.)

My experience with Tiki bars goes back nearly as far as I’ve been (legally) visiting bars. Shortly after graduating UCSD, I moved home to San Francisco to attend a summer-long acting (ah…drinking) intensive. My classmates and I quickly discovered the Tonga Room in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel. We learned that timeless Tiki classic had an amazing deal: a super cheap (I think it was $5) all-you-can-eat happy hour buffet. For super cheap young actors, this was a beacon of frugality in the sea of an expensive city. Plus, we were told the menu featured potent, easy to gulp tropical cocktails. And there were intermittent indoor rainstorms. If that’s not a way to draw a party-happy dude of 21 into Tiki drinking culture, I don’t know what is. For the next two years, I spent many happy happy hours at the Tonga Room. And many stupefied Muni rides home.

Years later, I moved to the heart of Tiki culture: Los Angeles. Don the Beachcomber, the first Tiki bar in the continental United States, opened there in 1933. Although there is a chain of knock-off Tiki bars with the same name, the original Don’s is long gone. Luckily for me, I lived an easy stumble from the greatest Tiki bar left in the city, Tiki Ti. The 12 seat bar is located in the nether-region between Los Feliz and Silverlake, right near the PBS studio. It’s tricked out in Tiki paraphernalia, and it’s smoke-filled; Tiki Ti is exempt from the longstanding CA indoor smoke ban because the only people who work there are the owners. Michael Buhen (and his sons) carry on the legacy of Ray Buhen, who opened the bar in 1961 after working for years as one of the original mixologists at Don the Beachcomber. (Read a bio of Ray Buhen.) The drink menu is as large as the bar is small–over 92 (mostly rum-based) tropical drinks. If you’re overwhelmed, ask someone behind the bar; if you’re especially adventurous, ask a regular. Just remember, these drinks are terrifically potent. Pace yourself. Or don’t. Arrive early and be prepared to wait in line. Unlike the silly boom-boom-pow clubs a mile down the road in Hollywood, this place is worth the wait. Really.

So there you go. My little homage to Tiki. Want to hear more thoughts on drinking? Read my column in Pittsburgh City Paper and follow me on Twitter @ThisMansKitchen.

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Roasted Bacon-Coated Brussels Sprouts (with Assorted Bacon-Coated Roots)

Posted on February 10, 2012. Filed under: bacon, recipe, vegetable | Tags: , , , , , |

Sick of the bacon-on-everything trend yet? It’s gotten a bit silly, hasn’t it? It can certainly be argued that this trend directly corresponds to the recent general improvement of bacon quality (so many hardwood smoked bacons…take that Oscar Meyer!) in America. However, this trend has also resulted in people thinking it’s a good idea to give bacon lovers remarkably silly bacon-related gifts, and enthusiasts producing improperly made bacon ice creams (protip: a bit of rendered bacon fat in the mix is a good idea, but don’t mix the bacon bits into the ice cream until right before serving). This has cast a shadow of the wonderful world of bacon. Well, overexposure will do that.

But there is hope, my friends. That hope lies in another trendy tidbit of food: the once hated Brussels sprout. Everyone loves a Brussels now (almost). Properly cooked, they’re quite terrific. So why not combine the two, add some complimentary root vegetables, and toss in a maple syrup vinaigrette? I’ve conducted an experiment. Result? Success. Grand success.

Render 1/2 lb. Diced Bacon.
Separate cooked bacon from rendered fat. Save both.

Add to a large bowl:
1lb. Brussels Sprouts, quartered
1/2 lb. Yukon Gold Potatoes, cubed
1/4 lb. Carrots, cubed
1/4 lb. Parsnips, cubed

1-2 Large Shallots, quartered
Add ALL (!!!!) the reserved bacon fat to the bowl, plus salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.

Transfer to a baking sheet, and roast in a 425F oven for 35-45 minutes. Everything should be nicely browned. Sprouts should be crunchy–not soggy.

For the Maple-Bacon Vinaigrette:
2.5 Tbs. Maple Syrup
2 Tbs. Red Wine Vinegar
1.5 Tbs. Olive Oil
2 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
Pinch Salt and Two Pinches Pepper

Toss roasted vegetables with the vinaigrette and reserved bacon bits. Add salt if necessary.

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Borscht (Hot)

Posted on January 31, 2012. Filed under: beet, favorite, one pot, recipe, soup, vegetable, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

More beets.

Beet obsession + cold weather + potluck = Borscht. It’s a logical conclusion. But what is this thing they (Eastern Europeans) call borscht? I remember a time in my youth when I met my Grandpa Benji and Uncle Kenny at Yonah Schimmel’s (Lower East Side, Manhattan) for knishes, and was taken aback when I saw them both slurping on a cold, thick, magenta brew topped with sour cream. Gross?

It took some time to come around the idea that this could be something edible. It just looked so strange and horrible. I was wrong. It’s not just edible, it’s delicious. They were sipping on cold borscht. But it’s winter, so I was going to go in the other direction—hot borscht.

Basically, borscht is a hodgepodge soup dish that contains beets and whatever else you have leftover. It’s believed that borscht originated in the Ukraine, but the exact history is undocumented. The wonderful thing about undocumented recipes is that it leaves you a lot of room to play. Just about every cold-weather, beet-eating culture has its own version of borscht, and even those recipes vary from person to person. So embrace the spirt, and make your borscht with whatever you have in your kitchen (plus beets).

Peel and halve 1.5 Pounds Beets
Boil in 8 cups water for 20 minutes.
Remove beets, SAVE the water.

While beets are cooking, add to the beet water:
3 Carrots, cubed
2 Stalks Celery, cubed
2 Apples, cubed
3-4 Yukon Gold Potatoes, cubed
1 Parsnip, cubed
1 Onion, sliced
1 Small Head Cabbage, shredded

Add additional water* to cover.
Add salt, pepper and 1/3 cup Red Wine Vinegar

Once beets are cool enough to touch, slice them into matchsticks and add them back to the pot.

Simmer for one hour.

Finish with 1/4 Cup Chopped Dill.

Top with Sour Cream or Plain Yogurt.

*As written, this recipe is vegan. You can add chicken stock instead of water if you’d like to. You can also make a beefy version of borscht. So much variety. 

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