Another year has come and gone, and we are back to the boring, dismal, no-holiday-having month that is January. I don’t mind winter – I honestly love winter, as long as there is snow and not the dreary, depressing rain that is falling today. Today’s nasty rain is especially devastating, since most of the pretty Christmas lights have been taken down and everyone has kicked their poor tree to the curb. If snow was falling, I don’t think the city would feel so drab right now. NYC currently feels like a hole I can’t escape from – but we’ll leave that topic for another day.
I always get sad when both Christmas and NYE are over…. people return to their foul, sour-faced, pretentious city-dweller dispositions instead of the fake, cheerful ones they assume during the holidays – smiling and wishing everyone well with a smile on their face. Now it’s back to avoiding eye contact and looking miserable with a sour face on the subway. If I ruled the world, every day would be Christmas! I kid, I kid…
Now that the holidays are officially over, it is time to start planning something to look forward to again and working towards my New Year’s goals (hence me sitting here working on this blog). I am trying to invest more time into writing again, whether it’s about food, short-stories, or just general, self-centered thoughts. The older I have become, the harder it is to find enough time in the day for all the things I not only have to do, but want to do. Work, and commuting to and from work, takes up such a large portion of each day, week, month, and year, that I now truly understand why it is important to love the work you do…. If I can’t make a full time living doing what I want to do at this point in my life, I can at least devote as much time as possible to work towards those goals.
Between work, general household upkeep, maintaining my cat, maintaining relationships, cooking/cleaning, errands, and self-care, it sometimes seems like one more chore to make myself sit in front of my computer at night and write. Although, once I do sit down and start writing, it is never a chore; quite the opposite. Writing is like cooking is for me – pleasurable, relaxing, and often times hard to put a cap on it once I start.
Since we are in the throes of winter (despite the lack of snow thanks to global warming), my next few blogs will focus on comfort food and soups. Honestly though, I’m not sure who I’m trying to kid… pretty much everything I cook seems to constitute as comfort food, given that it’s usually laden with cheese, wine soaked, or carb heavy. Comfort food and comfort soup is the way to go when the weather is cold.
I had never made borscht before, but I had a craving for beets (I’ve always love beets and I always will…) and also for a thick, pureed soup, so it was only natural that borscht was on the menu! Since one of my other New Year’s goals is to completely cut out meat from my diet, I made a vegetarian borscht using vegetable stock in place of beef stock, and obviously did not put any beef in the soup.
- 4 fresh, large beets (or 5-6 smaller ones) (**beets should be cleaned, skinned/peeled, and cubed)
- 2 medium-sized carrots (chopped)
- 1/2 of a large white onion (finely chopped)
- 4 cloves of garlic (finely minced)
- 2 stalks of celery
- 1 large potato (Idaho or russet)
- 1 cup thinly chopped cabbage
- 2 bay leaves (dried are fine)
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil and/or butter
- 4 cups (one 32 oz. carton) of vegetable stock
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 TBS white vinegar
- 1 tsp celery salt
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- sour cream*to garnish
- fresh dill *to garnish
- YOU WILL NEED A BLENDER OR IMMERSION BLENDER!!!!
- Prep the veggies – the beets should be washed, peeled (using a regular carrot/apple peeler), and cut into cube size chunks; carrots should be chopped, onion finely chopped, garlic finely minced, potato chopped into cubes, celery chopped, and cabbage thinly sliced and set aside (this will go in to cook when everything else has been blended)
- In a large pot, heat olive oil and/or butter (I prefer a combination of the two for added richness) over low heat, add in the onions stirring occasionally and cooking over low-heat until translucent and yellow.
- Add in the garlic and bay leaves and continue to cook over low heat for another minute or two. DO NOT BURN GARLIC.
- Add in all of the other veggies, APART FROM THE CABBAGE (beets, carrots, celery, and potato), and then add in entire container of stock.
- Increase heat to medium temperature so that the contents of the pot comes to a low boil. Continue to cook over medium heat for about 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check to see that vegetables are thoroughly cooked (soft) by poking with a fork. I suggest testing the beets and potatoes this way, since they will be the last to finish cooking.
- REMOVE THE BAY LEAVES BEFORE BLENDING!
- Using an immersion blender or a ladle to move soup into an actual blender, blend around 3/4 of the contents of the pot of soup. This creates a rich, thick puree, but also leaves some chunks of veggies for texture and aesthetic.
- Continue to keep soup over medium heat once fully blended, add in the cabbage, smoked paprika, celery salt, pinch of cayenne, and regular salt/black pepper to suit your tastes (**the smoked paprika gives it a richer, smokier flavor and complements the earthiness of the beets!)
- Once the cabbage is cooked through, add in the vinegar and stir
- Serve hot, with a generous dollop of sour cream in the middle of the bowl (it takes it to another level that is orgasmic to the taste buds), and some fresh dill.
I also served some potato and cheese pierogies on the side to make it a heartier meal!!!! Very Eastern European…. but hey – when you’re just a boring, fourth-generation American, you’re allowed to pick and choose which 25% of your ethnic background you occasionally want to play up… on this day we went with the polski :p
There are so many other soup recipes I plan to share in the upcoming weeks; everything from my mom’s seafood chowder, to a thick-ass split pea soup, to a Tuscan bread soup called Ribollita. I just fucking love soup – I could probably live on a diet of soups, chowders, and stews!