Most of the recipes I've done so far this year have been foods selected because I (or someone in my family) was in the mood for that particular food. OK, many of them were foods that I was in the mood for because I saw a picture of it somewhere and wanted to try it. My point is, I haven't taken a lot of requests or suggestions from outside my kitchen for recipes I should attempt. In fact, I'm pretty sure this is the first. And it seems to me that there is some poetry to the fact that the person who inspired this post is actually someone I met through this blog. (I know!)
Back in February of 2007, I posted this link to a rather marvellous piece of editing. I credited my friend Jonathan for sending me the link, but the one you want to be paying attention to is the guy who commented (that sucked! ; )) on it. Ben created the video for the amusement of himself and a few friends, and when it started getting hits, he followed the trackbacks to see where people were seeing it, and found me. He sent me an email thanking me for linking to his video, I sent him an email back thanking him for making the video, and we just. kept. emailing. After months, and possibly more emails about nothing than I had ever sent before, we decided to meet. I drove up to Waterloo to meet him at William's Coffee Pub on University, where he promised he'd wear a blue flower so I could recognize him.
This is Ben, the first day we met. He's already taken off the flower, which is sad, because you can't see that he totally couldn't find a blue flower, so he made one to wear.
Since that day, Ben and I have spent an awful lot of hours talking over coffees or beers, and he is one of my best friends. Last night*, I went to visit him for Taco Club™ (a very exclusive club of regulars at $2 Taco night at Ethel's Lounge) and and we wound up the night in the apartment he shares with his girlfriend Paige. For reasons I can't recall now, Paige and I started talking about cooking, and then canning, and I asked her if she had any use for beets, which I have a lot of from my garden at my dad's right now. She didn't, but suggested I make borscht, because Ben loves it. Ben quickly pointed out that he had only had borscht once, on a bet with a waitress, but admitted he had enjoyed it.
*Not actually last night, it took me a bit of time to get to doing this.
I honestly had no idea what borscht was, and based on the name had honestly assumed it was some sort of concoction of sausage with boiled vegetables and potatoes and minimal seasoning. I don't know why. It sounds like sauerkraut to me. Yes I know sauerkraut is not exactly that either, but my dad always ate sauerkraut mashed up with boiled potatoes and sausages, and that's what the word 'borscht' conjured up in my mind. There was some second-guessing about beets even being IN borscht, and some discussion of Simpsons episodes to try to clarify, and eventually we googled and confirmed that borscht was, indeed, beet soup. Really really pretty beet soup.
As you may have noticed from the massive gap since my last post (or from reading my last post, if that's what you're into), I haven't felt up to blogging much lately. Paige suggested last night that perhaps doing something creative would help me feel more creative again, so I'm trying. With borscht. I hope they're going to come over and eat some. (It could be a 3-Rene week!)
Here is the recipe, borrowed from The Barefoot Contessa at Home.
5 medium fresh beets (about 2 pounds without tops)
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (I used garlic stock, as everyone in my house finds chicken stock too salty)
16 ounces sour cream, plus extra for serving
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Champagne vinegar (I had no Champagne vinegar, and used white wine vinegar instead)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups medium-diced English cucumber, seeds removed
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus extra for serving
Place the beets in a large pot of boiling salted water and cook uncovered until the beets are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the beets to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve and also set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the beet cooking liquid, the chicken stock, sour cream, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt, and the pepper. Peel the cooled beets with a small paring knife or rub the skins off with your hands. Cut the beets in small to medium dice. Add the beets, cucumber, scallions, and dill to the soup. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Season, to taste, and serve cold with a dollop of sour cream and an extra sprig of fresh dill.