Before I was introduced to this recipe, I thought that borscht was always a deep red, beet-based soup. I now know that borscht means “sour.” The sour tang in this soup comes from soaking sourdough bread in the broth, puréeing it, and incorporating it into the finished soup, along with crème fraiche which is stirred in just prior to serving.
I made my first homemade borscht (the beet-based version) for Christmas Eve, and my husband purchased pierogies at a Polish store for the same meal. Luckily, I saw this recipe and he was also able to buy house-made garlic kielbasa for this soup. The quality of the kielbasa is very important because it is used to create the broth for the base of this soup.
This recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by Gabrielle Hamilton. I followed the recipe closely, but may decrease the amount of butter next time- I’m not sure it was necessary! (but it was quite delicious 😉 ) It was a creamy, indulgent, and delicious upgrade of potato-leek soup. Fabulous cold-weather comfort food.
Yield: 5 quarts, Serves 10 to 12
2 1/4 to 2 1/2pounds full horseshoe link of high-quality smoked kielbasa
5fresh bay leaves
3pounds leeks (6 long, lively leeks)
3pounds russet potatoes (about 4)
1cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1large yellow onion, small-diced (about 2 cups)
6garlic cloves, minced
1(4-ounce) hunk of dense, very sour sourdough bread, crusts removed
Cut kielbasa into 4 to 5 equal lengths, and cover in a pot with 3 quarts cold water and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then let gently boil for 25 minutes more until swollen and cooked through and beads of oil have formed.
Pull sausages from the now smoky and seasoned water, and set aside. Save that water!
While the kielbasa simmers, split leeks in half lengthwise, then soak and rinse in cold water to thoroughly remove all sand. Slice leeks into 3/8-inch half-moons from whites to dark greens, as far up as is viable.
Peel potatoes, trim all four sides to stabilize on the cutting board and trim both ends to “box” the potato. Save the scraps. Cut the boxes into large cubes, about 3/4-inch square.
In a sturdy soup pot (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven), melt 1 stick butter over low heat until foaming.
Stir in onion, garlic and a healthy pinch of salt, and let them sweat for a full 5 minutes until translucent.
Stir in remaining butter, the sliced leeks and another generous pinch of salt, then let sweat slowly over low heat for 8 minutes until moist, bright green and glossy.
Add potato scraps, the cube of bread and half the kielbasa boiling liquid. Let gently simmer 10 minutes while the potato scrap softens and the bread hunk becomes flabby and swollen. If you need to increase the heat to get a little simmer going, do so.
Meanwhile, slice kielbasa in half lengthwise. Place two pieces back into the soup pot as is, and then slice the remaining 6 pieces into very thin, 1/8-inch half-moons, and set aside.
Retrieve the soggy lump of sourdough bread with a slotted spoon, and don’t worry if you also get a few bits of leek or onion or whatever is floating in the soup when you pull it out. Also remove about 1 cup of liquid, and set aside.
Add potato cubes and the rest of the kielbasa liquid to the pot. Add another pinch of salt and half the black pepper. Let it come back to temperature, and then to simmer until potatoes are cooked through, about 25 minutes more.
Using either a stick blender or a traditional blender, purée the sodden hunk of bread until foamy, using half of the liquid you pulled in Step 10, if needed. (I used a Vitamix.) Stir this back into the soup pot once the potatoes are cooked through.
Slice the reserved kielbasa and return all of the kielbasa to the pot.
Whisk the crème fraîche with remaining 1/2 cup of the hot reserved liquid; stir mixture into the soup.
Stir in the chopped dill and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon pepper. Serve very hot.
This is another weeknight dish loaded with spinach. I also incorporated my CSA turnip greens. It features many of the flavors of my favorite Greek dishes, including lemon zest, feta, and fresh herbs. I used parsley from my CSA share as well.
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. It was very quick and easy to prepare. I used a large, wide enameled cast iron pot. I increased the amount of garlic and modified the cooking method.
Yield: 3 to 4 servings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, divided
2 to 4 large garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces baby spinach leaves (8 cups), coarsely chopped (I used 6oz spinach and 2oz turnip greens)
3/4 cup crumbled feta (3 ounces), plus more for garnish
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup fresh dill, or use parsley or cilantro, chopped
Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium, then melt butter, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pot.)
Stir in about three-quarters of the scallions (saving some of the green parts for garnish) and garlic, and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in stock and bring to a simmer.
Stir in orzo, lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until orzo is nearly cooked through and most of the liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Stir in spinach (and other greens, if using), adding in batches if it doesn’t all fit in the pan at once, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.
Stir in cheese, peas, and dill/parsley/cilantro, cover the pan, and cook for another 1 minute, to finish cooking and warm the peas.
To serve, sprinkle with more cheese and the reserved scallions.
Everyone loves meatballs- right? These were a healthyish version packed with cilantro and spinach. We ate them over rice topped with dollops of garlicky Greek yogurt sauce with roasted cauliflower on the side. Yum.
My husband was gifted a meat grinder for Christmas. 🙂 This was the first time he used it, grinding chicken thighs for these full-flavored meatballs. He plans to make burgers with blended meats next. Fancy!
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I prepared the seasoned meat about 6 hours ahead of time but it can even sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the meat absorbs the seasoning. I baked the meatballs (in the same oven as the roasted cauliflower) and used red pepper flakes instead of a serrano chile. I also added a yogurt sauce for serving. Fantastic.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
For the Meatballs:
1pound spinach, washed
1 1/2pounds ground chicken (I used 5 freshly ground chicken thighs- medium grind)
2teaspoons kosher salt
1/2teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2teaspoon lemon zest (I used the zest from 1/2 lemon)
pinch of ground cayenne
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1/2teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (I crushed them using a mortar and pestle)
pinch of ground cinnamon
1cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
1serrano chile, with seeds, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1cup soft fresh bread crumbs, from about 4 slices of crustless sandwich bread (I used 3 slices of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, crusts removed, pulsed in a food processor)
1/2cup heavy cream, half-and-half, milk, or ricotta cheese
extra-virgin olive oil, for the baking sheet
lemon wedges, for serving
cooked rice, for serving (I served the meatballs over white Basmati rice)
yogurt sauce (or store-bought tzatziki), for serving (see below)
For the Sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
pinch of ground cumin
1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed through a garlic press
fresh dill, cilantro or parsley, finely minced, to taste
freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Blanch the spinach: Plunge leaves a handful at a time into a pot of boiling water. Leave just long enough to wilt, about 30 seconds, scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon and drain in a colander and cool under running water. Repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.
Remove and squeeze wilted leaves into a ball. I used a potato ricer and squeezed out the excess liquid in batches.
Using a large knife, roughly chop spinach on a cutting board — you should have about 2 cups.
Squeeze into a ball again to remove excess water. (This may be done several hours or up to a day in advance and refrigerated.) Again, I used a potato ricer and removed the excess liquid in batches.
If freshly grinding the chicken, grind into a large bowl using the medium grinding disc.
Combine the ground chicken, salt, pepper, lemon zest, cayenne, nutmeg, fennel seeds, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, chile (or red pepper flakes), egg, bread crumbs and cream in a large bowl. Using your clean hands, knead everything together, mixing well. Leave to absorb seasoning for 15 minutes or overnight. (I refrigerated it for about 6 hours.)
Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for flavors to develop.
Test for seasoning: Take a small amount and flatten into a thin patty. Quickly cook in a small skillet, about 1 minute per side. Taste, then adjust the mixture’s seasoning if necessary.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, form 19 to 24 rough balls and place on a large plate. (The mixture will be soft.)
Using a brush, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
Lightly form the meatballs and position them on the prepared baking sheet. Along the long side of the pan, I placed them in rows of 5. (I had 19 meatballs.)
Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers at least 160°, about 4 to 5 minutes more.
Serve over rice garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with sauce (or tzatziki) and lemon wedges.
We missed celebrating Christmas with our extended family this year. 😦
Traditionally, my Mother-in-Law makes all of us the meatless 12-dish Ukrainian Christmas Eve feast as part of our celebration. It is a beautiful dinner, but a major undertaking. I didn’t attempt to make the complete meal, but I did make a couple of the courses for our celebration at home. 🙂
Our meal began with a (mini) shot of vodka and a bite-sized piece of challah with honey. We ate this Winter Borscht with Vushka (mushroom-onion dumplings) followed by sauerkraut and potato-cheese pierogies, which my husband purchased from a local Polish store, as our main courses. I made my Mother-in-Law’s apple strudel for dessert, post to follow.
This recipe was adapted from Tom Birchard and Natalie Danford of NYC’s East Village restaurant Veselka, via The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. (I gave my husband the Veselka cookbook for Christmas!) I incorporated some of the beets, puréed, into the finished soup. I used dumplings wrappers instead of making the dough for the dumplings. I also modified the Vushka proportions and technique.
I used beets from my CSA share for the soup, made it in advance and stored it in the freezer. I made the Vushka a day in advance and stored them in the refrigerator. The recipe states that the dumplings are optional; in my house they are essential! The soup had a spicy kick which may have been from the fresh garlic, which is incorporated at the end. I enjoyed it but may consider omitting the garlic next time.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
For the Borscht:
2pounds beets, trimmed and scrubbed (do not peel)
3/4cup white vinegar
1carrot, peeled and diced
1stalk celery, diced
1small onion, diced
4cups chicken or vegetable stock
5whole allspice berries
1tablespoon sugar, more to taste
1garlic clove, minced
1 ½teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
mushroom and onion dumplings (Vushka)
chopped dill, for garnish, optional
Coarsely chop beets, preferably in a food processor.
In a medium pot, combine beets, 4 cups water and vinegar; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until beets are soft, about 45 minutes. Strain and set juice aside. (Beets can be used for another purpose, like salad.)(I puréed half of the strained beets in a Vitamix and incorporated them in the finished soup.)
Meanwhile, in a deep pot, combine carrot, celery, onion, stock, bay leaves and allspice; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes. Strain and discard aromatics and vegetables.
Combine strained stock and beet juice and simmer 5 minutes.
Add sugar, garlic (if using), and black pepper. Season to taste with sugar and salt.
Add half of the reserved beets, puréed, into the finished soup, as desired.
Serve with dumplings and sprinkle with dill, as desired.
For the Vushka (Ukrainian Mushroom & Onion Dumplings):
Yield: 80 to 100 dumplings
For the Filling:
2 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 large yellow onion, minced
2cups chopped button mushrooms
freshly ground black pepper
For the Dough: (I used Shanghai-style dumpling wrappers instead)
1large egg yolk
1tablespoon vegetable oil
3 ¼cups all-purpose flour, more as needed
To Make the Filling:
Place dried mushrooms in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Let soften, about 10 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid and mushrooms separately.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until golden but not brown, about 5 minutes.
Add button mushrooms and cook, stirring, until mushrooms have released their liquid, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drain liquid.
In a food processor, combine both kinds of mushrooms.
Spoon in porcini liquid, leaving behind any silt in bottom of bowl.
Pulse together until finely ground but not pasty: about 3 or 4 pulses. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
To Make the Dough: (I used dumpling wrappers and continued at Step 8)
In a small bowl, combine egg yolk, oil and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water and whisk 1 minute.
Place flour in a large bowl and make a well in center. Add a third of the egg mixture and lightly mix in with fingers or a fork. Repeat 2 more times.
Using hands, fold dough together until soft: if crumbly, gently work in more water; if sticky, add flour.
Transfer to a lightly floured board and knead 3 minutes.
Form into a ball, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate 45 minutes.
Lightly flour a work surface and a pan or board for the finished dumplings. Divide dough into 3 sections.
Using a well-floured rolling pin, roll each section out until very thin and in a rough rectangle.
Use tip of a sharp knife to cut dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. (I used a 1 1/2-inch square cookie cutter as a guide. Each dumpling wrapper yielded 2 squares. If using square dumpling wrappers, each one may be able to make 4 squares. Next time!)
Cover the cut dough with plastic wrap so that it doesn’t dry out.
Drain any excess liquid from filling. Place 1/4 teaspoon filling in center of each square. (I found it helpful to pre-scoop the filling and place it on a cutting board because it dried it out slightly.)
Wet the edges of the dough and fold squares in half to form triangles, sealing filling inside.
Pinch the 2 opposing corners together to seal tightly, use water if necessary.
Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with plastic wrap or a floured surface: do not stack.
Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook dumplings until they float, 2 to 4 minutes. (If cooking frozen dumplings, cook until they rise to the surface and add 2 minutes.)
Drain and serve in hot borscht, about 10 per serving, or just with sour cream.
I was inspired to make this meal after receiving several beautiful homegrown cucumbers from a neighbor. What an excuse to make schnitzel! 😉 I loved the combination of the pork with the crunchy and fresh cucumber salad.
This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Justin Chapple. I modified the proportions and used homegrown cucumbers instead of Persian cucumbers. Delicious.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
6 Persian cucumbers, sliced 1/2 inch thick OR 3 cucumbers, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped dill, plus small sprigs for garnish
1 3/4 cups whole-milk yogurt
1 1/2 to 2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
two 1 1/4-pound pork tenderloins, cut on the bias into 12 to 15 thin slices (each), about 1/4 inch thick
canola oil, for frying
In a colander placed over a bowl, toss the cucumber slices with 1 teaspoon of salt. Let stand for 15 minutes, then gently squeeze out the excess water.
In a large bowl, mix the cucumbers with the chopped dill and 1/4 cup of the yogurt and season with salt and pepper. (I used whole-milk Greek yogurt in the salad.)
Meanwhile, put the breadcrumbs and the remaining 1 1/2 cups of yogurt in 2 separate shallow bowls. (I used glass pie plates.)
Season the pork with salt and pepper and dip in the yogurt, letting the excess drip back into the bowl. Dredge in the breadcrumbs, pressing to flatten the pork and help the crumbs adhere.
In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
In batches, add the pork in a single layer and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned and crispy, about 5 minutes. (I placed the pork into the pan with tongs but turned the pieces over with a spatula to keep the coating intact.)
Transfer to a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet to drain.
Serve the pork with the cucumber salad and garnish with small sprigs of dill.
This phyllo-crusted savory pie is packed with caramelized summer zucchini. It is a wonderful way to gobble up an abundance of fresh squash from the garden or your CSA share. 🙂 I loved that it was baked in a cast iron skillet too.
The recipe was adapted from thekitchn.com, contributed by Grace Elkus. We ate it for dinner with a green salad but it could also be served for a special brunch or lunch- an amazing summer meal.
This is another wonderful one-pot vegetarian baked egg casserole that can be served any time of day. The title of the New York Times article about it was, “Polenta That You’ll Never Need to Stir: Baking a classic in a sea of eggs and cheese gives it complexity.” Irresistible. 🙂
This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yotam Ottolenghi. I used my special grits from Charleston, South Carolina instead of polenta. I also increased the amount of garlic, reduced the red pepper flakes, and kept the corn kernels whole. I loved all of the brightness from the combination of fresh herbs. Delicious!
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red-pepper flakes, plus more for garnish
warm naan, pita, or crusty bread, for serving
Heat the oven to 375°F/200°C, preferably on convection.
If desired, add the corn to a food processor and pulse once or twice, just until roughly chopped. (I opted to leave the kernels whole.)
In a large bowl, combine the corn, spinach, cornmeal, Parmesan, scallions, 1/4 cup cilantro, parsley, dill, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a good grind of pepper; stir to combine.
Transfer this mixture to a large, deep, oven-proof skillet, then add the milk, stock and butter, stirring gently to mix through. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and give everything a good whisk.
Return to the oven and bake until the cornmeal is cooked through and the mixture has thickened, about 20 minutes. Give the polenta another good whisk — it should be quite smooth and not completely set — then stir in half the feta.
Increase the oven temperature to 425°F/220°C, preferably on convection.
Use a dinner spoon to make 8 shallow wells in the polenta. Crack an egg into each well and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle the remaining feta all over, and bake until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks are still runny, 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the reserved scallions and cilantro in a bowl with the oil. Spoon this mixture all over the polenta and eggs and sprinkle with the red-pepper flakes, if desired. Serve directly from the pan.