"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Friday, October 12, 2007

Quick Hot Borscht and French Pea Soup

If I want to make something with beets at work, I really have to bide my time. Dr. S. dislikes them in the extreme, but every so often he goes off for a few days and we can have a beet extravaganza with Mrs. S., who loves them.

My moment came last week when Dr. S. flew down to D.C. for a meeting at the Academy of Engineers and I decided to make Quick Hot Borscht for lunch for Mrs. S, her daughter M., her husband E. Bonus points because E. is Jewish and I like to cook food that I think will please him especially (not that all Jews love borscht, but he was raised in a traditional household and I figured it would remind him of his childhood). But minus bonus points because M. is a vegetarian so I had to divide the recipe into two pots--one with beef broth and the other with vegetable. Making it slightly less quick.

I've had various types of borscht here and there, and I think that it really has to be made with a nice beef broth--it provides an excellent counterpoint to the sweetness of the beets. Anyway, the basic ingredient list is: boiling potatoes (cooked separately and added at the end) carrots, celery, onion, beef broth, and a jar of sliced pickled beets. Sour cream and fresh dill are the garnish.

The payoff--E. sitting at the table, pointing with his spoon to the bowl, saying, eyebrows raised, "This is really good borscht." Yeah.


I never thought I was going to have a chance to make French Pea Soup because my co-worker, Miranda, makes it all the time. She loves this stuff. And it is fast--lettuce, frozen peas, chicken broth, mint, leeks--just cook it together and puree it. My problem with what I had tasted at work was that I felt it was too chunky, and I would end up taking Miranda's soup and straining it.

When I made it at home for my writing group I decided to really go for the smooth texture and I blended the heck out of that stuff--just left it in there for about five minutes while I emptied the dishwasher and wiped down the counters.

It really was beautifully smooth, and I have to say out of all of the meals I've produced, this is one of the most striking with the green against my blue bowls and a drizzle of white cream. (My writing group got a big kick out of the drizzles, thinking they looked like symbols or letters of some kind, and really what else could you expect out of folks who work with language?) Here's a photo of somebody else's soup, but it's the same idea. Isn't it pretty?

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