December 14 – December 20, 2020
Monday: Leftover Sausages, Onions and Peppers with Potatoes and Fennel
Tuesday: Pasta Putanesca
Wednesday: White Borscht
Thursday: Ground Lamb Pulao
Friday: Salmon with Broccoli and Lemon Gremmolata
Saturday: Sheet Pan Chicken with Potatoes, Lemon, Feta and Dill
Merry Christmas Happy Hannukah* to all the loyal followers** of our blog. We pray that you and yours will have a peaceful, loving holiday whether in person or by Zoom.
Your comments and support have helped us get through our socially distant, often isolated lives this last year. We hope that next year will see the end of this and we can all emerge from our cocoons and play together.
*Yes, I know it’s a little late for Christmas and a lot late for Hannukah, but who doesn’t want to hear these happy phrases at any time of year.
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The title of this post may trouble you – I know that it troubled me. Borscht has never made me lick my chops. On the contrary: Having heard of borscht and being an adventurous eater, I made the mistake of ordering some one day. There are few dishes I don’t like to eat – but this was wretched – cold and sweet, resembling Pepto Bismol with more red dye #6 thrown in. And so, when I saw the NYT Magazine recipe for ‘White Borscht’, I dismissed it and moved on the puzzles.
But later, having finished the puzzles and considering a nap, I was idly turning the pages of the Magazine and came across the recipe again. The accompanying picture looked nothing like Pepto-Bismol. It looked like potato soup, which, essentially, add some dill and kielbasa, it is.
It was a snowy night and the soup looked comforting, so we cooked it. Think potato soup but with the heft and savor of kielbasa and a nice lilt from the fresh dill. This soup rivals split-pea and chicken-noodle for sheer comfort, and may slightly edge out both for taste.
By the by, kielbasa is, along with piroghis, one of the major food groups in Pittsburgh where Polish delis and restaurants provide many exquisite variations of authentic, Polish, smoked sausage. These days, with the Steelers facing some headwinds,*** a little homage to our wonderful, local markets and restaurants seems in order.
***Hold the presses – I couldn’t post the blog when planned and the Steelers, down by 17 points to Indianapolis in the 3rd Quarter, came back to win, clinch a playoff spot and, generally lift the spirits of Western Pennsylvania.
God bless us – everyone.
(adapted from a recipe by Gabriella Hamilton, NYT Magazine, 12/13/30)
Timing: 1 ½ hours
2 ½ pounds good smoked kielbasa
3 pounds russet potatoes
3 pounds leeks (6 lively long leeks)
1 large Spanish onion cut into small dice (2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, minced
5 bay leaves
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
4 ounce hunk of sourdough bread, crusts removed (note: use as sour a bread as you can find, or, conversely, use a good country bread and add some lemon juice to the soup.
1 tablespoon finely ground black pepper
½ cup crème fraiche
Bunch of dill, finely minced
Cut kielbasa into 4 equal lengths and put them and 5 bay leaves into a pot with 3 quarts of water. Bring to a boil and boil gently for 25 minutes. Remove sausages from the water – Save that water!
Clean leeks and slice in half lengthwise and then into thin half moons – cut up into the green a bit.
Dice onion and mince garlic.
Chop the dill
Measure out butter and trim crusts to create 4 ounce hunk of sourdough bread.
Peel potatoes and then trim ends and sides to a rough rectangular box shape. Cut into 3/4 -inch cubes. Save the trimmed parts as well.
Cook the Borscht:
In a large, sturdy pot, melt 1 stick of the butter over low heat until it foams. Stir in the onion, the garlic and a good pinch of salt and sweat for 5 minutes or so, until translucent.
Now add the remaining butter, the leeks, another good pinch of salt and stir well and sweat over low heat for 8 minutes.
Add the potato scraps and the cube of bread and half the kielbasa boiling liquid. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, slice the kielbasa in half lengthwise. Place two pieces back into the soup and slice the remaining 6 pieces into thin, 1/4-inch-thick half-moons. Set aside.
Take the soggy lump of bread out of the pot and remove about 1 cup of the liquid.
Now add the potato cubes and the rest of the kielbasa liquid. Add another pinch of salt and half the black pepper. After the soup comes back to simmer, simmer until the potatoes are cooked – about 25 minutes.
Use either a stick blender or a traditional blender and purée the lump of bread, adding some of the reserved liquid, if needed. (You can do this with a stick blender or a regular blender.
Stir this bread back into the soup after the potatoes are cooked. Add the sliced kielbasa now.
Whisk the crème fraiche with the hot reserved liquid and stir that into the soup. Stir in the chopped dill and the remaining ½ tablespoon of pepper.
Throw a log on the fire and serve the Borscht very hot.