Friday, October 22, 2010

Maxim tucking into his bowl of borscht

Now that is a satisfied customer!

I love borscht, this wonderful Ukrainian soup made from beets and cabbage.  There are lots of reasons: 1) It's delicious 2) It's good for you 3) It's a really pretty color (bright red, from the beets -- even the potatoes turn pink!) 4) It has sentimental value, from all our trips to Ukraine 5) It's healthy but my kids actually like it 6) It's soup, so of course I like it 7) It makes me feel smug and superior to like (and be able to make!) such an obscure, exotic dish.  And by saying that, I confirm what you've always suspected: I am a shallow, shallow person!

So for all my reasons, good and bad, for liking borscht, I really look forward to soup season, and the chance to make it again.  This last week, I made it as the side dish for Christianity Explored (the big group of people I cook for weekly) along with Beef Stroganoff.  And I'm always so excited to serve it, and expose people to it's wonderful nuances of flavors, that I sort of take it personally if they don't like it.  Which is so dumb -- I mean, really, it is a bit of an acquired taste, completely foreign to the American palate.  But people get scared off by the fact that it's got weird red broth and lots of cabbage in it, and don't give it a fair shake.  Or they just flat out don't like it.  And I realized that perhaps my eager presence next to their chairs, watching every bite, compulsively asking "Do you like it? It's good isn't it? You like it, right?!?" was counter-productive.  Maybe people even felt a little pressured to pretend they liked it.  So I'm just going to say it: it's OK if you don't like it.  I will stop judging you.  But if you want to try it... give me a call!  I've got a whole lot of leftovers.  And the recipe will be forthcoming, in my book.  Which is on-schedule, to be released November 13, thanks to the efforts of our hard-working intern, Nicole LaChance (aka: Cupcake.)

Leftovers which got carried home in my car.  And leaked onto the floor of my car.  Which now smells like borscht.  Perhaps I am being punished for my arrogance, how appropriate!

Oh, one other thing.  I'm not getting a lot of love in the comments section here.  I know, I know, I don't write very often.  But maybe if what I did write got a little more appreciation.... just saying.

Pasta e Fagoli

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's soup season in Michigan -- one of my favorite times of the year.  Beautiful sunny days and chilly nights, perfect for snuggling up with some hot cider, a good book, the love of your life, or -- a steaming bowl of soup!  I love soup for so many reasons.  It's hot, therefore the opposite of a cold, soggy sandwich that has sat in your locker all day.  (Yes, carrying my lunch to school for 12 years seriously messed with my head.)  It's a great way to painlessly ingest some veggies.  And it's a great way to fill up without eating a load of calories.  Which has become rather important for me lately... the book will be out soon, and you will all have a chance to cook like you're Saucy.  Which is delicious.  And not always good for the figure, espcially if you're 5 foot nothing like me!  So, I am focusing on the soup and salad sections of my book.  And thought that some of you might appreciate a delicious lower calorie recipe right now, as a little preview.  This soup, a traditional Italian pasta and bean soup, is chock full of veggies and beans (so lots of fiber.  Read between the lines here, kiddos, and take your beano!) in a delicious savory sauce, perfect for dipping crusty bread into.  It's filling and very satisfying, without weighing you down.  Enjoy!

Pasta e Fagoli

1 TB olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp dried basil
1 large or 2 small cans tomatoes, cut up
6 cups chicken broth
3 15 oz cans beans, drained (kidney, navy, great white northern, or a mix)
3 cups uncooked pasta
salt and pepper
sliced green onions and parmesan cheese for garnish

Heat the oil and cook the onion and carrots for about 6 minutes. Add the bell pepper, garlic, oregano and basil and cook 2 minutes more. Add the tomato, and cook 6 more minutes.

Pour half the beans and half the broth into a blender or food processor and puree. Add this to the soup, with the remaining broth and beans. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, skimming off any foam.

Add the pasta and boil uncovered until pasta is nearly tender. Correct seasonings with salt, pepper, and a little more basil. Serve immediately. Leftovers can be frozen.