Borscht


Borscht! What an interesting dish, right? Whenever some TV cook pulls an exotic dish out of his or her ass, it usually comes off the tail of a trip to some foreign land where they acquired the taste for such dish, or maybe a recipe was handed down to them by a grandma of a friend who lived in said land for 87 years. Not me. I was sitting on my ass, as usual, browsing Wikipedia, and came across this.

Anyways, it’s not the journey that matters, it’s the result that makes you sit here and read this blog, right? Borscht is a healthy, hearty, easy soup made with red beets. Due to its diverse origins in about a dozen Eastern European countries, the ways to make borscht are near infinite. This is just one such variation that I’ve cobbled together from several recipes.

Ingredients

This is just most of the ingredients. Read the list for all of them. Or if you're feeling plucky, proceed blindly off of this picture alone. What's the matter, chicken?

This is just most of the ingredients. Read the list for all of them. Or if you’re feeling plucky, proceed blindly off of this picture alone. What’s the matter, chicken?

Total time: 1 1/2-4 hours
Serves 4-8

Beef Stock*:
~1 lb raw beef bones, tendons, etc.
1 yellow onion
1 carrot
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh or dried parsley
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Borscht:
4 cups beef stock
5 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 medium head of green cabbage
1 yellow onion
1 large carrot
3 medium beets**
3 medium or 4 small potatoes
salt
pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic
sour cream or fresh yogurt for garnish

*You notice that salt and pepper are not listed. Do not season your stocks so that they may remain a neutral ingredient when it comes to seasoning the actual dish. If you use store bought stock, you will have to take sodium into account. Use vegetable stock for a vegetarian and vegan version.
**With their leaves, if possible.

Cooking

We start with the beef stock. You can either buy the stock, or make it ahead of time. Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a pot and deposit your beef bones. Brown them for about 1-2 minutes on all sides.

The Necromancer from Diablo 2 would make a great soup cook.

The Necromancer from Diablo 2 would make a great soup cook.

Meanwhile, peel your carrot and onion and chop them into chunks. Deposit the chunks into the browned beef and cook until soft. Pour about 5-6 cups of water into the pot. Add thyme, rosemary, garlic, and parsley. Simmer for about two hours, then strain into a container. Either use immediately, refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for long-term storage.

Some of you might be wondering sarcastically if this is a vegetable stock with a bit of beef or a beef stock. Well if you are wondering that, just remember that I'm way Soup Nazier than you are.

Some of you might be wondering sarcastically if this is a vegetable stock with a bit of beef or a beef stock. Well if you are wondering that, just remember that I’m way Soup Nazier than you are.

Now, when you are ready for the borscht, the borscht is ready for you! Chop your onions and carrots into similar sized slices. Saute them in oil until soft in your soup pot.

You can also add meat to your borscht, but I'm only using vegetables here. Beet your meat on your own time.

You can also add meat to your borscht, but I’m only using vegetables here. Beet your meat on your own time.

As the onions and carrots soften, peel and dice your potatoes. When the vegetables in the pot are soft, add your tomato paste. Stir to mix, then add your beef stock, garlic, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and add the potatoes. Simmer for five minutes.

If you make the soup with chicken instead you can call the soup

If you make the soup with chicken instead you can call the soup “the birds and the beets”.

While you were cooking your vegetables and waiting for the potatoes to cook, you should peel and shred your beets. You can shred by knife like I did, but it takes a longer period of time. Also chop your beet leaves into pieces and shred your cabbage.

If you put your beets into a box that's called beet boxing.

If you put your beets into a box that’s called beet boxing.

Dump all of your vegetables into the soup and simmer until tender, about 20-30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and add your vinegar. When the vegetables are as tender as you desire, turn the heat off. Roughly chop 3 tablespoons of parsley and stir them into the soup.

If you eat enough beets it'll turn your piss orange. Romantically speaking, it's like pissing a sunset.

If you eat enough beets it’ll turn your piss orange. Romantically speaking, it’s like pissing a sunset.

Serve the soup hot with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt. Garnish with parsley (or more authentically, dill).

Finished borsch. It looks almost like an aborschion in a pot. Probably how the name came to be.

Finished borsch. It looks almost like an aborschion in a pot. Probably how the name came to be.

 

The Result

Too many beet puns. At this point I'm really beeting a dead borsch.

Too many beet puns. At this point I’m really beeting a dead borsch.

Wow, this soup isn’t bad at all, even without meat. It is slightly sweet, with a rich meaty flavor from the beef stock. Some recipes ask you to add a bit of sugar or honey, but I think that sweetners will definitely push the soup over the edge. Be careful not to spill the soup on your shirt while eating though. That shit’ll never come off. Or, if you do live in an Eastern bloc country, it might feel like you’re being drenched in the blood of revolutionary patriots or something. Wear it outside proudly.

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HodgePodge


Hello all, welcome to the ninth installment of Food in Mind. This is a more informal installment where I show you a couple of the more simpler things I make when I’m out of ideas or ingredients, or just plain lazy. These dishes may not impress anyone, but they’re easy to whip up to fill your hunger in a pinch. Even for people who love to cook like me, sometimes I’m only cooking because I need to eat.

Level One: Pizza Baguette

A blend of America and France, just like Stephano. USA! USA! USA!

Baguettes are the end of one baking process, but they are also the beginning of many others. This is a good way to give stale baguettes back their crispy crust. These are also fucking easy to make.

Preheat oven to 400F. Chop your baguette into roughly 8 inch to 1 foot sections, then slice them in half. Add pizza toppings. Pictured is the simplest possible mix, marinara sauce with pepper jack cheese (what I had on hand at the time). Feel free to experiment with many different toppings. Alternatively, if you wish to turn this into an hors d’oeuvre, slice baguettes via cross sections instead of lengthwise. This will give you many smaller pieces for more servings.

Pop the suckers into the oven for about 10-12 minutes. I prefer them slightly over-done with the cheese just starting to turn yellow at the edges, as I find this give you a crispier crust.

Level Two: Vegetable Soup

This is what happens when your camera shits all over the colors of autumn.

More specifically, this is a variation of home style vegetable soup very common in my home town of Shanghai, China. Total ingredients in the picture above as follows: potatoes, tomatoes, green cabbage, chicken broth, salt, vegetable oil. The chicken broth was made from scratch. If you also wish to make your broth from scratch, you will need various chicken scraps/bones, a smaller second pot and a strainer (strongly recommended).

First, fill your smaller pot with as much water as you will use in the main soup. Bring this to a boil. Meanwhile, chop potatoes, tomatoes, and cabbage into bite-sized pieces. Keep them in separate piles, as they will enter the soup at different times. Once the water has reached a boil, simmer your chicken scraps for maybe five to ten minutes.

At the same time, pour about a tablespoon of oil into your main pot and dump the tomatoes in with some salt. Cook the tomatoes until they are soft and mushy, almost like a sauce. The longer you cook the tomatoes and the more tomatoes you use, the redder your resulting soup will be. These tomatoes, along with the chicken broth, will be the main flavoring agent for your soup. Once the tomatoes are cooked, strain your chicken broth (you’ll see why once you’ve made this) into the main pot. Bring to a boil, then dump your potatoes into the pot. These will need to simmer for roughly fifteen minutes by themselves. After fifteen minutes, place the cabbage into the pot and cook until cabbage is no longer raw, but not completely tender (overcooked). Salt and pepper to taste.

A more American variation will possibly start with a trinity base of minced celery, onion, and carrots. You can also try blending this base (after sauteing) with the cooked tomatoes before adding potatoes and cabbage.

This soup is great in the colder months when hot, and can be served cool in the warmer months.

Level Three: Oatmeal Raisin

Ah gotz yer fiber raaght heeah. Come git sum.

These particular cookies were adapted from the recipe found here. All credit goes to the original author. So ahh, just use that recipe. I’ll only comment on things I found notable while following the instructions. Also, I leave you with this picture taken during the mixing process:

HNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGG

The only deviation I made was that I only had dark brown sugar on hand instead of light brown sugar (hence the dark color of pictured cookies). YOU, on the other hand, should use light brown sugar. Technically there isn’t much difference in the resulting flavor, but the problem with dark brown sugar is that it’s damned impossible to tell when the cookies are done by color, since the cookies already look like they’re burnt even when they are not. Bake for about 10-12 minutes.

As with many cookies, these will still be rather soft when you first pull them out of the oven, so a simple touch test will not work. Cool the cookies for at least five minutes before attempting to remove them from the rack. These cookies are a bit nutty in their flavor, so chopped/crushed nuts (probably walnuts) will be a fantastic complement.

In general, cookies are all pretty easy to make and fool proof. Just mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients, place onto cookie sheet/parchment paper, and bake for the duration instructed.

And that’s the end. Three disparate recipes does a blog post make. Hodgepodge.

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup


Welcome one and all to what will be an ongoing series where I will share my adventures in making various dishes. I love cooking, but because I’m so fucking poor (and a cheap-ass to boot), I tend improvise substitutes for ingredients when I cook. This (hopefully) series of blogs will feature a wide variety of dishes that can be made with extremely cheap ingredients.

Recently, my room mate offered me several bags of frozen vegetables that she was going to throw out, with two of the bags being broccoli. Since I happened to have some cheddar cheese on hand, and having never had proper cheddar and broccoli soup, I decided it was a good opportunity to try something new. This soup has the added advantage of not needing a high-powered gas stove so you can make it on the electric range.

The Ingredients

The mise en place, minus black pepper and milk

Broccoli (cut into bite-sized pieces)
Cheddar Cheese
Chicken Broth (or make your own like I did)*
Flour
Butter**
Milk
Onion***
Salt
Pepper

NOTE: If you can, prepare the cheese at least 2 hours beforehand by mincing or shredding it and leaving it out to warm up to room temperature. This lets the cheese melt better.

*Chicken breasts with skin and bone were on sale. De-skin and de-bone the breasts, throw away the skin but keep the bones for making stock. You also get some nice boneless chicken breasts.
**I used margarine, which is cheaper and presumably healthier
***Half of one, minced

The Process

This is my second time making this soup, so I had a general idea of what to do: create a cream sauce using butter, flour, and milk in one pot, prepare the chicken broth in another pot, cook the vegetables in one or the other pot, and bring everything together into one pot at the end before melting the cheese into the soup to finish the dish. It sounds sophisticated, but I’m really just winging the whole thing, using bits and pieces from several recipes I found online, since every recipe is calling for something different.

First, I filled a pot with about 3 cups of water, plopped the chicken in, and closed the lid. It takes a while for the water to come to a boil, so the broth is cooked in parallel with the sauce base.

To make the sauce base, first melt the butter (about 1-2 tablespoons) in the pot at low heat, and then slowly stir in an equal part of flour until you get something yellow and sandy, like this:

Do not eat the yellow sand

It is important to do this at low heat so that you do not burn the flour. You know you’re doing it wrong when the thing is turning brown. Stir for about 1-2 minutes. Then, start adding the milk in intervals and stirring until you get a creamy sauce with a nice sheen:

So I heard your mother likes a different kind of white sauce

This is known by the French as bechamel sauce, which is a basic sauce that can be used to make other sauces. It also looks pretty fucking impressive considering how easy it is to make. Once it has reached this stage, I added the onions so I can soften them while the sauce is cooking, which takes about 10 minutes. The onions provide a nice aroma and they combine exceptionally well with chicken broth and black pepper.

This looks totally different from the last picture. Dem white lumps be onionz.

At this point, I knew I fucked up on timing because the sauce was nearly done but the chicken stock wasn’t even close to boiling. Bummer. So I dumped the broccoli into the sauce to cook it instead of my original plan of softening it up in the chicken stock. The broccoli will also need about 10 minutes to cook anyways.

Almost done, minus cheese, minus chicken broth.

After a few more minutes of standing there and stirring the sauce pot, the chicken broth is finally ready:

This kind of looks like shit, but I did strain it before adding to the soup so it's all OK.

I added about 2-3 ladles (1.5 cups?) of chicken broth to the soup, then took it off the heat for a bit to lower the soup temperature. Optimally cheese should be melted at a low heat and only at the end of a dish. I added the diced cheese to the mixture and stirred until all the cheese was melted. The final product:

If cooking was on iccup I'd be a B- at least

The Result
4 / 5 – The sodium levels were a bit off (underestimated the saltiness of cheese) and I didn’t control for thickness as well as I thought. However, the chicken broth definitely brought something special to the soup and the cheddar cheese taste definitely came through. Goes well with a piece of toast or something similar.

Things to Improve
1) Frozen broccoli sucks. That frozen shit just doesn’t cut it, fresh is infinitely better.
2) Don’t add too much milk to the bechamel sauce. The chicken broth will thin out the sauce and is much tastier.
3) Add less salt. You can always add more salt after the cheese is melted.

And there you have it folks, broccoli and cheddar that’s doable for the piss-poor masses. Questions and comments welcome. Also, if you are a cook yourself and you know something that I did wrong or fucked up on, please share the knowledge so I can improve!