October 31, 2010

Golden Borscht

Oh. Hi there. I didn't mean to leave you all alone for so long, but time seems to have gotten away from me. Sit down, have some soup.

I love borscht. To me, it is an extremely comforting combination of flavours, even though it wasn't really a staple of my childhood. I have had success with a number of styles and types of borscht, but I confess that my favourite is meatless (although I don't mind some chicken stock) and beautifully magenta with beets. In that vein, I have had excellent luck with the recipe from Diane Forley's The Anatomy of a Dish, which has been previously featured on this blog.

This version, as you can clearly tell, is a little different. Not, however by all that much. I've been toying with the idea of making a golden borscht since eyeing the beautiful golden beets that turn up from time to time in our local farmer's markets, and finally got around to making it. I followed the exact same recipe (including tweaks) as in the link above to the ruby-coloured borscht (although I omitted the potato entirely, as I don't care for its texture in the soup) and subbed out all of the red ingredients for their yellow/white counterparts. So, golden beets for red, white wine for red wine, white wine vinegar for red wine vinegar, and white (well, green technically) cabbage instead of red.

As you can see, it turned out beautifully golden, just as I had hoped. Interestingly, though, once the soup was complete, the beet chunks themselves had lost most of their colour to the surrounding liquid, making for a beautiful gold broth, but leaving the beet pieces a little anemic looking. Still, the flavour was dead on, that tart-sweet combination, and hearty, mouth-filling texture that makes it feel like a substantial meal all by itself (although, with bread is better).

This borscht is very, very strongly flavoured, and very, very tangy. If you like a milder (but still noticeable) tang, I suggest using half the amount of wine and vinegar, and making up the difference with either water or broth.

October 11, 2010

Taco Pizza

If you think we eat a lot of pizza at our house, you'd be right.

When I left home at eighteen, I made leftovers into soup. In my twenties, I learned that I could make pizza out of almost any kind of leftover imaginable, and I did; my rampage through leftover chile con carne, curry, flank steak and mushrooms, baked bean and cheese, and whatever-was-in-the-crisper eventually led to the now-legendary Lapin Dijon Pizza of 1996 (sadly, no photo).

In my thirties, I relegated leftovers to quesadillas (including the surprisingly tasty Aloo Gobi quesadilla), and pursued more classic (ahem) forms of the pizza, that is, if you can include "cheeseburger" as a classic pizza option.

Nowadays, I just make pizza whenever I want pizza, and I still make it sometimes to use up ingredients. Sometimes, it takes on strange new territory (there was a mushroom-sauced roast beef pizza a couple of weeks ago that I completely forgot to take pictures of), the trendy (buffalo wing pizza with blue cheese sauce) or the time-honoured traditional (pepperoni from the deli counter, maybe mushrooms, maybe peppers, tomato sauce, cheese).

Pizza is a go-to dinner for a few of reasons:
1) It can be on the plate in an hour, even making the crust from scratch.
2) I almost always have the ingredients for making crust, some manner of sauce, and cheese
3) It can help me use up whatever is lurking in the fridge.

The leftover factor might be subtle, it needs to be said. The Taco pizza above was constructed out of a need to use up some black olives and a red pepper that wasn't going to put up with much more fridge time. Since I had some ground buffalo in the freezer (and I usually do), it was pretty easy to fry up the meat, season it up as if I were making tacos (chiles, onions, garlic, cumin - loads of cumin!) and spread it over the pressed-out crust.

For the crust, I substituted about a quarter of a cup of the flour with yellow cornmeal, just to give it a complementary flavour, a slight corniness, you might say. I also use cornmeal for dusting the pizza pan, to make sure the crust comes away nicely, so I already had the cornmeal out. (Expired link removed, please see comments below for recipe).

In this, somewhat rare incidence, I didn't use any sort of sauce at all, but made sure that the taco meat was fairly "saucy" or wet before spreading it in an even layer on the unbaked crust. Top with olives, confetti of red pepper, and cheddar cheese, and you have yourself a taco-flavoured pizza. Serve with a little drizzle of sour cream, if you like, or a side of guacamole.

October 08, 2010

International Bento (France): Terrine

It's bento time again! This time, in the manner of a fairly classic French picnic.

Palle made this terrine from veal and pork, lining the exterior with swirls of pancetta, although I rather tragically failed to show off the pretty edge to the slice when I was packing my bento (although you can see it in the photo below). Clearly I need more practice in making the bento show off the attractiveness of the ingredients. To be fair, it was a hasty assembly, and upon review I should have put the piccalilli relish (in the small container) into an even smaller cup and wedged it in with the lentils, which only come half-way up the side of their section of the container.

The lentils were braised in wine (and, I believe some chicken stock), and contain finely diced onion, celery and carrot (sauteed in olive oil), as well as some seasonings that I do not quite recall (again, Palle made this dish, along with the Piccalilli, which used cornichons as a foundation), but may have included both bayleaves and fresh thyme. They were excellent hot for dinner on the first night, and equally good cold the next day in my picnic.

Finally, one of my favourite-ever crunchy vegetables, the radish. No fancy carvings into roses or toadstools today, just a rushed quartering and cramming them into the bento.

This is one of the few bentos which I actually ate at cool-room temperature. Most of what I take in my bentos is refrigerated, and then removed to microwave-safe crockery to be re-heated, but this particular bento really didn't need re-heating at all. Perfect for taking one's lunch to the park, or the library steps, instead of staying cooped up in the office.

Note the wine below - while a nice CĂ´tes du Rhone was the perfect accompaniment to the dinner the night before, I only drink wine at work for special occasions, such as when the boss is buying lunch, so just water for me for this bento!