Monday, May 17, 2010

Pink Borscht and Summer Salad

I long to give a dinner party. Some of the happiest moments of my life have been sitting around a table, eating good food with friends and family, and while I'm overcoming the challenges of not having a kitchen, I cannot will my apartment to be bigger than it is. 

My dear friend Meg and I made a date to get together and cook this past Saturday and even though she has a fully equipped and rather spacious kitchen uptown, we wound up in my "kitchen". She got to see where the magic happens. Luckily Chris was out running errands so the plan was to cook and get out before he got back. Three is a crowd at our place.

As the host of a dinner party (even if it's only for two) I want everything to be perfect, to wow the diner(s) with my presentation and culinary skills. This gets shot to hell when there is a shower in your kitchen but Meg graciously didn't mind and we got to work. 

Sometimes you just have to slap your food around a little, especially when you're pressed for time. Your goal can't be perfection, just get it done so you can enjoy your company. That's why I chose a simple menu. A summer salad recipe by M. F. K. Fisher and cold pink borscht from A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes by David Tanis.

Meg and I happily chopped and washed and steamed and seasoned, chatting the whole time, for about an hour, and when everything was ready, we loaded it up in containers and made our way to Battery Park, stopping for Brioche on our way. There was only one problem though. How to cool the borscht which was pipping hot, and, what to serve it in.

Luckily the bodega downstairs sells cups of ice in Dixi cups so when we got to the park I tossed out half the ice from each cup, poured in the borscht and stirred in the yogurt and chives. A tad watery but didn't I already say perfection took a vacation?

The weather was glorious. From the hot and crowded market at Union Square to my tiny, cramped apartment, to the shade of a tree and cool breeze from the river, Meg and I settled into our meal. 

Picnics are the only sort of dinner party I can throw at the moment. Thank goodness summer is right around the corner.


PS, Meg is a wonderful writer and has a very popular blog which you should go to now.


A Summer Salad (adapted from a recipe by M.F.K. Fisher)

6 fingerling potatoes
1/2 bunch asparagus
1 handful green beans
4 small zucchini, each four inches long
1 small jar anchovies
Chives, snipped

Wash and trim all the vegetables. Boil or steam (I used my rice cooker/steamer) the potatoes, asparagus, green beans and zucchini, one at a time, until tender, about 8 minutes each. When you remove them from the hot water, rinse under cool running water to stop the cooking. Let them drain.


2 cloves garlic
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice, room temperature

With a mortar and pestle mash the garlic into a paste and add the egg yolk, combining until thick. Add a pinch of salt, transfer to a larger bowl and slowly stir in the olive oil with a whisk, beating until thick. Add the lemon juice and place in the refrigerator until cool.

When you're ready to eat, arrange the vegetables and anchovies on your plate and drizzle with aioli. Sprinkle with snipped chives and fresh ground pepper. A brioche was the perfect thing to sop up the aioli with.

Cold Pink Borscht (adapted from David Tanis' recipe)

4 large beets, peeled + sliced
4 cups water
3 garlic cloves, sliced
2 large shallots, sliced
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tbs. sugar
2 tbs. red wine vinegar
1 tbs. olive oil
Salt + Pepper
1 cup whole milk yogurt
snipped chives

Put everything except the dill and yogurt into a saucepan and simmer for about 15 minutes (I used my other rice cooker) until the beets are tender. Taste and add more of the seasonings to bump up the flavor if needed.  With an immersion blender, puree the soup and then strain. Chill.

Just before serving stir in about 1/4 c. of yogurt into each glass and garnish with chives and freshly ground pepper. The soup should be thick.

*a note
David Tanis' recipes usually serve 8 people so I had to cut that in half. Because I chilled the soup with ice my borscht was watered down so remember to chill before serving and play around with the amount of beets and water to get a good consistency.

*another note (5/26)
I did not make the ailoi right. Well, I did but I just didn't whisk it long enough. The olive oil should be added just a little at a time and keep whisking until you get the consistency of mayonnaise. If the mixture separates stop adding olive oil and keep whisking until it's smooth again. I also watched a web video and they add the garlic last. They also added a little dijon mustard at the start with the egg yolk and I think that would be very good, it looked like about a tbs.


  1. THANK YOU THANK YOU for posting this recipe! When I saw the photos on Megs blog I thought it looked heavenly.

  2. It was so light and refreshing! A meal to make all summer long.

  3. The color of that borscht is absolutely stunning!! :-) I love how you make the best of your situation. A picnic sounds just perfect!!

  4. I love your blog!! Can't wait to try your recipes!!