When I was 10 or so, we took a trip up North. First we went to see my great uncle, who at the time was living in Connecticut, and then we hit up New York City, my mom’s old stomping ground and the city about which I’d fantasized for years.
After leaving Uncle Peter’s, he’d given my mom lunch money for a specific location: “Take the girls to the Carnegie Deli!” he commanded. She happily obliged. However, while we were snarfing down pastrami on rye, my mother got a boring, bizarrely colored VEGETABLE SOUP. Furthermore, it was revealed that the soup contained BEETS, the banes of our existence (a terrible mistake from which I have fortunately recovered). This was just another in a series of our mother ordering something boring and vegetable-filled while her children chowed on rich and exotic delights (mind you, we didn’t totally make the connection that we typically couldn’t *finish* said delights and thus she’d get a healthy serving).
But now I am a grownup. So I make borscht!
I have come around on beets (yum!) and I have come to the realization that in the winter, when it’s cold and, just for warmth’s sake, you want to eat every high-caloric item that passes into your line of vision, it is beneficial to have something hot, comforting, but higher in nutrients rather than higher in calories.
Furthermore, we had vegetables lingering in the fridge that needed to be relocated for the sake of fitting in ingredients for our party later in the week.
So I cleaned some farmer’s market beets, wrapped ‘em in foil, and gave ‘em a roast (in my handy-dandy, energy-conserving countertop oven!)
Some of the beets were normal size but a few were positively Lilliputian. So cute!
Then out came everyone else: the last of the mega-cabbage, some baby carrots (eurgh my sister buys them- I am morally opposed to baby carrots!), onion, some rather antique radishes, and a single potato (all we had, unfortunately).
Then I got distracted for a moment because I had a beautiful cabbage core.
And that brought to my mind the big bag o’ veggie trimmings I had amassed in the freezer for a future stock-making operation. The future, it seemed, had arrived.
So I amassed my squash and pepper tops; my cauliflower and cabbage cores; my asparagus stems; my onion tops, and so on. I stuck ‘em in a crockpot.
Back to borscht (doesn’t Back to Borscht sound like an awesome title for a cookbook?!). Started by sauteing some chopped onion in a thin film of oil til tender (about 5 minutes).
Then add carrots, radish, and spuds, all chopped into bite sized pieces, and saute til browned up a bit.
At that point, add your shredded cabbage. Mine was amusingly stained by beets.
Threw in a can of tomato sauce, salt and pepper, and a bay leaf. And, of course, the BEETS (having finished roasted, I peeled them and cut ‘em in bite sized bits). Obviously adding them resulted in a dramatic and lovely color change. Then covered everyone with vegetable stock/water (whatever- I used a mix of water and the stuff in the crockpot which’d only been going for an hour at that point and wasn’t really stock yet) and just got it nice and hot and blended.
Aaaaaaand put some in a bowl and sat admiring its beauty.
And bread is obviously obligatory, because I love dunking and I love color changing magic! (hahaha you can sort of see my beet-stained fingers)
But one soup? One soup? What do you take me for?
I decided to set out and precook some lovely lentil soup. We’d made it for our Middle East Feast earlier in the year and then, as now, the star ingredient was the BIG FAT JUICY GORGEOUS dried apricots we got at the Greek store.
I simplified the other ingredients (along with some of those apricots, diced up, you heat up lentils, onion, ginger, garlic, turmeric, garam masala, and plain old water in a pot). Quite honestly, it’s not the most attractive recipe ever (let’s be honest, lentil soup isn’t going to win any beauty contests.)
You were supposed to add a cup of diced tomatoes at this point but fridge space was at a premium and I didn’t feel like opening a can to only use part of it so I whipped out this bad boy:
So delicious! Sweet, tangy, spicy, jammylicious. Added an awesome new dimension of the soup.
So into four individual-sized tupperwares it went, then into my freezer for quick nutritious delicious work lunches!
I also froze much of the borscht, also individual-sized for on-the-go ease.
Then, I looked in our fridge and sort of sighed.
When you are a grownup, you have to deal with chicken. Whole chicken. Raw chicken. Actually, my mother had defrosted it but when you are a grownup sometimes you have to take one for the team and realize that your mother’s boss completely reneged on giving her the week off since she had to prepare for a real ordeal of a business trip and anyway the point was THERE WAS A RAW CHICKEN AND IT NEEDED TO BE DEALT WITH.
[I really have been trying to do this ethical meat-eating thing and I really didn’t want to eat this chicken. But you cannot be an ethical eater and allow food- regardless of its source- go to waste in your own home. So I was all, Hey, I’ll cook it and other people can eat it]
So I went on Old World on it and went- how can I utilize this chicken? How can I make it into a whole bunch of stuff?
Well, ya poach it and make stock.
Cleaning it was, yknow, gross, cause it’s raw chicken. Then I threw it in a soup pot and covered it with water and threw in some carrot and garlic and bay leaf, cause those were what was around.
The internet was somewhat helpful on some things (just simmer it: at no point should the liquid be at a rolling boil) and completely unhelpful on other things (they maxed out on recipes for a 4-5 pound chicken; this was like 9). So I just let it poach gently for like… an hour and a half.
At which point the house smelled awesome and the chicken looked done.
Sooooooo I dumped all the skin and gristle and nastiness in the sink. This was gross.
I shredded the meat and put it in a bowl in the fridge for my mother to do with what she wished:
And I stuck the bones and liquid in the crockpot, with more liquid and herbs and veggies and things, to make super intense chicken stock: