Recently, another Sister and I shared our borscht recipes and memories! Like any well-loved food, memories play a part in its enjoyment. Our experiences of eating borscht are different but surprisingly parallel. Sr. Monica spent two months living at a Convent in Estonia when it was still part of the USSR. She has vivid memories of being there as the coup occurred when Gorbachev was still in power. I remember it too, because I was in Poland at the time, singing with our choir, Gloriae Dei Cantores. We had no way to communicate with our Sisters in Estonia since cell phones and e-mail were unavailable to us in 1991. We relied on prayer for their safety. Often, a particular recipe is a vehicle for comfort, even solace. We have had difficult times in the past, but we know God’s love is available to us. We offer this heartwarming recipe to you, along with our prayers for a healthy spring.
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2poundsbeefchuck roast or stew meat (if using bone-in meat, increase poundage to 3#)
Put the meat in a crockpot with 8 cups cold water, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and 1 Tbsp salt. Set on high for 4 hours. Cook until fork tender. Remove meat and strain and reserve the broth. Set aside
While the Beef is cooking, wrap beets in foil and place in a 400 degree oven—roast for 1hr. until fork tender. Cool slightly, but while they are still warm, remove the top, bottom and skin with a pairing knife (skins should come off easily if properly cooked) and either grate or julienne the beets. Set aside.
Heat a large stockpot and add 4 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp. butter and sauté onion for 2 min. Add diced potato and sauté another 5 min or until beginning to soften. Add the grated carrot, cabbage and garlic and 2 Tbsp vinegar and sauté for 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to med/low and add the beets, 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 Tbsp tomato paste. Mix thoroughly and add the reserved strained broth and extra 2-3 cups beef broth. (I used' Better than Bouillon' Roasted Beef Base)
Simmer and cover until vegetables are tender. Add the diced, cooked Beef and 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill. Remove from heat and leave covered until flavors meld. Add 1/4 tsp pepper (If desired), and salt to taste. Adjust flavors to taste (you may want to add a bit more vinegar or sugar)
Serve warm or cold with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill.
The other day someone asked me about our Convent meals. “Who decides what you eat?” was one of the questions. It just so happens that at this particular time we are doing something a little different than usual about our menus.
Each week a different sister is asked to submit a suggested menu for approval. This has been quite successful. It is a help to the chef and an almost sure guarantee that there will be variety in our meals. For instance yesterday we were totally surprised to be served potato latkes for lunch, something we have not had in a long time and never for our noon meal. The genuine cheers of delight and energy in the food line were a joy to all. We are not sure how long this method of meal planning will last but for the time being everyone is enjoying it.
After having had so many special meals over Christmas and New Year’s
we wanted to come up with a simple yet satisfying supper on New Year’s
day. Remembering that we still had some leeks braving the cold out in our
almost barren gardens we decided on a potato leek soup, homemade bread
and a hearty salad. Since there was also some kale fighting for
survival out there why not add that to the soup making it even
healthier and giving it yet another dimension?
Our decision turned out to be a good one and everyone enjoyed it! They especially
appreciated its being light as well as very flavorful and heart-
warming,(the flavor was even better the next day) so when we make
it again I will suggest we make it a day or two before actually serving it.
We garnished it with a dollop of sour cream and chopped kale. A few bacon bits
or curls, if desired, could also add to its look and flavor.
*Whether you get your leeks from your garden or your grocery store it is important
to wash them ever so thoroughly because they often have soil hidden between the leaves
at their stems.
Heat the oil in a large (6-plus quart) stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leek and potato and kale . Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have begun to soften and brown slightly, about 8 to 12 minutes (this time will vary greatly depending on the surface area of the bottom of your pot).
Add the vegetable stock and bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
Blend until smooth, either using an immersion blender or by carefully transferring to a blender in batches.
Add the cream, and season to taste with salt (I start with 1 teaspoon and go from there, tasting frequently) and lemon juice and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Ladle into bowls, and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a healthy sprinkling of kale or bacon bits.
I finished hanging up my wet laundry on the clothesline and paused to take in one more moment of this idyllic scene around me before returning to my room. I was on the island of Crete during a Gloriae Dei Cantores choir tour staying at a conference center situated on rocky white cliffs overlooking the bluest water I’ve ever seen. This was, without a doubt one of the nicest accommodations of the trip where we were made to feel so welcomed and at home.
The clothesline we’d been encouraged to use for our handwash was outdoors in the backyard garden of the building. It was fastened to a sturdy lemon tree heavily laden with gorgeous fruit just like the lemon trees under which we had enjoyed our dinner the evening before.
I had grown up savoring the flavors of fresh lemon juice and zest in my food long before it had become as popular as it now is, but never until this moment had it occurred to me why Greeks love and use it as much as they do in their cooking. Now I could clearly see the reason why. These fresh lemon and oregano potatoes are a typical example of the many ways in which these ingredients are regularly used in Greek cooking.
I do love potato salad. My earlier version started with a vinaigrette marinade on the potatoes, and finished with mayonnaise — a little lighter than the norm. This past Labor Day weekend, I wanted to do something even simpler and lighter. I remembered a salad using red potatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and basil. So simple (you don’t even have to peel the potatoes), but so tasty. Add that to our nice crop of red potatoes straight from the garden, and you have the beginnings of a great picnic! From the clean platter that came back, I could tell everyone liked it!
Memorial Day is supposed to be the kick off for summer, but it was a little questionable with the cold temperatures and constant rain. The vegetables in the garden seemed happy enough — potatoes, beans, leeks all were thriving with the extra moisture they were getting. I was a little concerned that steaks on the grill weren’t going to do all that well in the pouring rain. Monday dawned clear and warmer, and we were able to have our picnic as planned. It was delightful and almost sparkling in the sunshine. I made my favorite potato salad. My sister has always made it this way, and I recently realized that this is also the way my mother always made it. The secret is in the salad dressing going on the potatoes while they are still warm and making it a day ahead so the flavors have a chance to develop.
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My Mom’s Potato Salad
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My Mom’s Potato Salad
2 1/4potato(es)Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into chunks (you can also use red potatoes for this, unpeeled)