We usually go to NYC at the holidays. It’s a chance to see my family, eat, visit editors and publishers, eat, shop, eat, go to museums, eat and do all the things Italian tourists do when they are in the city.
The problem is that I never have time to see as many friends as I hope. That is why I usually throw one biggish dinner to celebrate my birthday. It’s not only a chance to catch up. Since it’s my birthday, it’s also an excuse for me to receive some really nice presents.
Yes. I’m a gift whore. I love love love getting presents. But since my birthday falls a few days after Christmas, I usually get the short end of the deal. My parents and sisters always used to give me one ‘big’ gift that covered both events. Not fair.
So, throwing a dinner in New York is my way of seeing old friends and getting some pretty awesome gifts. Because I have pretty awesome friends.
My friends are also creative, so I often get gifts they’ve made and/or written. This year was no exception.
One of the first books I cracked open – and used – was the one Melissa gave me. Melissa has written an insanely large number of cookbooks (like, over 32!). While many of her books are collaborations with famous chefs like Daniel Bouloud and David Bouley, my favorites are the ones that focus on what she cooks every night at home. Which is just what her latest, Cook This Now, is.
I think I can safely say that I will eventually be cooking every recipe in the book. They are all delicious sounding, healthy and seasonal. Just the way I cook and eat anyway, but with Melissa’s uniquely creative spin on things.
First up when we got back to Rome was her recipe for borscht. This was prompted by the gorgeous red cabbages that came from our garden in Todi. Luckily I also had beets in the fridge, so I was good to go.
I’ve changed Melissa’s recipe a bit. But she’s forgiving, and encourages experimentation, so I don’t feel that guilty. While her recipe called for fresh beets (which I’m sure would have been fantastic) I took the lazy way and used packaged. (which in Italy are pretty darn good). And while I really wanted to add dill, Italy is more-or-less a no-dill zone, so I substituted mint, which was great.
Other than that, it was Melissa 100%.
Can a blog entry count as a thank you note? Anyone know the etiquette on that?
Beet and Cabbage Borscht
(adapted from Cook This Now, by Melissa Clark)
1/2 Small head of red cabbage
4 medium cooked beets
3 Tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1.5 tsp coriander seeds
6 cups vegetable broth
1.5 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp of red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons dried mint
Greek yogurt , for serving
Core and cut the cabbage into large chunks. Place in food processor and pulse until roughly chop. Place cabbage in large bowl, and repeat for beets.
(Melissa suggests passing the beets and and cabbage through the feed tube of a food processor, with the course grating blade attached. Since that part of my food processor broke in 1996, I just use the cutting blade, pulsing on and off until roughly chopped)
Heat butter in large pot, over medium heat, and add onions and garlic, and cook till softened (about 5 minutes). When softened, add coriander seeds and cook till fragrant (about 2 minutes.)
Add cabbage and beets and raise heat a bit. Stir and cook till cabbage is wilted (about 10 minutes). Add broth and 1 tsp salt to the pot. Stir and bring to simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
Add, mint, vinegar and taste and adjust for salt.
Ladle into bowls and top with a bit of yogurt and a sprinkling of mint.