Concerts, Pierogies and Borscht!
July 25, 2018
We have been back from Poland for a few weeks and the time there is remembered as a happy blur of concerts, navigating our van and a large amount of equipment and instruments that must be schlepped to the various venues, squeezing in a bit of sight seeing and many late night after concert dinners that usually started around 9:30 or 10:00 in the evening. We were accompanied on this tour by the photographer Loli Kantor and her husband Scott and also my husband Paul. It was lovely to have the extra help and it did feel a bit like a big week long party. It is always wonderful to discover the local cuisine and cultures of the different countries that we have visited. The food in Poland was wonderful, but in many ways the food brought back poignant memories of dishes that our Eastern European relatives cooked when we were growing up. For Laurie, it brought up sweet memories of the excellent cold borscht that her grandmother made for her when she was a student at the Manhattan School of Music.
We happily ate platefuls of Pierogies that were filled with sauerkraut, potatoes and mushrooms, rich stews and a delicious hot soup called Barszcz Czerwony ( Red Beet Root Soup) that has mini meat filled pierogi. But it was the cold borscht that spoke most to Laurie & myself. One day we ate it for both lunch and dinner! At an excellent restaurant in Warsaw called Specjaly Regionalene, I had a chance to chat with the restaurant owner and he very kindly told me what ingredients they included in their version of cold borscht. Although of course he stopped short and slyly smiled when he said there was a secret ingredient!
So, we came back home and Laurie and I both developed a serious craving for cold borscht. We decided to try to recreate the dish! I looked up many different recipes and Laurie tried to remember what her grandmother did. Anybody who knows Laurie well knows that she would much rather be carving or playing clarinet than cooking. But, the need for some authentic borscht seems to have awakened a blossoming cook. I personally see a promising future for further culinary delights!
This is what we came up with- its much better after it sits and marinates for a few days. I also plan to make a Russian Summer Beet Borscht that has many different ingredients than the Polish version we made. But, I think we need to do a bit more research and visit the Polish neighborhood in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and also to get a Russian perspective, we will need to visit Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. More to follow!
Cold Summer Borscht
One large bunch red beets
Apple Cider vinegar to taste
½ cup Whole Plain Yogurt ( or more to taste)
8 ounces Sour Cream
Honey or Sugar to taste ( I also tried Agave)
½ cup chopped scallions or chives
2 cups diced medium cucumbers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste
hard cooked egg for garnish
dollop of yogurt or sour cream for garnish
chopped chives or scallions for garnish
diced kosher pickle for garnish
Scrub your beets well
Put in pot & cover with water
Bring to full boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until tender, but not mushy. This should take about 25-30 minutes.
Let beets cool in liquid completely
Peel your lovely beets and cut into small pieces or better yet grate then- put back in pot with beet broth
Peel Cucumber and grate or cut into small pieces
Cut 3 or 4 radishes into small pieces
Add Sweetener to taste and about 1 tsp salt and a good grind of fresh pepper.
Mix in yogurt, vinegar and sour cream
Put in the fridge and leave it alone!!! for 1 day!!
Then you can adjust salt and sugar, yogurt and sour cream
Garnish with hard cooked egg, scallions or chives and a dollop of yogurt or sour cream