Thursday, February 25, 2010

Not Even a Bronze Borscht

So there's no medal for Evgeni Malkin or Sergei Gonchar this year. After last night's beatdown of Team Russia at the hands of the Canadians in Vancouver, Russians worldwide are going to want comfort food, like the borscht that Malkin's mother famously makes him when she's in Pittsburgh. I knew I was going to post a borscht recipe here; this gives me an excuse!

I can't claim that this is anything like Mama Malkin's magic borscht. For one thing, traditional Russian borscht has some kind of meat in it. Also, parsnips and cider vinegar are not traditionally Russian--they're just tasty. But my L'Ailee is Russian, and she'll happily eat this. I found this online years ago, adapted it a few times, and it's become a favorite way to use up root vegetables from the farmers' co-op box ever since. I can also get hockey-loving children to eat a big bowl of it by saying I made it in honor of Geno. It tastes gold medal on a bad, sad, not-even-a-bronze night.

Serve it with good dark bread, and if there's a Russian at your table, they'll want the *large* tub of sour cream to top it this week.

Not Even a Bronze Borscht

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 pound white mushrooms, trimmed, wiped clean, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large onion, cut into 3/4 inch dice
10 small or 7 to 8 medium beets (about 1-1/2 pounds), with greens, peeled, quartered, and cut across into 1/4-inch slices
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut across into 1/4 inch rounds
1 medium parsnip, peeled and cut across into 1/4 inch rounds
1 small celery root (about 3/4 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 pound white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 small green cabbage (about 3/4 pound), cored and shredded
2 large cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and very finely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium bunch dill, fronds only, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For Serving:
Coarsely chopped dill
Sour cream

Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 cup hot water for 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid, and squeeze out the excess liquid. Strain all the soaking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve. Reserve the liquid and the mushrooms separately.

In a tall narrow stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes.

Add the beets, carrots, parsnip, celery root, 8 cups water, and the mushroom soaking liquid. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the potatoes, cabbage, garlic, and the beet greens. Dissolve the tomato paste in 1/2 cup of the liquid and stir it back into the soup. Return to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the reconstituted dried mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the dill, sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Pass bowls of chopped dill and sour cream at the table. Makes about 8 servings.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I promised red, white, and blue cocktails, but I had surgery planned this past week and underestimated just how much that would cut into my blogging time (no pun intended!) Tomorrow, my "cocktail" for watching USA versus Canada mens' hockey will be Percocet chased with Stash Tea's Red, White, and Blueberry Fusion.

This is a favorite of mine for times when I feel patriotic, though. There are a gazillion variations--the point is to pick liquors and mixers that will sit on top of each other, in red, white, and blue, equal amounts, and not stir. This is mine.

Bomb Pop

2 ounces blue curacao liqueur
2 ounces pre-made lemonade, without pulp (Turkey Hill's works)
2 ounces pomegranate liqueur

Pour pomegranate liqueur into old-fashioned glass first. Slowly pour in lemonade, then blue curacao. It'll mix, but don't stir it!

A few other All-American cocktail ideas, some of which are more complicated than I'll ever make during intermission:

the Boston Pops Martini, which I like because it's rimmed with Pop Rocks instead of sugar. (Free Candy!)

Food and Wine magazine's recipes and illustrations

It's gonna feel weird rooting against Sidney Crosby tomorrow. Having Brooks Orpik on Team USA makes it tons easier. USA! USA! USA!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Free Candy

L'Ailee and I had Valentine's night last night in order to accommodate the Daytona 500 today. Not a great tradeoff, as it turned out--Tony Stewart's car sucked all day, there were over 2 hours' worth of delays to fix potholes in the track, and Jamie McMurray won it. Another tradeoff we made for the 500 was only watching the Pittsburgh Penguins/Nashville Predators game during commercials and part of that first long red flag delay. We missed Sidney Crosby's 42nd goal, but we did get to watch Brooks Orpik score his annual goal! It was the sports highlight of the afternoon.

I meant to post this before Orpik went to play for Team USA in the Olympics anyway. I wouldn't have considered something sweet for Orpik, except that "Free Candy" just seemed like such an obvious name for his cocktail. Something named "Free Candy" almost has to be quite sweet, and then we had the cotton cannnDEEEE at Mellon Arena, and Jones' vanilla sodas taste a lot like cotton candy, so...I ended up with this. It's good.

Free Candy

About 6-8 ounces Jones Vanilla Bean soda or Jones Zilch Vanilla
2 ounces (1 shot) strawberry-flavored vodka

Half-fill a large tumbler with ice. Pour ingredients in. Stir or shake gently.

There are lots of red/white/blue cocktails out there, which seem appropriate for celebrating Team USA. Those will be coming within a couple days.

Let's go Pens! Um, I mean, USA! USA! USA!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

TK Slammer

It's been a while! I haven't been updating--just haven't, you know, *felt* it--and therefore missed the Road Trip from Hell and several other games. But last night against the New York Islanders, Tyler Kennedy brought the energy to a game that desperately needed it by dropping the gloves. Now, it was an ill-advised fight, and Matt Martin won easily, but it was still far more fun to watch than anything that had preceded it. As TK skated to the penalty box with a smirk, I knew the tide had turned in the Penguins' favor. It's time to honor our little bundle of hate energy.

I kept thinking of a tequila shooter for TK--small, scrappy, awesome energy. I don't like to work with or drink tequila very often. My friends who knew me then joke that Joe Nichols' song "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off" was written about me in my early twenties. That said, nothing else seemed to work. So I came up with this twist on the classic Tequila Slammer/Popper.

TK Slammer

1 ounce lime-flavored Diet Coke or Pepsi
1 ounce gold tequila

Combine ingredients in shot glass. Slam the shot glass down on the bar or table to make it super-fizzy, then slam the drink. Enough of these, and you just might wind up picking a fight with a person who's much bigger than yourself or licking a hockey stick!