Archive for the 'one dish meal' Category

variations on borsch

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

Privyet, dear readers of food blog! I am taking break from translating Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” to do favor for Shelly, usual author of blog. I was just getting to juicy part, when phone rang. Expecting call from cursed ex-husband Alexei, I am drop book, [“Blin!” (blin is Russian slang word for a crap, yes?)], and answer phone.

“Da! Shto eto?!?” What you want, I say. (Alexei is rat bastard.)

“Um, hi? It’s me, Shelly.”

“Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, Shellinka! I thought you were Alexei, rat bastard ex-husband. Why you not say is you?”

“Sorry, Masha, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Kak dela?”

“Kharasho! Am good. All is good when Alexei does not call. May he be like chandelier, hanging in day and burning at night. How are you?”

“Heh, chandelier. Er, yeah, I’m fine, thanks. Trying to throw together some dinner.”

“And I am only trying to earn living, with no alimony from ex-husband and publisher’s deadline weaving over head!”


“No, not weaving. How is it? Loom… looming! Looming over head!”

“Yes. Wow. Yeah, that’s stressful.”

“Da. Life is stress. This is why there is wodka. Nu, why you calling, Shelly?”

“Well, with the weather turning cold and all, I was wondering if you had a good borsch recipe?”

“Cold? Weather is cold? Hehehe… you are funny! Is like Siberian summer!”

“Yes, well, I was thinking of making some soup, and I’ve got these beets in the fridge…”

“OK. You have big piece of meat on bone?”

“Um… no.”

“No? You have a fresh dill?”

“No, none of that either. Nope.”

“You have good Russian smetana?”

“I’m afraid not. Just some organic sour cream.”

“You are hear me shake my head on phone? You are feel me pull my hairs out with exuberation?”

“Um, exuberation?”

“Exasperation! I give myself new hairstyle with exasperation because you cannot make the borsch without a proper ingredients!”

“Oh. OK. I guess I’ll just improvise then.”

“Yes. Improvisation makes good results. One percent improvisation and ninety nine percents perspiration. Use deodorant.”

“Um, right, of course. Deodorant. Listen Masha, I’m sorry to bother you. I know you’re really stressed out now.”

“Dostoevsky is waiting for me. You make good soup. Don’t worry.”

“Thanks Masha, that’s sweet.”

“Plum jam is sweet. Poka, Shellinka.”

“Take care, Masha.”

Americans! Making borsch with sun-dry tomato and sushi. Is con-fusion cuisine!

con-fusion borsch with chard and garbanzo beans

butter and olive oil
1/2 large or 1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6-8 baby beets, chopped
1/2 thumb-sized piece of ginger
1 15 oz. (425 gr) can garbanzo beans, drained
water and/or vegetable stock
several handfuls of chard, rinsed
1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
ground carraway seeds to taste
1/2 tsp mild honey

  • In a heavy pot, heat the butter and olive oil over a low to medium flame. Cook the onions until almost golden, then add the garlic.
  • Add the chopped beets and stir, then add the garbanzo beans.
  • While the beets and beans cook, chop the ginger and add it to the pot.
  • Pour in the water or stock to cover, then pour in a little more, about an inch or so (2.54 cm) above the vegetables. Cover and simmer.
  • While the soup is simmering, chop the chard into ribbons. When the soup is bubbling, stir in the chard.
  • Slice the lemon in half and using a strainer, squeeze the juice of the lemon into the soup.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, and ground carraway seeds. Taste seasoning and correct, using the honey to balance the tartness of the lemon juice.

Garnish with any of the following:

  • Sour cream
  • Soft goat cheese
  • Raw leftover chard ribbons
  • Korean aged black garlic, chopped

pasta with smoky sweet spinach and squash

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006


This dish was born, as so many are, of ingredients that happened to be lying around. The squash—pumpkin—actually, was lounging around the wooden produce bowl, chatting up the onions and apples. The spinach leaves were chattering in the fridge, complaining of the damp and chilly turn the weather had taken. The bacon, of course, said nothing, as the hog it was made from had long since gone to piggy heaven. A box of spinach spaghetti called out from the cupboard, so as not to be excluded. “I know I’m green, and that’s a little weird for pasta, but you must’ve bought me with something tasty in mind,” he pleaded. True. No reason to discriminate against a noodle for being green. Pasta comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and every one is beautiful in its own way.

As my ingredients had taken the trouble to talk to me, I had no choice but to respond with pots and pans, a cutting board and a knife. What’s that, you think it’s violent and cruel to place a knife at the neck of a talking gourd? It’s not so much an act of violence as it is rearranging all the players for the play. A whole pumpkin is too big and haughty to share the stage with mere spinach leaves. But cut it down to size, say an inch and a half, and a squashy type becomes fast friends with delicately leafy spinach type folk. Bacon may not say much, but its smoky, crunchy presence is felt by all. Even green spaghetti is happier after boiling, its rigid, anxious strands now loose, and playful, and dancing. The grand finale is a pat of butter that bows to the audience as it melts on the hot pasta. “Ah!” sighs spaghetti, contentedly. And so do I, as I take a bite.

pasta with smoky sweet spinach and squash

pasta (enough for 2-3)
4 rashers streaky bacon
1 small leek, split, washed and sliced into half coins (greens removed)
250 gr squash, cubed
3-4 handfuls fresh spinach leaves, washed and drained
allspice, salt, pepper to taste
maple syrup

  • Cook the pasta per the instructions on the box.
  • In a large cast-iron skillet, fry the bacon on low to medium heat. You want the bacon to slowly turn golden brown. Remove from the pan and put on a plate as soon as it has browned on both sides.
  • Drain the bacon fat into a heat-proof container and save for a future use.
  • Melt the butter in the skillet and add the leeks. Stir and cook until the leeks begin to turn golden.
  • Add the squash and stir. Cover the pan for a few minutes so that the squash steams and begins to soften.
  • While the squash cooks, crumble the bacon into small pieces.
  • Uncover the pan after the squash softens.
  • Season with allspice to taste.
  • Add the spinach a handful at a time and stir.
  • Pour in a small amount of maple syrup, about a teaspoon.
  • Add the crumbled bacon and stir to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 2-3


Friday, November 3rd, 2006

Falafel’s lesser known little sister is sabikh. Sabikh is a pita sandwich with fried eggplant, a sliced boiled egg, chunks of steamed potatoes, salad, hummus, tahini sauce, and amba, a sort of sour mango pickle sauce. Traditionally, sabikh was eaten by Iraqi Jews on Saturday morning. According to lore, the sandwich didn’t really have a name back in Iraq. It was named sabikh by the Iraqi immgrants who opened the first kiosk in Israel to sell the sandwich. Filling, tasty, and messy, sabikh is a favorite street food among Israelis today.

Sabikh is inherently fun to eat. With its abundance of ingredients, it’s an everything but the kitchen sink type of sandwich. Every bite yields a combination of flavors and textures, and often a dribble of tahini down your chin. Keeping the full-to-bursting pita in one piece is always a delicate balance. (The trick here is to use slightly thick, soft, pliable pita, not the sort of thin cardboardy stuff you find at the supermarket).

Sabikh was one of A‘s favorite street foods when we lived in Israel. So on the morning of his recent birthday, I made sabikh with homemade pita. Sabikh makes a tasty breakfast served with Middle Eastern cucumber and tomato salad. And pita is much easier to make than you’d think. You can finish the meal with a small glass of strong Turkish coffee, or sweet mint tea.

sabikh with middle eastern cucumber and tomato salad

Hanit has a recipe for pita here, which you can halve. Or you could make the entire recipe and freeze the remainder for later.

1 small or medium eggplant, preferably the multi-cleft heirloom variety known in the Middle East as “baladi
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced or coarsely chopped
good quality plain hummus, such as Sabra brand, or homemade
prepared tahini sauce (prepare according to instructions on the jar of tahini paste)
2 steamed potatoes coarsely chopped, or several bite-sized steamed potatoes
amba (optional)
2 good quality pitas
Middle Eastern cucumber and tomato salad (recipe below)

  • Place a heavy frying pan on medium heat and melt a good tablespoon or two of coconut oil in the pan. Alternatively, you could use olive oil (not extra virgin).
  • Fry the eggplant slices until browned on both sides. Remove from pan and drain.
  • Slice the tops off the pitas so that you now have two D-shaped pocket. Gently separate the walls of the pockets to make them easier to stuff.
  • Invert the sliced pita tops and nestle them at the bottom of each pita. These pita tops reinforce the sabikh, preventing dripping from the bottom (for a while, anyway).
  • Hold the bottom of a pita, gently squeezing the rounded edge in your hand so that the pocket opens.
  • Smear a bit of hummus in the pita, then add the eggplant, eggs, potatoes, and salad.
  • Drizzle tahini sauce and amba into the pita.
  • Serve with salad on the side.

Serves 2

middle eastern cucumber and tomato salad

Middle Eastern cucumber and tomato salad resembles salsa in that its ingredients are diced very small, creating a cohesive cross between a salad and a chunky sauce. The tartness of the lemon juice, the bite of the olive oil, and the freshness of the parsley meld with the sweet juices of the tomatoes and the crispness of the cucumbers. It just isn’t the same if you chop the vegetables any other way except a tiny dice. A salsa style salad is made to be eaten in a pita.

2 Mediterranean, Persian, or small pickling cucumbers
2 medium sized very fresh tomatoes
1 lemon, sliced
good olive oil, preferably Middle Eastern or Greek
salt and pepper to taste

  • Trim the ends of the cucumbers.
  • Dice the cucumbers and tomatoes. You want a very small dice, say, a quarter of an inch.
  • Finely mince a handful of parsley and add to the cucumbers and tomatoes.
  • Squeeze some lemon juice over the salad, and drizzle a good glug of olive oil.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Taste and correct dressing.

Serves 2

N.B. If you’re in NYC, you can get sabikh at Taïm. If you’re in the San Francisco bay area, you’re out of luck. But you can get Sabra hummus at Berkeley Bowl, and baladi eggplants at the Ferry Building farmer’s market. Check the farm stand across from Point Reyes Preserves.

spinach not pesto with pasta

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Here’s a recipe for a light summer supper.

spinach, ricotta, and gorgonzola not pesto with pasta
1 lb pasta, cooked and drained, 1-2 cups reserved cooking water
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
1/3 lb fresh ricotta cheese
3-4 TBS crumbled blue cheese (I used Point Reyes)
1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
dash of nutmeg

  • Melt a little butter in the pot you used to cook the pasta, and add in the spinach.
  • Cover, and cook on medium heat. If the spinach gets too dry, add a little splash of pasta water.
  • When the spinach has just wilted, turn off the flame. If there is visible liquid in the pot, you can drain it, save it for soup, or use it to moisten the pasta.
  • Crumble in the ricotta cheese.
  • Blitz the spinach and ricotta with a stick blender until it turns into a sauce. Don’t make it too liquidy, stop as soon as the spinach and cheese begin to meld. You might want to experiment a bit with the texture, leaving some spinach leaves unblitzed.
  • Crumble in the blue cheese and stir. Taste. If you like a stronger blue cheese flavor, add more.
  • Toss in the tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in a dash of nutmeg, stir, and taste to correct seasoning.
  • Plate pasta and moisten with a splash of cooking water. Toss pasta with the not pesto and grate parmegiano reggiano cheese on top.

Serves 2-3

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