It’s a Food Blog
Category Archives: June
Not sure what to do with those fresh herbs and vegetables you are harvesting from your garden? Instead of everyday vegetable soup, make Russian borscht.
My neighbors in Philadelphia introduced me to this beautiful deep fuchsia soup, which is packed with fresh herbs and colorful vegetables. Mrs. Mikhaylova’s borscht is truly fabulous and you’ll soon discover that eating it once is not enough. Its smooth flavor is unforgettable.
My family likes borscht so much that I make a large pot of it for birthdays and holidays. I try to make enough for leftovers so that everyone gets a takeout container of it for lunch the next day. With nine vegetables and four fresh herbs, I use my Wusthof Classic knife set and a Cuisinart 14 Cup food processor to prepare it. The Wusthof Classic knives are razor sharp and slice through the vegetables easily while my Cuisinart Elite food processor saves about an hour of prep time!
I am sharing Irena’s original recipe with you, which for one meal, serves four people. I multiply this recipe by four for dinner parties to serve close to 20 people as a first course. It does not require hours of simmering, so most of the preparation is in dicing the vegetables. Adjust the simmer time to your preference for vegetable crispness. I add the bell peppers, green beans, and peas at the very last moment, but you may prefer that they simmer slightly longer.
From the Kitchen of Irena Mikhaylova
- 2 small red beets (the smaller, the tastier), diced
- 2 small potatoes, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup green string beans, diced
- 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1/4 small head of cabbage, shredded
- dill, parsley, basil, cilantro (any herbs you like)
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 black peppercorns
- sour cream and dill, for garnish
I use a Cuisinart 14 Cup food processor for these ingredients: onion, tomatoes, cabbage, basil, parsley, dill, and cilantro. Using the large chopping blade, I pulse the vegetables a few seconds to dice then into nickel-sized pieces. I pulse the onions and herbs slightly longer for very fine pieces. For the rest of the vegetables, I use the paring and cook’s knives from my Wusthof Classic knife set.
Peel the beets and dice into small pieces. Place the beets in a saucepan and pour cold water over them so that you have 2″ of water on top of the beets. Bring to a boil and then add 2 teaspoons of sugar. Add 1/8 teaspoon of lemon acid powder (available in Russian markets) and a little more cold water. Reduce the heat and simmer for one hour until beets are soft.
Shred and chop the cabbage. Place it in a separate stockpot and fill it halfway with water. Add bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Peel the potatoes and cut them into small pieces. Peel and dice the carrots. Finely chop the onion. Add these to the stockpot with the cabbage and bring it to a boil again. Simmer another 15 minutes. Add peas, green beans, red pepper, and tomatoes. Bring this to a boil again and simmer for five minutes. Add salt, freshly ground pepper, and a handful of finely chopped basil, parsley, dill, and cilantro (all of these herbs combined total one handful).
Add the beets and their broth to the stockpot of vegetables and the borscht is done. Ladle into bowls and finish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream and a garnish of fresh dill.
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Summer hasn’t arrived yet and we are already in the midst of our second heat wave. Temperatures are expected to reach near 99 degrees today and the air is thick with humidity. I find myself daydreaming of frozen cocktails and a dip in the ocean. Since it is only early afternoon and I am not on a tropical vacation, I’ll stick to a refreshing frozen fruit smoothie and will save the cocktail for this evening when my girlfriends stop over for happy hour and mojitos by the pool.
I bought a KitchenAid 5 Speed blender this winter and discovered that it makes spectacular smoothies and frozen drinks. Popular Mechanics sold me on this blender after they tested high-end blenders and found that the KitchenAid KSB560 outperformed the others. I am delighted with it and am pleased with all aspects of its performance. It works wonders on ice cubes and frozen fruit. I even discovered a way to make mint mojitos with it.
I experiment with my smoothies and try to vary ingredients as much as possible to keep the flavors fresh and interesting. I use fresh and frozen fruit equally, but noticed flavors tend to be more intense with frozen fruit. This is simply due to ice diluting the intensity of ingredients. The more frozen fruit you use, the fewer ice cubes you need.
Following are two quick and delicious blender drink recipes. Both are ice-cold and are welcome refreshments for a hot summer day.
Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie
- 2 cups frozen blueberries
- 1 cup chilled pomegranate cranberry juice (100% juice variety)
- 1/2 cup chilled coconut milk
Place all of these ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Immediately pour into a tall glass and enjoy!
This blueberry pomegranate smoothie is rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants.
Fresh Mint Mojitos for Two
- 5 cups ice cubes
- 2 cups limeade (frozen concentrate variety, prepared as directed on can)
- 4 oz. rum (use your favorite kind: clear, lemon-flavored, spiced, or golden)
- club soda
- fresh mint leaves from 3 or 4 large sprigs
Pour 2 oz. of rum into each of two tall glasses. Place the ice, limeade, and mint leaves in a blender. Using the pulse mode, lightly crush the ice for a few seconds. Immediately pour into the two glasses and shake or stir. The mojitos taste delicious as they are or topped with a splash of club soda and garnished with a stick of sugar cane. Cheers!
Note: I think this mint mojito recipe is as enjoyable as a traditional Cuban mojito made with simple syrup and freshly squeezed lime juice. What I like about this version is the simplicity of it. Balancing simple syrup and lime juice is so important for a perfect mojito. With limeade, you guarantee the perfect balance and you do not have to squeeze limes. Not to mention, it takes mere seconds to mix up a pitcher of limeade.
If you are in the market for a new blender, please read our review of the KitchenAid 5 Speed blender. We can help you find the lowest prices online for a KitchenAid KSB560.
Spicy Molasses Cookies and Hungarian Chicken Paprikas
Our family reunion is in the Poconos this weekend and it is time to start cooking! My covered dish this year is Hungarian chicken paprikas in honor of our Hungarian heritage and my entry in our cookie bake-off competition is a hot and spicy molasses cookie. I will use my KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer for the cookies and Cuisinart MultiClad Pro cookware for the chicken. We are celebrating 115 years in America this year, so my covered dish and cookies should be extra special in honor of this milestone.
Blending five batches of cookies will be a breeze with my KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer. It can handle nine dozen cookies, so blending five dozen is nothing. If you like a little zing in your food, you would love this cookie. It has an unusual blend of spices and cayenne pepper gives it a real kick. I don’t think anyone else will think of entering spicy molasses cookies in this year’s competition, so this could be my year!
I will use my Cuisinart MCP-12 sauté pan and skillet to prepare the chicken paprikas. With an authentic Hungarian recipe from my mom’s college roommate’s mother and about an hour in my kitchen, this dish will be worthy of our celebration. Served over steamed rice or buttered noodles, it is always a family favorite.
We are expecting close to 150 relatives at this year’s family reunion. Many of us have been tracing our ancestry and exploring our heritage, so everyone is excited for the reunion. We asked everyone to gather old family portraits and favorite family recipes, which we will scan and distribute later this summer. Meanwhile, I better stop daydreaming and start cooking.Spicy Molasses Cookies
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp white pepper
- 1/8 tsp coriander
- 2 cups flour
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar (for rolling cookies)
Sift the flour, baking soda, and spices together. Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg, ginger, and molasses to the creamed butter mixture. After this is blended thoroughly, slowly blend in the dry ingredients.
Roll each cookie in granulated sugar and then place each cookie dough ball on a cookie sheet. Bake the spicy molasses cookies in several batches at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.Hungarian Chicken Paprikas
From the Kitchen of Mary Rezsek Dance, 1916 – 2004
- 1 large onion
- 5 slices bacon, diced
- 3 TBS Hungarian paprika
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
- 1/4 tsp msg
- chicken parts (equivalent to one whole chicken)
- 2 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 TBS cornstarch
Finely chop the onion. Cut the bell peppers in half, remove the seeds, and slice the peppers into strips.
Add some olive oil to a skillet and sauté the onions until golden brown. Remove the onions from the pan and set them aside.
Add the diced bacon to the pan and brown it until crispy. Add the quartered chicken pieces including the skins. After the chicken is browned on all sides, stir in the onions. After adding chicken stock, lots of sweet Hungarian paprika, freshly ground pepper, salt, and msg, simmer for about an hour. When the chicken starts falling off the bone, the simmering phase of the recipe is done. Allow the chicken to cool and then will remove the skin and bones.
After adding the all of the chicken morsels back to the juices in the Cuisinart MCP-12 sauté pan, stir in a few large dollops of sour cream and the sliced red bell peppers. To this, add the cornstarch (dissolved in a little cold water) for thickening. After heating for five to 10 minutes, remove the Hungarian chicken paprikas from the heat.
Serve with hot buttered noodles or rice. Jó étvágyat!