There Will Be Borscht

Recently I interviewed Dorie Greenspan on my Instagram Live and she talked about how she’s been cooking so much lately from cookbooks. I confessed that I’d fallen into a rut where I just keep making the same things over and over again: roast chicken with root vegetables, pasta, pork chops, pasta, soup, pasta. Did I mention pasta?

She urged me to take more chances on recipes that I’d never made before and when we finished I looked at all of the cookbooks in my collection that I hadn’t been using. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m guilty of buying cookbooks on a whim (see: the piles of cookbooks everywhere in our apartment) and the first one that caught my eye was the Kachka cookbook, winner of the 2018 Piglet tournament of cookbooks. I’ve had Kachka for two years and never cooked from it. I flipped it open and immediately landed on the recipe I knew I had to make: short rib borsch.

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Roasted Honeynut Squash Soup with Apples, Ginger, and Yellow Miso

One of the biggest clich├ęs in food writing is the idea of cooking with love. It’s abstract, vague, overly sentimental.

And yet, there’s something about it that makes sense to me, especially when I’m making soup. You can cook with a lot of love when you’re making soup. You can take the time to strain it, for example, to make it extra smooth. You can take the time to make stock from scratch, instead of using stock from a box. Most people won’t notice the difference, but you’ll know that you took the time to do it. So what else to call that except cooking with love?

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White Bean Soup with Parmesan and Kale

We’ve escaped to Santa Barbara for a week with our friends Ryan and Jonathan, forming a mini quarantine community as Covid cases blow up all over the country. It’s making me think a lot about the idea of a “chosen family,” since my biological family is 3,000 miles away in Florida, at the epicenter of the virus (don’t worry: they’re doing okay).

Usually, when I go on vacation with friends, I take a break from cooking (causing much controversy since many friends are like: “Hey, I look at your Instagram, why aren’t you making me dinner?”). But here in our Santa Barbara bubble, I’ve happily become the resident chef: slicing fruit for yogurt and granola in the morning, toasting bread for sandwiches at lunch, and then whipping up random dinners. I may be annoying as a person, but as a quarantine roommate, I’m a star.

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Pappa al Pomodoro (Or: How To Eat Tomato Sauce and Bread For Dinner)

I’ve been really into tomatoes this summer. Every Sunday I’ve been going to the Atwater Village Farmer’s Market, buying some juicy heirlooms, and using them in sandwiches, salads, tomato baths, you get the idea. You might think that now that August is over, tomato season is on the way out… but you’d be wrong! Most chefs agree that the best tomatoes come in September and October. We’re entering PEAK tomato season.

So why am I sharing a recipe for a soup made with canned tomatoes? Answer: sometimes, even in peak tomato season, you feel a little fresh tomato fatigue. Just the words “farmer’s market” and “heirloom tomato” sound annoying on a Sunday morning when you’re hungover, laying on the couch, and happy to be watching PBS cooking shows while pretending to read The New York Times. When dinner rolls around, you don’t have anything except a few cans of tomatoes, an onion, garlic, and that leftover bread from a few days ago. That’s when PAPPA AL POMODORO comes to the rescue.

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Chickened Vegetable Soup

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Let us all acknowledge the truth about roast chicken: it’s not about the chicken, it’s about the vegetables. That truth dawned on me long ago when I used to line a roasting pan with red potatoes sliced in half, all surrounding a well-seasoned chicken; the rendered chicken fat would coat the potatoes, they’d get all crispy, and when it was time to eat, the actual roast chicken was an afterthought. It only got better when I discovered Thomas Keller’s roast chicken: in with the potatoes went leeks, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, and suddenly next to that pretty little bird would be vegetables as beautiful as the crown jewels. Now imagine turning those salty, schmaltzy vegetables into soup, a soup that takes about 5 minutes.

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Corn Soup As Pure As Gold

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There’s a corn soup that you need to know about before the corn goes away and, sadly, the corn’s going away pretty soon. Grab some, OK? The sweet stuff. You’re about to make a corn soup that’s so good even people who hate corn soup–CRAIG’S PARENTS–will declare it wonderful. (I didn’t know Craig’s parents hated corn soup when I made this for them…more on that in a bit.) Confession: I took beautiful pictures of this recipe and the process of making it and then lost them, somehow, on the journey from my camera to my computer. So you’re stuck with these ones from my phone, but bear with me. It’s worth it.

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Jasper White’s Corn Chowder

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Recipes, sometimes, are like dreams. You experience them but then, quite often, you forget that you’ve experienced them. And then you’re standing somewhere, and the memory floods back to you: “I was being chased by a gorilla through Filene’s Basement!” Or, in this case, “I once made a corn chowder so good that I wrote a post called CORNGASM and didn’t even share the recipe.” That was back in 2007, after I’d interviewed Chef Jasper White for Salon.com. All these years later, the memory of that chowder came back to me as I started planning the menu for our V.I.P. dinner guests. And after making it again, I can assure you: it really is the corn chowder of your dreams.

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One Hour Chicken Soup

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Imagine this. You get a terrible cold, you’re sick as a dog, your boyfriend gets you juice, soup (Pho from down the street), the works. Then you get better, fly to Florida for your parents’ 40th wedding anniversary, and while there, your boyfriend breaks the news: he has your cold. You’re not there to help, though, so when you return on Sunday–and he’s at the peak of his illness–you know you have to spring into action. You’ve gotta make up for all the TLC you weren’t there to give him during the first two days of his illness. Upon landing at the airport, you rush to the grocery store and stock up on everything you need to make the ultimate cold cure, Jewish penicillin: chicken soup. Only, you want to make it fast.

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