Eastern Europe: Russian Borscht


After the delightful Eastern European style salad nicoise, our palates were cleansed with a classic Russian Borscht, the iconic beet soup.  This was a delightful presentation, vegetable hearty yet light.  We learned that while borscht originated in the Ukraine, there are as many versions of borscht as there are cultures in Eastern Europe, including a green version made with sorrel and/or spinach.  Borscht may be served hot or cold.

Russian Borscht

modified from The New York Times Cookbook recipe

Serves 8.


1 qt beef broth or bouillon
1 qt water
2 cups shredded beets
1 cup shredded carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
2 TB tomato paste
2 TB vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 TB butter
1/2 small cabbage, finely shredded
Freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste
2 bay leaves
Garnish: Sour cream and dill sprig


1. Heat the broth and water together in covered pot.
2. Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan, simmer the beets, carrots, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar and butter, covered, for 15 minutes. Stir frequently. Add shredded cabbage and cook 10 minutes longer.
3. Add vegetable mixture, pepper and bay leaves to broth. Adjust seasoning and cook until vegetables are tender. Add more vinegar, if desired.
4. Serve in warm bowls with sour cream and dill.


Comida Porteño: Locro (Bean and Hominy Stew)


Dear Readers– Lo siento, we got a little ahead of ourselves with last week’s dessert, alfajores.  Skipped over several more savory courses.  We’re back this week with Locro. Don’t worry, there will be more dessert to come!

In the words of Chef Chris:

Locro (bean and hominy stew) is a traditional stew throughout the Andes regions of South America often made with squash, beans, corn/hominy and meat including bacon and chorizo. It is considered a Argentine national dish and often served on the anniversary of the May Revolution. It is thick and rich and we thought that is had similarities to chili. We had locro at Cumaña, a restaurant in Buenos Aires popular with locals. It was a bit heavy but would be great on a chilly winter evening.

We tried to recreate the locro we had in Buenos Aires and found many of the ingredients at a local grocery in the Mission district in San Francisco, CA. We used canned hominy and beans (brand: Goya).

Argentine Locro

Adapted from recipe in Seashells and Sunflowers, which had adapted a recipe by Dan Perlman in his blog Saltshaker. Since we have been on a recent slow cooker kick we made some adjustments accordingly then at the end we simmered the entire stew on low heat for an additional few hours to reduce the sauce and bring out the rich, smoky flavors.

Serves 8


2 tbs. olive oil

3/4 cup white corn (hominy)

3/4 cup white navy beans

1/2 cup chick peas

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

4 oz.  pancetta, cubed

2 oz. chorizo, uncooked

1/2 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch pieces

2 ears of fresh yellow sweet corn, cut the kernels off the cobs

14 oz. crushed tomatoes

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tbs. paprika

salt to taste

½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper

1/2  cup sweet potato or butternut squash (or both), peeled and diced small

chopped green onion for garnish (optional)

chili oil (see directions below)

crème fraiche topping (optional)


Prepare the chili oil in advance by soaking a teaspoon of ají molido (or crushed red pepper flakes) in a tablespoon of olive oil for 2-3 hours.

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute onions until they start to become translucent. Reduce heat and add chorizo and garlic until cooked through. Add cumin and paprika and cook for 1-2 minutes. Transfer everything to slow cooker. In separate saucepan, cook pancetta until well done and crispy. Drain fat and transfer to slow cooker. Add pork shoulder.

Drain and rinse hominy, beans and chick peas. Transfer to slow cooker. Stir in the sweet potato/squash, crushed tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Cook on low for 8-9 hours. Add fresh corn for last 30 minutes.

We then transferred everything into large pot to simmer at low heat. Stir and mash the starchy vegetables using the back of a wide spoon or spatula, press the ingredients up against the sides of the pot so they break down into the soup. As you continue to stir and mash the soup should gradually thicken. Continue until the locro reaches the rich consistency of a stew. Add salt to taste.

Serve in bowls, and garnish with green onions and a touch of chili oil. We also topped off with a dollop of crème fraiche mixed with lemon juice to lighten the heaviness and add a bit of tangy goodness (a la sour cream on chili).

This post is part of the second Spicebox Supperclub, the Comida Porteño con Sabor Latino, celebrating the food and drink of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Asian Mash-Up: Miso Soup


This is a classic miso soup.  It’s based on dashi, the Japanese broth made of kombu (kelp) and bonito (fish flakes), which brings the flavors of the sea to the umami flavor of the miso.  I had to admit to Chef Nalin that while we have miso soup often in our household, I have never gone through the trouble of making dashi, mixing my miso paste with water instead.  Nor do I take the trouble to strain it.

Chef Nalin does things the right way.

Miso Soup

(from Serious Eats)


1 1/2 quarts water

1/2 ounce kombu (approximate 4- by 6-inch piece, see note above)

1/2 ounce grated bonito flakes (about 3 cups, see note above)

6 tablespoons white or red miso paste, or a mix

8 ounces firm silken tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (optional)

1/2 ounce dried wakame seaweed (1/4 cup, optional)

4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced if necessary (such as honshimeji, namako, or shiitake, optional)

A handful of small live cockles (optional)

4 whole scallions, thinly sliced (optional)


Combine water, kombu, and bonito flakes in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a bare simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool for 5 minutes, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Discard solids.

Return broth to a medium saucepan and set over low heat to keep warm, but not boiling. Place a fine mesh strainer in the broth and add the miso paste to the strainer. Use the back of a spoon to press the paste through the strainer into the broth, Discard and large grains that don’t pass through.

Add tofu, wakame, mushrooms, and cockles (if using), and allow to cook without boiling until ingredients are warm and wakame has re-hydrated, about five minutes. Garnish with scallions (if using) and serve immediately.

This is part of the Asian Mash-Up menu, presented by Chef Nalin.