Tuesday Dinner: Valentine’s Day Borscht

Valentine’s Day Borscht with Dilled Sour Cream • Romaine with Grapefruit & Radishes • Dark Rye Rolls • Bittersweet Brownies

I know there are many borscht lovers among us, but there’s one very enthusiastic person who has been counting down the “days until borscht” since last August. It’s Valentine’s Day on Friday, which means that borscht-day has finally arrived. Hooray! Love and pink soup, what could be better?

Every year when I make this soup, I wonder why I don’t make it more often. But this year, I figured it out: this is the ninth year in a row I’ve made borscht for Valentine’s Day, so at this point, it’s a tradition, and you don’t mess with tradition. Christmas cookies don’t taste the same in July, no one eats pumpkin pie in April. (There’s no reason not to eat pumpkin pie in April—it doesn’t matter that pumpkins aren’t in season since most of us use the pumpkin from a can—but it just wouldn’t be right.) Plus, it’s so good to have something to look forward to, especially in this void of the year between the holidays and spring.

It’s a beautiful soup, and super-duper delicious. I particularly love that it’s a depth-of-winter soup made with vegetables that are grown for storage. Beets, cabbage, carrots, potatoes—all these vegetables are grown in the summer and fall, but can be stored all through the winter. Some magical alchemy turns them into this wonderful, bright-pink soup that we all love so very much.

This is also the time of year for my traditional plug for Marian Morash’s Victory Garden Cookbook. It’s out of print, but I just checked Amazon, and you can get a used copy for less than three dollars. A “collectible” version is $190, though; everyone better get a regular one quick. It’s the best cookbook for anyone who likes to eat vegetables, has a vegetable garden, or has a CSA subscription.

Prepping grapefruit for today’s salad was a labor of love. Cutting citrus suprêmes (sections without peel and membrane) is one of those kitchen jobs that you either enjoy, or you actively hate. Luckily, I’m on the “enjoy” side of the equation. (For the record, cleaning squid and shelling fava beans are on my “actively hate” list.) I feel like it’s too much trouble to do just one grapefruit, but thirteen? Sharpen that paring knife, and let’s go!

The long French icicle radishes are the first vegetable to come from my parents’ garden this year. That part of our dinner is a Valentine gift from my mom.

Valentine’s Day and chocolate go hand-in-hand, so I made some bittersweet chocolate brownies. It’s another Alice Medrich recipe—she’s the queen of desserts, especially chocolate desserts—which is different than most brownie recipes in that it calls for whipping the eggs and sugar until they triple in volume before adding the melted chocolate. The unusual technique (usual for cakes, but not for brownies) results in a texture that’s almost custard-like and extremely fudgy.

Enjoy your dinner, my friends. It was cooked with lots of love for you from me. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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