This borscht is way more virtuous than what A.D. Miller's decadent, morally suspect Snowdrops called for. The book is set in Moscow after the fall of communism, in the Putin era, when everyone was out to get rich and there were no truly "legitimate" businesses. In this setting Miller puts Nick Platt, a British attorney in his late 30's who meets two beautiful Russian women on the subway platform and is quickly pulled into a deadly scam. Nick knows that these women are using him, but he lets himself be used - because they are so beautiful, because he is so lonely. The book is written as a confessional by Nick to his fiance in London years after his time in Moscow. In order for her to really know him, he figures, she needs to know the worst of him. The book starts with Nick describing a "snowdrop" which in wintry Moscow is a dead body found when a pile of snow melts as winter thaws. From here Nick moves backward to tell the story of who the snowdrop was and how Nick lost himself completely once he met Masha. More about the book and borscht after the jump.
This quirky cocktail (with the dizzy picture) was inspired by the fact that I had a bunch of dill and cucumbers around (they will appear again in my Borscht post coming this weekend). Dill and cucumber is such a great combination when it comes to eating, I wanted to find a way to make it work in a cocktail Gin seemed like the perfect match for both cucumber and dill so I just made a simple gin and tonic and added some muddled cucumber and dill. The result was a refreshing gin and tonic that tasted a tad like pickles, one of my favorite foods. I am obviously obsessed with green/herb cocktails lately, but they are so perfect this time of year! I promise next week I will make something brown or fruity...For now, enjoy this cocktail that tastes as green as at it looks.
Although today is mother's day, I am sharing with you the recipe for my Dad's favorite cookies. We lost my Dad a year ago today, so it seemed fitting to make something in tribute to him this week. My Dad was what you would call a good eater - while I wouldn't consider him a foodie (that term was before his time anyway), he certainly loved to eat and I feel that he passed his love for certain foods down to me. These hermit cookies are one of those foods that he loved that I now love too. It seems like hermit cookies are hard to find now - if you haven't had them they are a brown sugar molasses bar cookie, highly spiced, filled with raisins and walnuts, and deliciously chewy. They are an old fashioned humble New England cookie without much flash, but carry a lot of flavor. When I was thinking of what to make this week for my Dad, hermits were the first thing that came to mind, because we always had them in the house growing up since my Dad loved them. Every week my mom would load up with treats at the bakery, paying special attention to the things my Dad loved - hermits, poppy seed bagels, bulky rolls (not that she would neglect us kids, there were always loaves of challah, half moon cookies and gingerbread men for us). Obviously, we were not one of those houses with no sugar cereal and no dessert! Luckily, even though they were his favorite, my Dad was willing to share his hermits with me, and I developed a taste for them! Talking to my sister on the phone this week, the other foods we immediately came up with when thinking about Dad were pickled herring and borscht. Unfortunately, his love for those foods was not passed down to me! I will not go near the herring, but in a couple of days I will share with you some borscht I made - the cold kind, which is what my Dad had for lunch most Saturdays. Borscht conveniently fits in with the book I just finished - Snowdrop, which takes place in Moscow. For now, please enjoy these hermits. I will be thinking about my wonderful father as I eat them.
Cocktail hour this week was a bit of a dilemma, with the Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo falling on the same day! I love bourbon, but I cannot say I am a big fan of Mint Juleps. Perhaps it is because my enduring memory of them comes from a version a friend from college made at an impromptu derby party my senior year in college. Lord only knows what kind of bourbon we used, though it likely came in a plastic jug or whether we used fresh mint. I can't imagine that we did. So, when it came time to choose which coktail to make this week I went with a margarita, but brought the Derby day mint to the party. I did this by making a simple mint syrup and adding some of that and fresh mint to a simple classic margarita. The result was a slightly herby, sweet version of the classic margarita. I may even make my margaritas this way all the time (not that I make them that much, I also have some enduring, bad memories of tequila from a plastic jug from college which sadly prevents me from really loving tequila drinks the way I should). If you are also facing a similar cocktail dilemma this weekend, try this hybrid Julep/Margarita!
Wow. That is the first word that came to mind when I finished the last page of Esi Edugyan's wonderful novel Half-Blood Blues. While I really like most of the books I read (the last one notwithstanding) it has been a while since I have read since a unique, moving and enjoyable book. The novel toggles between the present day (or close to it) and 1930's Europe. The narrator of the novel is Sidney Griffiths, who in the 30's was a bassist who traveled from Baltimore to Berlin with his best friend, a drummer, Chip Jones, to play jazz with the Hot Time Swingers, a motley of crew of German and American musicians. Berlin before the Nazi's had a thriving jazz scene which attracted African-American musicians from the States. The novel is both an upbeat memoir of the swinging lifestyle of these musicians and guilt ridden tale of jealousy and war. At the heart of the story is Hieronymus Falk, a German musician of mixed race who is younger than the other band members (he is 20) and a blazing, world class talent on the trumpet. The novel starts with Hiero being arrested by Nazi soldiers in a Paris cafe as Sidney stands by and does nothing to stop it. The novel then moves both forward in time to the present, where Sidney is asked to travel to Berlin for a Hieronymus Falk jazz festival, and backwards, telling the story of the Hot Time Swingers and how Hiero ended up arrested. The language and tempo of the novel are jazz-like - with generous use of the jazz hipster slang of the time. It is a novel more about friendship than it is about jazz, though jazz is as an important character. A struggled with a dish for the book since these cats don't spend a lot of time eating, both because of their lifestyle and the food shortages in war time Europe. They spend most of their time drinking really cheap and brutal liquor they call "the Czech." While they are in Paris there is a reference to "onion broth" so I seized on that and decided on a recipe for classic Onion Soup I found in a neat "Paris Cafe" cookbook. The ingredients are so simple, perhaps they couldn't have gotten their hands on the bread and cheese during the occupation, but this soup is all about the onions.
More on the book and soup after the jump.