War and Peace

Well, I never! Never knew there were two kinds of borscht, hot and cold. Now I do.

A small group of wild women gathered at Raspberry Ranch the other day to discuss their summer reading mission, War and Peace, by Tolstoy. Or as one of them said, War and War. To celebrate this undertaking, and to give ourselves a pat on the back, we decided early on we would have the discussion at the Ranch, would serve fine caviar and chilled vodka, eat Borscht and pickles and stuffed eggs for dinner, follow up with the DVD of War and Peace (starring Audrey Hepburn?) and then fall over into bed.img_7700.jpgimg_7699.jpg

So, here you have a photo of the iced vodka, quite festive, if I do say so myself. And the imported Russian caviar, osetra, I believe. We were on a roll…….to say the very least. The night was young at this point. We poured the vodka over those fantastic little purple gems, wild Idaho huckleberries. We ate a platter full of fresh picked Idaho morels sauted in butter with a dash of port. We actually had more than we could eat at the time. (Never fear, the lovely Diana of Wapiti Meadow Ranch, our morel benefactor, wrapped them in omelets for our breakfast the next day. More on Diana and Wapiti in a minute.) Our Basque Cossack, Ramona, brought raspberries and more raspberries and a Pavlova (meringue) and a samovar complete with Russian tea from the Caucuses. Diane (not to be confused with Diana), served salmon with toast points. All served on gorgeous blue and white Russian dishes.

Oh, and there was champagne.

Here is the recipe for borscht. Taken and adapted from Barbara Kafka’s, Soup, A Way of Life (1998, Artisan Books, a division of Workman Publishing). Tweaked according to Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World (2005, Broadway/Random House).

Cold Beet Borscht

1 and half pounds of beets, scrubbed well.
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
One quarter head of red cabbage thinly sliced into shreds
1 thinly sliced sweet onion
1 tablespoon of butter
add ins and garnishes: sour cream, cream, finely diced red onion, diced cucumber, chopped fresh dill fronds, lemon wedges, more grated beets, cold boiled diced potatoes.

In a large saute pan, melt the butter and cook the cabbage and onion with some salt and pepper until wilted. Set aside.

Cover the beets with water and bring them to a boil, reduce and simmer for 45 minutes or until they can be pierced with a fork. Drain the beets into a colander reserving the cooking juice. Cool and then rub the skins off the beets. Grate and add all but one cup of the beets back into the beet juice. Add the vinegar and lemon juice. I added a couple of teaspoons of beef base to the pot to enrich the stock. And at this point, add in the cooked cabbage and onion. Let cool.

Ladle into serving bowls and allow guests to garnish as they please.

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A note on Wapiti Meadow Ranch. Wapiti is the native American term for wild elk. Wapiti Meadow Ranch is the home and fly fishing lodge of our good friend Diana Bryant. It is in the mountains of Idaho, near Yellow Pine and at this point in time has been evacuated due to raging forest fires. Diana and Barry were able to get out this week and removed a few belongings, 10 horses, and a dozen or so coolers of frozen food from their gourmet kitchen. The horses are safely pastured at Raspberry Ranch and Diana and Barry are bunking there for the time being. The huckleberries, morels and champagne are just a sampling of the fine fare served at the lodge. We pray the lodge and all are spared by the fires.