Summertime always brings back memories of my visits “back home” with my family. When my three children (now all married, with families of their own) were young, I would travel to Winnipeg each summer to visit my parents and spend treasured moments with friends and relatives.
One of the highlights of my trip was visiting with my late Auntie Adele, Uncle Hy and their four children. We would sit in their backyard, baking in the warm summer sun and nibbling on the baked treasures stored in Auntie Adele’s cookie tins.
She always had several jars of homemade cold borscht and a big bowl of her super coleslaw in the refrigerator. Her cooked borscht was made with fresh beets and she would always add a beaten egg to the cooled borscht to lighten the color. Her coleslaw could be made in advance and stayed crisp for several weeks because the dressing was boiled first.
I asked her for her coleslaw recipe, which she gladly shared with me, along with many other tried and true treasures that are in my recipe files. I adapted the method for my food processor cookbook and have been making it for years.
When I called my mother long distance the other day to have one of our special “travels-through- time- through-recipes” discussions, I asked her if she remembered where the recipe originated for Adele’s coleslaw.
“Of course!” she replied. (My mother always says “Of course!” when I ask if she remembers a recipe or a person. My mom’s name is Belle Rykiss and her memory is as “clear as a bell” when it comes to food.)
“I gave that recipe to Auntie Adele. In fact, I taught Adele how to cook and gave her many of my recipes because I had been married longer. That coleslaw recipe was never Adele’s, it wasn’t even mine. I got it from Edna, who used to work for me many years ago.”
Next, the discussion turned to my mother’s potato salad. Mom declared “You know, it’s very important to boil the potatoes in their skins.” I replied “Yes, I always do that, just like you taught me. I boil the eggs together with the potatoes at the same time, then peel and cut them up while they are still warm. Then I add celery, onions and mayonnaise, although I know you used to add Miracle Whip.”
My mother asked “Do you sprinkle them with salt and drizzle a little oil over the warm potatoes? It’s very important.” I responded, “Mom, you never did that!” And she declared “I always did that! I learned that technique from Julia Child on TV.”
“But Mom, we never knew about Julia Child when I was a little girl. We didn’t have TV until 1952 and I remember you making potato salad long before that.” And Mom said “Oh, you’re absolutely right! I adapted her technique many years ago and it seems like I’ve always done it that way.” And so I learned a new trick from an old cook.
When I told my sister, Rhonda Matias, the story, she said, “I have the same memories of Mom’s potato salad recipe that you have. Over the years, Mom switched over to mayonnaise, but I didn’t know about the salt and oil trick either. However, the one thing I do remember clearly was that she always sprinkled the top of the potato salad liberally with paprika, and I would try to figure out how to taste it without disturbing the paprika topping. I would try to shmear the paprika around after poking my finger in the middle, but it never looked quite the same and Mom always knew what I had done!”
My next culinary conversation with my mother was about her no-cook dairy beet borscht. Mom told me that she got the recipe from my cousin Irene Odwak of Winnipeg, who got it from my friend Phyllis Levy of Montreal when they met at the hairdresser many years ago in Montreal.
I am a culinary sleuth, so I called Phyllis to check out the story. Imagine my surprise when Phyllis said she had no memory of ever meeting my cousin Irene and knew nothing about a no-cook borscht recipe!
Phyllis begged, “Please send me your recipe! It sounds amazing. By the way, I make a killer cabbage borscht that I got from my mother-in-law. Would you like the recipe for that?” I told her that she would have to wait her turn in a future article!
My next call was to my cousin Irene. Thank goodness for my cheap long distance plan! Irene also had no memory of ever meeting Phyllis. “I think I got the recipe for the borscht from Molly,” she said.
“Oh no,” I replied. “I can’t spend an hour on the phone asking Molly about her recipe.” To which Irene replied “Not our cousin Molly. My sister Molly. You can’t call her about the recipe because she’s been dead for years!” OY!
We then recalled the famous family story about how my younger cousin Nancy Gordon wanted to make borscht for her father, my Uncle Hy. That lead to yet another phone call to Nancy. Nancy was in Winnipeg, visiting her father, so she called me back. Thank goodness she has a free long distance plan. This was becoming a marathon!
I related the interwoven stories to her. Nancy then told me that when she made the no-cook borscht, her dad walked into her kitchen and saw all the jars of borscht sitting on the counter. When he tasted it, he exclaimed, “This tastes exactly like Adele’s borscht! You must have worked so hard to make it! Do you think I could have a jar to take home?” She gave him some borscht and he couldn’t stop thanking her. Nancy never told him that it was a cheater’s version of the original recipe and her dad still doesn’t know the truth.
I convinced Nancy that it would be a mitzvah if she would make a double batch of borscht for her dad and she agreed. We figured out that she could probably make it in her hotel room, it’s that easy! Now Nancy will have to make up some sort of excuse to her dad on how she was able to “cook” borscht in a hotel room!
She then reminded me that last summer when she visited her brother Brent in Vancouver, he was also craving his mother’s borscht. Nancy had emailed me asking for the recipe and now Brent makes big batches of this wonderful cold soup all summer long, agreeing that it tastes like “Adele’s borscht” even though it’s a completely different recipe.
And if you make this borscht for your family, along with my mother’s potato salad and “my”super coleslaw, you can create your own tapestry of culinary summertime memories. Enjoy!
No-Cool Lazy Day Beet Borscht
10 to 12 servings (about 14 cups).
This light and refreshing soup tastes exactly like the dairy borscht my late Aunt Adele was famous for, but with none of the work. The color is incredible. Don’t dare tell anyone how easy it is!
- 2 (19 oz/540 ml) cans beets
- 48 oz. (1.36 liters) can tomato juice
- 1 liter (4½ cups) buttermilk]
- ½ cup sugar or sweetener
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
- Drain beet juice into a very large mixing bowl.
- Process drained beets in the processor using the Steel Knife, until fine.
(My cousin Nancy will have to buy grated canned beets if she’s making this in her hotel room!)
- Combine all ingredients with beet juice in mixing bowl and mix well.
- Store in glass jars in the refrigerator.
Keeps about 10 days.
* To freeze, pour borscht into storage containers, leaving at least 1 inch at the top of each container.
Source: Healthy Helpings by Norene Gilletz
- 8 medium potatoes, unpared
- 6 eggs
- 2 shallots (green onions), diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- ½ cup salad dressing
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Paprika, as garnish
- Boil potatoes with eggs until potatoes are tender.
- Remove from heat, drain and peel. (My mom would now sprinkle them with salt and a little oil.) Cool.
- Cut potatoes and eggs in small chunks and mix with celery, shallots, salad dressing and seasoning.
- Garnish with paprika and chill.
Source: Second Helpings Please! (Norene Gilletz, Editor)
12 to 16 servings
I’ve made this family favorite for years – it’s a winner! The hot marinade keeps the coleslaw mixture crisp. For a colorful slaw, use a mixture of red and green cabbage.
- 1 head cabbage (about 3 lbs.)
- 1 green bell pepper, cut in chunks
- 3 carrots (or 12 mini carrots)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 green onions, cut in chunks
- 1 cup white vinegar
- ½ cup sugar (see below)
- ¾ cup oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- Slicer: Discard soft outer leaves. Cut cabbage into wedges to fit feed tube. Discard core. Slice, using very light pressure. If too thick, chop in batches on the Steel Blade, using quick on/off pulses. Slice green pepper, using medium pressure. Empty into a large bowl.
Grater: Use the mini feed if your machine has one. Grate carrots, using firm pressure. Add to cabbage.
Steel Blade: Drop garlic and green onions through feed tube while machine is running; process until minced. Add to cabbage.
- Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan or microwavable bowl. Heat until almost boiling (2 to 3 minutes on High in the microwave), stirring occasionally. Pour hot marinade over coleslaw mixture and mix well. Refrigerate. Keeps about 1 month in the refrigerator.
* Coleslaw won’t keep as long if sweetener is used instead of sugar. Some sweeteners become bitter when heated. Splenda is heat-stable and can be used with excellent results.
Source: The Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.