Since it's St. Valentine's day eve, perhaps it's time for a true confession: I've recently fallen madly in love. It was on a quintessential autumn day in New York last year (strike up the Mel Torme, please) and we were dining with beloved friends just in from Afghanistan and London. Needless to say, when you've been stationed in Kabul, what you're really longing for, is some good, authentic NYC deli, and Russ & Daughters, that venerable lower East Side bastion of all things kosher, didn't disappoint.
Yes, the lox and whitefish were superb, the bagels nonpareil, but I was completely overcome by the Russian Cabbage soup. Okay, it wasn't much to look at admittedly, But there just was something about it. I couldn't get enough of it. I thought that perhaps it was the most delicious thing I'd ever eaten. It was lovely to see my friends and all, but, my goodness, this soup! Crazy, I know, but I fell, and I fell hard.
Needless to say, like most any one-night stand, I didn't think too much about it when I came home. However, like any of those fleeting love affairs, it leaves its mark and one is reminded unexpectedly of that special night.
So earlier this week, for no conscious reason, I found myself reaching for a head of cabbage in the grocery. Home it came with no real plan on my part. Later that evening, while we were eating the left over pot roast (you can find the pot roast recipe by searching in the recipe finder bar to the right of this page), my lost love came back to me. I realized that the niggling feeling I'd been having for the last several days was that the pot roast reminded me of something: yes, that seemingly forgotten love, Russian Cabbage soup.
The next day, armed with my head of cabbage, and the final remaining portion of my pot roast, I hit the internet. I couldn't find it, though I read enough similar sounding things to embolden me. I was sure I had it, and, joyously, I was right.
When I ladled it out to Jeff that evening, I sat on the edge of my chair and awaited his reaction. He gushed and tucked in, but I wasn't satisfied, "Yes, but what does it remind you of?" He looked at me blankly. "Doesn't it remind you of the Russian Cabbage soup from Russ & Daughters? Didn't I nail it?" To my amazement, he responded, "What soup? I don't remember it." Which just goes to show you, love truly is in the eye, and dare I say, the mouth of the beholder.
So, in honor of St. Valentine's Day it is my pleasure to present this superb recipe. It is about to be the coldest weekend of the year, so why not tuck up next to the fire with your beloved and feast on this glorious, hearty red potage and warm the cockles of your heart.
If you don't, (and in homage to Casablanca, perhaps the best romantic film of all time, which you could happily watch while you eat ) "you'll regret it. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life."
So Russian Cabbage soup, "Here's looking at you, kid." And have a very happy St. Valentine's Day from Clare's Kitchen.
Russian Cabbage Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
1 head of cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 pounds of ground sirloin
1 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes
1 14-ounce can of tomato sauce
4 cups beef stock
Any leftover pot roast and gravy, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Put the olive oil in a large pot, and over medium heat, saute the onion, carrots and celery until they are soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. In the meantime, in a skillet, brown the ground beef. Remove the beef from the pan with a slotted spoon, and allow it to drain on paper towels. Add the cabbage and beef to the soup pot and stir well to combine. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, stock and any leftover pot roast you are lucky enough to have.
Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and partially cover with a lid. Allow it to simmer for 40 minutes or until the cabbage is extremely soft. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and allow to cook for about 10 minutes more. You may serve it immediately, or refrigerate it and reheat it later.