Went out with my beloved second half of Scott and Kate Plus Ate the other day to one of our favourite spots, the soon-changing “Hoof Cafe”. Unfortunately it’s being turned into a fancy schmancy prix-fixe style restaurant, so we (among m
It began years ago, on a relatively small scale. Order after order of bog-standard fast food garbage: Double Quarter Pounders, Classic Singles, and the occasional Whopper were the only griddled patties to pass my lips. I’d like to say that I can’t be blamed, that I couldn’t have known better. Deep down however, at my very core, I knew I was committed a fundamental transgression: a sin against burgerdom.
After a few years of this debauchery, a misguided “healthy” phase wiped burgers from the menu altogether. Whether this represented a step forward or a step back, I do not know, but this abstinence eventually gave way, only to be replaced by the greatest malefaction of all.
The gourmet burger.
For a while, gourmet burgers were all the rage. Organic, free-range, hormonally-balanced beef slung onto whole wheat buns, brioche, or even….. *gasp* ciabatta, smothered in all manner of ridiculous toppings and offered up at obscene prices to sinners that, like myself, couldn’t realize that a burger shouldn’t need a half-pound of artisanal Brie and confit shrimp uteri to be good. Wallowing in my ignorance, I consumed, not realizing the affront I had become.
Then, it happened. I caught wind of what may have been my salvation.
Opened recently in the east end of Toronto, The Burger’s Priest mandate is no less than the redemption of burgerkind. Simple beef patties, griddled to perfection, served on buns whiter than the wings of angels, topped with the humblest of processed cheesestuffs, The Priest’s burgers seemed to be my only path to absolution.
Thus, on a lonely Sunday evening, I began a great Crusade into the No Man’s Land of Queen Street East in search of salvation. I set off on foot, the graying sky an omen of what was to come.
Toiling through an unseasonably warm but still somewhat miserable February evening, I journeyed past countless restaurants I’d only heard of in the deep recesses of Toronto’s food blogs. The temptation was great, but I was on a holy quest, and could not be deterred. My legs grew weary, and my stomach growly, but nothing less than my very soul was at stake: I had to push on.
After what seemed like hours, I finally caught sight of my prize: a simple, austere black sign bearing an abstract stenciling of a burger, and the name of my savior: The Burger’s Priest. But all was not right in the houses of the holy: the windows seemed just a bit too darkened in the dim, pre-dusk light. Sweat began to bead across my forehead, and then I saw them: upturned stools resting on tables, their pointed legs like the horns of Satan himself, mocking me. Dropping to my knees (figuratively anyway: the street was kinda dirty), I screamed out in anguish: “Oh come on, are you fucking KIDDING ME?!” I wailed, drawing the eyes of several curious locals who shook their heads at my folly before ambling on.
I was defeated.
Pathetically, I shambled onto a passing streetcar heading west, and tried to decide what to do for dinner, when I fatefully glanced out the window at the intersection of Queen and Broadview and saw my downfall.
In defiance of my soul’s eternal wellbeing, I hopped off the car and barged through the doors of this den of burger iniquity: if I was going to be a sinner, then by GOD, I was gonna sin like a pro.
Wild-eyed, I ordered the Elvis Burger: a massive meat patty topped with bacon, fried bananas, and more peanut butter than anyone in their right mind would ever apply to a savoury dish. The chances for my salvation were all but extinguished. Remorselessly, I tore into the beast.
Perhaps some day soon, I will make my way to The Burger’s Priest once more, and cleanse my soul of the filth with which I have willfully tarnished it, but until that day, I remain a burger sinner, and an unrepentant one, at that.
It seems Kate threw down a gauntlet of sorts with those awesome-looking biscuits, and I felt I had to respond in kind. It seems however, that she made a fatal error: serving them alongside something as healthy and enriching as a wonderful borscht.
Beets are an excellent source of Vitamin A, Potassium and high-quality vegetable-sourced iron. Cabbage is chock-full of Vitamin C and Indole-3-Carbinol, which boosts cellular repair and may even have powerful anti-cancer properties. Onions… heal sea urchin wounds if you tie them around your neck, apparently. Clearly, borscht is a nutritional powerhouse of a dish.
"Oh no," thought I. "This will just not do."
Something had to be done.
I headed out to the store, grabbed some ingredients, and got to work on the best breakfast sandwich I could think of. This was the result.
A large freshly-baked flat buttermilk biscuit, stuffed with aged cheddar cheese, a heavy-cream-laden omelet, and some peameal bacon glazed in plenty of maple syrup.
It was a few years ago that my mum came back from the local ‘Future Bakery’ (the oddly named Ukrainian bakery and deli in a warehouse district) with their borscht. I had also heard of it and thought pffft, beet soup? Ya okay.
Welps, years later, here I am, making it for myself because I like it THAT MUCH. It also didn’t hurt that I like to try and shop local, but unfortunately the only produce coming out of Ontario in the winter are root vegetables. This is also therefore the cheapest soup EVER - 2 pounds of beets for $1.23, and the recipe calls for half that. Sold!
I had picked up a cheap copy of "Gordon Ramsay’s Healthy Appetite" cookbook a little while ago to check out and see if I could do some recipes that might help me slim down. On page 65 he had his borscht recipe, and here is my attempt.
Borscht (serves 4)
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil 1 onion, peeled and minced 2 celery stalks, trimmed and minced 1 large carrot, peeled and minced 1 thyme sprig, leaves stripped sea salt and black pepper 1 lb (500 g) raw beet, peeled and chopped1/4 red cabbage, about 8oz (250g) minced 3 1/3 cups (800ml) vegetable stock or water 1 tbsp (15 ml) red wine vinegar, to taste 1 tsp (5ml) superfine sugar, to taste handful of dill, chopped 4 tbsp sour cream, or plain yogurt, to serve (optional)
So the first step is obviously, ugh, mincing. A LOT OF IT. But once all that’s done (I usually like to do such tedious work to the sound of a good ‘Smodcast' blasting over my speakers), the rest is pretty easy.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onion, celery, carrot, thyme leaves, and some seasoning. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 8-10 minutes.
I was pr
etty pleased that I still had some usable thyme in my defunct herb garden on the back porch - turns out it weathers Toronto snow storms and total neglect! It was more like a twig, and I (very, very stupidly) took off the leaves and used the stalk instead…yes it was my first time using it and I didn’t read carefully, why do you ask?
So then I set to peeling and chopping the beats, and my mother’s warning of, “Watch out for staining” went quickly blaring through my ears. Holy cripes was she not kidding, though my crappy camera doesn’t properly camera how quickly or completely my fingers were dyed pink. I also
chose to grate some of the beat as a bit of an experiment, because the soup from the Future Bakery also had grated beet instead of huge chunks and I loved that consistency. So I figured I’d half-chop, half-grate, and I think next time I’ll just full grate. I don’t need big mouthfuls of beet, but if you love beety flavour you get that more from chopped pieces.
- Add the be
et and cabbage (I didn’t have any, it didn’t matter) with a small splash of water. Stir well, then cover and cook for 10-12 minutes until the vegetables are just tender. Lift the lid and give the mixture a stir several times during cooking to stop the vegetables catching and burning on the bottom of the pan.
So for this next part, I didn’t have wine vinegar…so I just used wine! White wine left over in my fridge. I threw in about 3/4 of a cup, which was a bit much but it all burned off in the end anyway so it didn’t much matter. Added a nice little flavour though!
- Remove the lid and pour in the stock or water to cover the vegetables. Add the wine vinegar, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Skim off any froth from the surface. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt, pepper and sugar.
Gordon then says you can either puree the soup with a stick blender (fancy pants) or just leave it for a ‘rustic’ finish. Apparently that’s all I know ‘cause I was like, ‘Puree? PBBBTTT’. (For all you ‘effort’ givers, he mentions you might need to thin it down
with some boiling water if you puree it.)
I left it on the stove for a bit, then started on the buttermilk biscuits. To save space I’ll save that recipe for another time, but trust me, they done came out GUD.
With a little dollop of sour cream, I finished ‘er off and tried a little fancy plating. Too bad I’m a crap photographer! Ah whaddya want, I just made an amazing dinner, piss off. <3
People were requesting it on Twitter, so I’m going to stick this here.
Backstory: I made pulled pork for sandwiches yesterday and wanted to make a vegetarian equivalent for Ananth. So I did some experimentation. (I made a small amount and wrote the recipe accordingly— I’d suggest doubling the…