Growing up, my enjoyment of borscht was reserved to one day a year — Christmas, when my mom made a batch fit to feed a football team using the largest pot I’ve ever seen in a residential kitchen. But as an adult with free will, I can now partake in a bowl year-round, and I’ve made a habit of putting on my first cauldron of the stuff as Halloween approaches.
The deeply crimson broth, bobbing with soft chunks of earthy beets, carrots and potatoes, is especially fit for spooky season. But the biggest draw for me has always been the thick, tender — but not mushy — ribbons of cabbage.
David Tanis’s recipe for vegetarian red borscht calls for kale, which is a contemporary touch that I can certainly get behind. But if you’re wondering if it can be a vehicle for cabbage, the answer is an emphatic “yes.”
Perhaps you’d rather cook the recipe as written, which I definitely endorse. There are plenty of other cabbage soups in the sea. Might I direct your attention to Ali Slagle’s charred cabbage and lentil soup? Like borscht, it is an incredibly cost-effective soup, composed entirely of hearty vegetables and pantry staples. The broth is bolstered by a Parmesan rind, but won’t suffer if you choose to skip it or don’t have one on hand. (Remember, Parmesan is not necessarily vegetarian. You can read more about that here.)
But maybe you’re sick of me talking about soup. October is just as great a time for okonomiyaki, a cabbage pancake that traditionally features pork. Kay Chun’s recipe for green okonomiyaki keeps meatless eaters in mind: In addition to plenty of napa cabbage, it is packed with spinach and shredded, squeezed zucchini. To ensure the dish is not only meatless but also vegetarian, simply omit the Hondashi powder and bonito flakes, which contain fish.
One More Thing!
I come to you with yet another food-adjacent art exhibit! My group chat went absolutely berserk for the googly-eyed felt black-and-white cookies at “Feltz Bagels,” an immersive installation from the artist Lucy Sparrow. In the East Village of Manhattan, Ms. Sparrow has recreated a beloved New York institution — the bagel shop — using roughly 30,000 pieces of felt. It’s something to behold.
Thank you to Judy, a reader, who reminded me that the installation, where you can buy a piece of felt artwork for as little as $10, runs until Oct. 31. If you’re in the city, you’ll find it at 209 East Third Street.