It’s not quite autumn yet, but summer has entered its final week and the morning air has taken on a most fall-like briskness. This being Georgia, the cool weather is a temporary condition - plenty of hot, sweaty days lie ahead in the next month or so - but nevertheless, it is a welcome reminder that the seasons are about to change.
I love this time of year. On the weekday mornings when I leave the house before seven o’clock to attend minyan, the rising sun is just beginning to paint the eastern sky with glorious shades of pink and orange. The trees are showing the beginnings - just the beginnings! - of their fall colors. And I have to decide between wearing short- or long-sleeved shirts, on account of that crisp air.
Along with cool mornings, fall colors, and the panoply of Jewish holidays, the impending onset of Fall also marks a change in our menus here at Chez Elisson. Salads give way to stewy dishes like chili, Hungarian goulash, and braised short ribs... and summery, chilled gazpacho yields to hot, restorative cabbage borscht.
Dee’s cabbage borscht, AKA cabbage soup, is amazing. Long years ago, she learned how to make it from her grandmother (with a substantial amount of kibitzing and back-burner driving from her great-aunt Dorothy)... a toothsome combination that includes diced tomatoes, a head of cabbage, beef shanks or flanken-style ribs (or both), and lashings of brown sugar, lemon juice, and sour salt. The exact composition is known to Dee, but not me: My input is limited to minor adjustments in the seasoning.
It never ceases to amaze me how a humble vegetable like cabbage can be transformed into a potage that, while certainly not the stuff of haute cuisine, nevertheless manages to be both earthy and ethereal. It is truly a sort of kitchen alchemy.
Cabbage borscht is the kind of concoction that gets better after a day or two, a homey, heady dish that warms both body and soul. It’s just right for those days of introspection and prayer that cluster so thickly on the calendars of us Red Sea Pedestrians this time of year... and for the occasional chilly evening.