For The Girls

Dinner:  October 7, 2009

In the last few weeks, I learned that two good friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Two young, vibrant women I care deeply about are in for a fight, and while I’m confident in their ability to beat this, they’ll need all the help and support they can muster.

Over the last several years I’ve become very aware of how powerful food choices are with respect to health and wellness, and with Amie and Jenny in mind, I created this vibrant soup. It’s loaded with healthful ingredients – beets, cabbage, ginger and turmeric, to name a few – and it’s enriched with a bit of cream at the end, because in my mind, balance and a little indulgence are important to a healthy lifestyle. Plus, it takes the soup from red to deep pink, a hue that is very much in vogue in October.


Roasted Beet Soup

1 lb. red beets
3 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
Kosher salt
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup shallot, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander
¼ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 cups shredded red cabbage
¼ cup raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
4 cups water
½ cup heavy cream
plain yogurt or crème fraiche for garnish

Note: If the beets have their greens still attached, remove them and reserve – they’re great sautéed in a little olive oil.

Scrub the beets and cut them into halves or quarters if large. Toss with salt and olive oil, place on a sheet pan, add the garlic cloves, and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes, until they are tender when pierced with a fork. Set the beets aside until they are cool enough to handle.

In a deep, heavy bottomed pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallot and a pinch of salt, and cook until just soft. Add the coriander and ginger, stirring through, and cook for a minute or two before adding the cabbage. Pull the skins from the beets and add the roasted beets to the pot. Remove the roasted garlic from its skins and add to the pot. Add the vinegar and water, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally and tasting to adjust the seasoning.

Puree using your favorite method (we use a stick blender), then stir in the cream off the heat. Ladle into bowls and add a dollop (or ribbon) of yogurt or crème fraiche. (You can, of course, make this dairy-free, omitting the cream/yogurt/crème fraiche, and adding fresh chopped herbs for garnish instead – cilantro, dill, parsley or fennel fronds all work well.)

Boston peeps: Amie’s husband Brad, one of my oldest and dearest east coast friends, put his musical mojo to work to arrange a benefit to take place at The Middle East on Saturday, October 17th beginning at noon. Live performers include Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses/50 Foot Wave), Bill Janovitz (Buffalo Tom), Travels, Drew O’Doherty, Colin Clary (The Smittens/Let’s Whisper), and Adam Brilla (The Broken River Prophet). Kids under 12 get in free, and those of us who are a bit older can purchase tickets here.

Not in the Boston area? Please sponsor Jenny as she walks in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in NYC on October 18th.

16 thoughts on “For The Girls

  1. So sorry to hear the news about your friends, but can I just say: that cream ribbon loop rocks!

    We’ve got to hold on to a sense of humor, no?

    Sending best.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Truly beautiful, in all ways. While I just moved to Brooklyn, will let my Cambridge peeps know about this event.

  3. I just had a friend who is 31 diagnosed with breast cancer. It has metastisized and its very scary. We were just talking about diet choices and surviving cancer. Wonderful post.

  4. Breast cancer awareness is something really close to my heart, having had 3 close friends’ mothers battle it (and survive!) and having lost a friend and my great-aunt to the disease. Food is such an important part of arming your body—well said. And a beautiful soup to honor your friends. I’ll be thinking of them and praying as they take this journey.

  5. Allison says:

    7 weeks out of my own breast cancer treatment (Stage 3, I’m 42) and your ribbon made me SMILE.

    Yes, your friends are in for a fight, and with lots of love, and lots of help from family and friends and good nourishing food, they’ll get through.

    I wonder what recipes you, Jen, will come up with that include ginger, when nausea strikes?

    I would return home from a long day at chemotherapy to fine a huge happy-looking orange cast=iron pot on my stove, bubbling with tomato-lentil soup, delivered by my Italian friend Anna. Times like this, you really know who your friends are, and Anna (and her soup) is one dear friend.

    My prayers are with your friends and their families.

  6. Anna says:

    Interesting recipe and great presentation, I can imaging how important is food when you are sick, cancer or anything else, and yes it’s always nice having some comfortable food ready when you don’t have the energy to make it by yourself.

    I guess I did it for my great friend Allison, and I wish that every body knowing someone is sick, would do it too, make an extra portion of their food and bring to them and their family, this is a little help that doesn’t cost much and make you feel better, trust me.

    My prayers are with your friends and their families.

  7. Sad news, it’s frustrating that some cancers just appear out of the blue in completely healthy people. But I know they’ll be able to fight it, however your friends are in my thoughts. What a lovely soup you made for them too.

  8. Karen says:

    Love it! Leave it to you to bring together great food and a reminder for a great cause. It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada (Monday being the actual day). Just want to thank YOU for being a true inspiration and for posting this blog for the sheer love of it. Also for using it to spread great messages. Your love & dedication are evident. It is very much appreciated and respected. Thank you. KD

  9. What a lovely post. I enjoy your blog, thank you so much. My Mom had breast cancer in her 40’s. I was just 21 when we found out, five days after I gave birth to my son and it rocked my world. She is doing well 6 years after her diagnosis. I hope your friends have the same outcome and they are in my thoughts.

  10. Jennifer Hess says:

    I hate that my week has been so crazed that I haven’t gotten back here to thank you all, but hopefully this isn’t too late – thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your comments and support. I have the best readers ever. Love to you all.

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