5.30.2013

We Got the Beet.


Growing up we had a Patrick Nagel print hanging on a wall in the dining room. It's exactly the one you're thinking of. Or maybe not. A lot of them have that woman in them. You know, the woman on the cover of Duran Duran's Rio. I never much cared for it. Oh, I loved the album, just not the print hanging on the wall in our dining room. My dad really liked that whole style; that very 80s, minimalist, pastel thing. My dad really liked the 80s, in general. And the 80s liked my dad. They made sense together. He was newly single, very handsome, a great cook, liked to travel, play tennis, hang glide and party. And, of course, he was into the art.

Patrick Nagel was born in 1945. My dad was born in 1945. Patrick Nagel's work was greatly inspired by and directly descended from Art Deco. And Art Deco is, without a doubt, my dad's favorite visual design style. His house and work are both filled with furniture and light fixtures from the Deco era.

Unlike my dad, who is alive, healthy and happy, Patrick Nagel died at the peak of his life and career, at thirty-eight years of age. Strange as it sounds, immediately after participating in a fifteen minute celebrity 'Aerobithon' to raise money for the American Heart Association, Nagel was found dead in his car. From a heart attack. The Reagan Era was a bitch.

This past weekend I was in a fun, food frenzy in the kitchen. I just wanted to make stuff. I see some rhubarb. Let's make a cake! I see leftover coffee and a pork tenderloin. Let's make a marinade and grill stuff! I see beets and carrots. Let's make a borsch! I see Greek yogurt and horseradish. Let's make a garnish for the borsch! You get the idea.

The borsch came out so bright, saturated, rich and vivid that it immediately reminded me, visually, of Pop Art. Flashes of bright colors and sharp shapes from the works of Warhol, Lichtenstein, and yes, Nagel rushed through my head. Fred agreed, but his head was swimming with images of Bauhaus and Kandinsky. Which is totally appropriate for cold borsch as all three are/were Russian! And thus our Sunday unfolded into the eighties-inspired photoshoot of borsch. I did very little styling on this shoot. Fred really ran with it on his own. I picked the soundtrack: The Go-Go's. Right around the time that Nagel was at his peak, so were The Go-Go's. And right around that time I participated in a lip syncing 'class' at Summer camp. And our group's piéce de résistance was, you guessed it, 'We Got the Beat'. I was Belinda Carlisle and my tennis racket was my guitar. Though I'm pretty sure Belinda Carlisle did not actually play the guitar. Man, I miss my Swatch.

The bosrcht was quite good. A success. It was rich and bold with a rear kick of subtle heat from the white pepper and the horseradish yogurt. It was complex on the palate but finished very neatly. This innocent little soup also made a morbid mess of anything that came near it. We had so much left over that we took it up to a Memorial Day BBQ in the canyon. I think I saw one person try it. Who can blame them? At a cookout abundant with steaks, lamb, burgers, sausages, corn salad, chips, banana crème pudding and booze, who wants to deal with a bowl of borsch?

Ah, well. It's not for everyone. People kind of either love it or hate it. I'm not certain what Patrick Nagel liked to eat, but if he's anything like my dad, borsch was not high on the list. 

Me, I'll take a bowl any time.


Chilled Beet Soup with Horseradish Yogurt

Serves 4-6

4 cups (or more) chicken stock
1 pound beets, peeled, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup peeled chopped carrot
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons horseradish
A handful of fresh chives, trimmed
Greek yogurt
Generous salt & white pepper to taste


Combine 4 cups broth, beets, onions, carrot, bay leaf and garlic in medium saucepan. Bring to boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly. Remove bay leaf and puree in blender in batches until smooth. Transfer to bowl.

Thin with additional stock if soup is too thick. Mix in sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill until cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Ladle soup into bowls.

In a small bowl, mix horseradish and yogurt. Put a dollop of horseradish mixture in the middle of the bowl of soup and top with chives.




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