Nothing beets a home-cooked meal 🍴

Thank you for joining my subscriber list! Enjoy the December, and very first, edition.

Steamy borsch that’s fresh off the stove.

Welcome to the first edition of The Sunday Roast! My name is Emily and I am so excited to see this passion project of mine come together. I want to take a moment to thank all my friends, family and subscribers for their support, and a very special thank you to my first subject: Olga Berman. I had so much fun learning about Olga and her food adventures in DC, so I hope subscribers do, too.

This month: I worked on outreach to build my audience, then brainstormed names, content and format with Twitter followers and colleagues. After I decided on mixing reporting and cooking, I messaged several local chefs and bloggers until I scheduled an interview, and finally, I’m here with my first newsletter. I also managed to exceed my goal of 50 subscribers, so things are going pretty well!

Some background: In a monthly newsletter, I will combine a DC local’s story behind their favorite recipe with photos and prose of my attempt at recreating it. These recipes will vary in difficulty, but they will always be ones close to the heart. This newsletter will be sent on the third Sunday of each month as the name suggests.

Got suggestions for a chef or type of cuisine you want to see next? Fill out my suggestion form!
A fun note: Make sure to mark this email as NOT spam to avoid the newsletter regularly ending up in the abyss. Sometimes Mailchimp email campaigns go straight to spam.

Meet Olga.

She started her DC food blog, Mango & Tomato, in June 2008. An economist during the day,she enjoys trying new foods and restaurants in the area while blogging her favorite recipes, including Russian recipes she revisits from her childhood in Moscow. Her iconic name follows the trend of two foods as a blog name, and Olga chose her favorite fruit and vegetable. She didn’t realize until recently that inspiration had come five years earlier when she was staying at a tomato farmer’s home in Israel, which happened to have mango trees out front. Olga may never use measurements when cooking, which proved to be difficult when posting recipes on her blog, but since she knows exactly how to cook from the heart, her recipes are full of flavor and soul.
Explore her blog. Discover her Instagram.

The story behind her food.

Olga and I met at the pop-up-turned-trendy-restaurant Taco Bamba in Gallery Place. She had requested we meet there after her first time attending a CorePower Yoga class nearby. While I only ordered the breakfast taco (with deliciously spicy chorizo and pickled onions sprinkled onto a soft egg, wrapped in a warm tortilla), Olga ordered her favorites: the roasted squash, breakfast and beef tongue tacos. She told me her mom typically makes beef tongue in a pressure cooker, and while it may seem unconventional, it’s a tasty, nostalgic meal for her. I took her word for the taste of the tongue and pressed her to tell me about her childhood and her relationship with food.

I originally reached out to Olga on Instagram after discovering her profile in a thread about DC influencers. She immediately agreed and suggested her potato salad as the recipe to feature since it was nostalgic for her. I read through the post on her site about how her mother made the potato salad frequently for celebrations, and I got excited about the potential for a story. I suggested we could add a second recipe to compliment it, so Olga chose her dad’s borsch recipe. Two traditional Russian recipes made by each of her parents throughout her childhood were the jackpot of stories, and they each represent her two parents, she says.

The potato salad has always been in Olga’s life. She grew up admiring her mother’s uniform cuts of each vegetable, complemented by the perfect ratio of mayo, and then enjoying leftovers for days after. Once they were old enough, Olga and her sister would assist her mother in meticulously chopping everything into perfect bite-sized pieces.  For her, the uniformity of the cut vegetables and cooking the potatoes to the perfect texture are the most important parts of the recipe. The mayo is the tastiest component, according to Olga, but the apples add a sour and fresh element. Some people may add cubed lunch meat or kidney beans, but she keeps it simple. Now, she may not make the potato salad as frequently as her mom did, but her mom makes it every time she visits home, and she whips up a large batch each year to celebrate the new year. Olga confirms she will be making potato salad to celebrate the start of 2020. Naturally, she will cook enough to have leftovers for every meal in the following week.

Now for the borsch without the “t.” Olga says there is no “t” on the end of the word because the beet soup is spelled without a “t” in Russian, so she and her dad always drop it. Her dad also taught her how to perfect her borsch, which is a comforting, magenta soup full of cabbage, potatoes and, of course, beets. Her maternal grandmother even credits her father for making borsch that is better than her mom’s — high praise, according to Olga. After moving to the US in 1993, Olga and her family continued their diet of cooking several servings of potato salad and borsch, among other things, then eating them for days. Now, Olga makes the soup at least three times in the winter and makes a different version of the recipe in the summer. When I made the soup and updated her on the outcome, she wished she had a big bowl to taste test. Her dad may occasionally throw in zucchini or parsnips, but Olga sticks to the basics for her borsch. The most important ingredient here is the beets, especially some freshly grated beets thrown in at the end for more color. Some people say they dislike the earthy tone of beets, but Olga says she doubts it tastes like dirt because she’s never tried dirt.

Fans and followers argue with Olga over the origin of the soup, whether it’s Ukrainian or Russian, but she says her mother is Russian and her father is Ukrainian, so she has her bases covered. She says the origin of the soup is up for argument, but what matters is that it’s delicious. 

Olga doesn’t always make complicated, long recipes, or just Russian food. She typically cooks what she’s craving or whatever’s in her fridge for dinners or meal prep for the week, but her Russian Recipes Revisited series on her blog is full of food she knows like the back of her hand.

Want to learn how to cook classic borsch and Russian potato salad?


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