Recipes from the Historian’s Cookbook

Alexander Lee | Published 08 June 2018

Allen Ginsberg’s Cold Summer Borscht

Born into a Jewish family in New Jersey, the poet Allen Ginsberg came to embody the 'Beat Generation'. But he was also famous for living extremely simply - even at the height of his fame. Among his favourite dishes was this recipe for cold summer borscht, which recalled both the flavours of his childhood home and his family's Russian origins. The directions and ingredients are given exactly as he wrote them. 

Serves 10-12 extremely hungry people. 

Dozen beets [UK beetroots] cleaned & chopped to bite size salad-size Strips
Stems & leaves also chopped like salad lettuce
All boiled together lightly salted to make a bright red soup, with beets now soft - boil an hour or more
Add Sugar & Lemon Juice to make the red liquid sweet & sour like Lemonade

Chill 4 gallon(s) of beet liquid.

Serve with: 
(1) Sour Cream on table
(2) Boiled small or halved potato on the side (i.e. so hot potatoes don't heat the cold soup prematurely)
(3) Spring salad on table to put into cold red liquid
1) Onions - sliced (spring onions)
2) Tomatoes - sliced bite-sized
3) Lettuce - ditto
4) Cucumbers - ditto
5) a few radishes

Via the Allen Ginsberg Project

Pizza Marinara

In the mid-19th century, Neapolitan fishermen were fond of eating this simple, but hearty pizza for breakfast, before heading out to sea. Indeed, so eagerly did they wolf it down that, according to legend, it was named the ‘seafaring pizza’ (pizza marinara) in their honour.

Makes three good-sized pizzas.

Pizza Dough

4 cups / 18oz Italian tipo ‘00’ flour or bread flour
1 ½ cups / 12 fl oz water
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon active dry yeast

  1. Place the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well, until the dough is smooth.
  2. Shape into a ball and cover with a clean cloth. Allow to rise for around two hours, or until it has doubled in size.   
  3. Punch the dough down to remove the air bubbles.
  4. Divide into three roughly equal pieces, and shape each into a ball.
  5. Pinch the top of each ball, and gently stretch the dough, wrapping it around the rest of the ball as you go, so that it forms a sort of outer coat. 
  6. Dust lightly with flour, and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to ‘prove’ for around an hour.

Marinara Topping

230g / 8oz. chopped tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
olive oil
oregano

  1. Preheat your oven to 250°C (480°F)/ fan 200°C (390°F).
  2. Stretch the balls of dough into circles and place on a non-stick pizza pan.
  3. Put 1/3 of the tomato, a few slices of garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of oregano onto each pizza. Use your fingers to distribute the toppings evenly.   
  4. Bake for 5-10 mins, or until the edge is golden brown. 
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