Because she loves you, Grandma Pellegrini made you a Valentines soup. She even put hearts in it. It’s a work of art. And because he loves you, Gordon snapped some photos of it. And because I love you, well… I’m just writing to tell you about it. I can’t take any credit. I can just share.

This is a root soup, colored with red beets. It is delicious, I have had it.

You should have it too… Grandma P. left you the recipe below. In her own words and everything.

It comes with hearts made of polenta in varying colors to suit your mood. Red ones, colored with beet juice in case you’re feeling it. Or white if you want to keep it simple.

And a cat tail for garnish.

The thing about Grandma P. is that she’s very good at presentation. That is part of why the food tastes so good.

And she has lots of charming salt and pepper shakers and plates and cloth napkins and the right silver spoons.

I use paper towel to wipe my face. I’m not nearly as classy. I am going to work on that starting this Valentines day.

She’s a perfectionist… watch:

Artist at work.

And then the perfect placement of the polenta.

Let’s take a look at these shall we? Good grief they’re perfect.

A little closer, shall we?

I want polenta for dinner for some reason.

And then the red ones. In case you want a second helping and want to try all the flavors.

Our email exchanges go like this…

Her: Have you planned your Valentine’s Day presentation yet? I’m trying out a chocolate truffle cookie recipe (yes with sugar, no Stevia). I’m going to try baking them in those cast iron heart molds. I have other heart shapes I like to use; one for Coeur a la Creme; others. I also like making red food; puddings, cookies, cake (Red Velvet Cake!). I use beet juice; it makes an intense red. Our annual meeting at the church falls on Valentiine’s Day this year, followed by a soup and bread pot-luck lunch. I’ll bring Borcht.

Me: It’s Valentines day? What month is it? Where am I? Did I miss a book deadline?

Her: Maybe I’ll have something ready by Sunday. Today’s plans came to a roaring halt when I realized the furnace was off. I’m still waiting for the repair man. Ah, he’s here.

Me: OK, just let me know…What do you think of this title for my book:

The Persimmon Masseuse
…and the unsung food heroes of our time

Her: It seems awfully complicated. I think you should stick to Food Heroes. I’ve decided what to make for the Valentine feature. Title: Valentine Bisque with Polenta. Shall I leave you guessing, or do you want to hear about it ahead of time? The problem is that I need to shop for a few things (or ask someone to get them for me) today. Snow tomorrow! I’m getting serious again about healthy eating after viewing a disturbing program about diabetes on Oprah yesterday. That’s why I decided not to do the desserts. I’m more comfortable with this non-health-threatening idea. It wll be equally pleasing to the eye.

And with that Grandma P. did what she calls her “practice run” for the church potluck.

She was going to make sweets, but I’m awefully glad she made this. I can almost taste it. Don’t you think?

Here is how to make it in her own words:

“Root Soup”

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4-5 cups

“Root Soup”


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 beet (medium), boiled in water, peeled, and diced
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 rutabaga, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 celeriac (optional), peeled and diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt to taste (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 3 cups water (plus more if needed)
  • 6 oz soft tofu (more for a lighter colored soup)


  1. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the vegetables and sauté them slowly for about 12 minutes, until translucent.
  3. Add hot water and salt (or broth if preferred) and cook for another 12 minutes.
  4. Transfer it all to a food processor. Add Tofu and process until smooth.
  5. Add more water or broth as needed.


A few helpful hints from Grandma P.:

Note 1: It would be good to warn them about invasive coloring of the beets; it gets on everything, the floor, the tablecloth, hands, even on the white hearts.

Note 2: I usually put another root in the soup: Ginger root; a few small slices, and a piece of lemon peel, though it's not a root .

“White Polenta”

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

“White Polenta”


  • 4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cup white cornmeal
  • 3-4 tablespoons grated Pecorino cheese (or your choice of cheese, but nothing too yellow!)


  1. In a large pot mix 4 cups of water with 1 teaspoon of salt.
  2. Slowly add the cornmeal, stirring rapidly. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook, stirring frequently for 18-22 minutes, until thickened.
  3. At this point you may stir in the grated Pecorino cheese.
  4. Pour it onto a platter or large flat pan to a thickness of about 1/3 inch and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
  5. Use a cookie cutter to cut out hearts. These may be served warm as is, or fried in butter (Polenta Brustula), but the color won’t stay as white.


Grandma P.'s Notes:

Note 1: Adding the corn meal before heating the water (the traditional method) helps to prevent lumps from forming.

Note 2: I forgot to mention that the pink hearts were made by cooking the polenta in the water I used to cook beets. Also, a really lovely red comes from adding the Tofu to tomato soup; I call that one 'Tomato Bisque'

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