Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Here is a recipe I've been meaning to make since about the year 2000, when I first tried homemade borscht.  I really remember the very day I stood in my great friend Alana's kitchen, and we dove in to the cold borscht her mom had made for a hot summer dish.  Never have I had a borscht as good since, not even when I was in Ukraine.  Once I bought horseradish for the horseradish dill potato salad post, I knew the time had finally come to try it out on my own.

I perused a bunch of borscht recipes online, and was sort of glad to see there are so many variations out there.  That seems to be a sign that recipes like these are passed on through generations, each family having their own version.  At the same time, the methods varied quite a bit, so I knew I needed to go to the source and ask Alana for her mom's recipe (which she gladly gave).  

Buuuut, I sort of jumped the gun when buying what seemed to be common ingredients - beets, carrots, cabbage, etc.  As it turns out, cabbage is more common for hot winter borscht (which could have fooled me, because it was awesome in this cold version).  Mrs. D's cold version includes diced potatoes and spinach (added at the very end).  So, with a little improvisation, I used Mrs. D's recipe as a guide.  The soup is absolutely delicious, healthy, and refreshing (not to mention visually stunning) for an August day. 

Ingredients (makes about 6 servings):
  • 5-6 medium-sized beets
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 small head of savoy cabbage, cored and sliced thinly
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp. horseradish paste 
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. chopped dill, plus more for garnish
  • greek yogurt or sour cream optional for garnish
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

Scrub and trim the stems and any roots from your beet bulbs, and add to a large pot of water.  Bring to a boil, and let the beets cook for 25-30 minutes.  You know they are done when they are easily pierced by a fork (and they'll slide right off).  When finished, remove from water and set aside to cool.
While the beets are boiling, you can chop and grate the onion and carrots.  If you have a second large pot, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil, add the onion and carrot, season with salt, and cook until soft.  If not, you may want to wait until your beets are cooked to use the pot, but just make sure you save the beet water.
After the onion and carrots have cooked about five minutes, add the vegetable stock, cabbage, bay leaf, horseradish, and about 2 cups of the beet water.  Bring this to a boil, and then let simmer for 15 minutes.  Since I used low-sodium vegetable stock, mine needed quite a bit of seasoning.  (And don't worry, it's not supposed to be red yet.)
As the stock simmers, peel the beets with a paring knife.  You can choose to either grate them, or cut them into matchsticks, depending on the texture you prefer.  
Add the beets and about 2 tbsp. chopped dill to the pot.  Cook for another 10 minutes and remove from heat.
The soup will be delicious hot, but I prefer it cold and garnished with greek yogurt, dill, and more horseradish.

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