Now, I think beets are good. Tasty root vegetable, sweet, crunchy, happily colored.
Around here people are put off by them because they’re pink. And when I used to bring borscht, the traditional Eastern European beet soup, for lunch, invariably, there would someone who’d look in my tupperware, and go, “Ewww, that’s pink, what is that?”
What is borscht? Well, that would depend who you ask. Every cook has a recipe of their own, and every region has their own signature way of making it. For example, the Ukranians make it with pork fat; the Russians with beef; the Jews go vegetarian.
When I was little, we went away on vacation, rented a room in a house in a Ukranian town on the Azov sea. There was a Ukranian family living there too; they’d make a giant pot of borscht and leave it on the stove, and eat from it for breakfast, lunch and dinner until it ran out. Then they’d make more.
This is my borscht, courtesy of mom and grandma.
Borscht, plain and simple
a handful of shredded cabbage
2 small or 1 big tomato
1 carton low sodium chicken broth or two cans
good bunch parsley
good bunch dill
butter or olive oil
salt, pepper, sugar
1) Peel beets and carrots, and grate/julienne them. This is very easy in a food processor. If you don’t have one, it’s ok to just do a rough chop.
2) Chop onion. Heat up oil or butter in pan, add onion, cook until starts to smell delicious.
3) Add in beets and carrots. Lower flame, and cook maybe 15 minutes until it looks “tired” as my mom says, ie, soft.
4) Add to a soup pot. Add handful cabbage too. (I cheat and get pre-shredded bags of cole slaw here) Cabbage is optional, just gives it body. You shouldn’t overpower the soup with the cabbage, it’s literally, a handful. Pour chicken broth over it, and also, maybe half cup water.
5) Now, quarter the tomatoes. If you wanna truly get fancy, you can blanch and peel them, but meh, not necessary. Throw the tomatoes in. Salt pepper, and a teaspoon or two of sugar, to offset the acidity, but not too much, as beets are naturally a sugary vegetable. It’s important to have that perfect balance of sweet and sour here, recognizing this isoelectric point comes with experience, and depends on your palate. You can also forgo the tomatoes; in this case, if you taste the soup and it’s too sweet, then you can squirt some lemon juice in.
6) You can chop up the greens and throw them in, or tie them in a bouquet, put them in, then take them out.
7) If you like a thicker consistency, you might want to add a whole potato or two here – I didn’t this time.
8) Bring to boil, then lower heat, and simmer for an hour, hour and a half. Taste; adjust seasoning.
9) Serve up with generous dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of fresh dill and/or parsley, and a slab of molasses black rye bread from the Russian store – ask for Borodinsky. It’s the best. If not, thick slab of pumpernickel will do.
This is the bread; albeit, not the best brand – the best brand is the one with the green packaging.