Borscht Under My Belt

I’m a latecomer to borscht. Growing up, I would see the stuff in jars in the supermarket and think, “Gross!” But the summer I turned 16, I was in Israel, and spent a weekend hosted by a family in Haifa. I was served cold borscht, with a generous dollop of sour cream and a few slice of white bread. I turned a corner then but didn’t have borscht again for a long time. Years later, I visited my friend Yelena and her family in Toronto. Her mother, born and raised in Russia,  made a green borscht and packed it up for my train ride back to New York. This was the day of the Great Black-Out of 2003, and I was so grateful for that soup as my train sat in Utica for hours, waiting for electricity. I still think about that soup all the time.

The other day, I got hit with a craving for borscht. I was searching for winter soup recipes online, and saw a picture of borscht. Since then, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. I googled around for borscht recipes and discovered that there are as many borscht recipes as there are people. Some of the recipes were incredibly time-consuming and had ingredient lists miles long, in stark contrast to the recipe found in The Book of Jewish Food, which calls for 5 ingredients. I came up with a happy medium, creating the recipe below. Delicious, if I do say so myself and judging by the shout-out I got from my husband on Facebook, it’s not just me!

You’ll need:

  1. 1 box of beef broth
  2. 1 bag of shredded cabbage
  3. 2 bunches of beets (I had one bunch with small beets on it, and another bunch with medium-size beets. All together, it was six beets.) 
  4. 2 potatoes
  5. 2 carrots
  6. 1 medium onion
  7. olive oil, kosher salt and pepper
  8. Fresh dill, to taste. (I had frozen dill cubes in the freezer, and probably put about 4 or 5 cubes in the soup.) 
Then, you will: 
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Trim and scrub beets, coat with olive oil and place inside a foil pouch on a baking sheet. Bake until beets are soft, about 30 minutes. Let cool to the touch, and peel skins. 
  2. Heat the olive oil in a medium or large pot
  3. Chop onions into a medium dice, and add to pot once oil is ready to go. 
  4. Chop carrots and potatoes to roughly the same size, medium dice. Add to pot. Stir. 
  5. Chop beets to same size, and add to pot. 
  6. Salt generously, add pepper to taste and stir. 
  7. Cook, covered, until the potatoes have softened. 
  8. Uncover, add the bag of cabbage, the beef broth and the dill. Stir to combine. 
  9. Let simmer, uncover, stirring occasionally until the ingredients have sort of melded together. 
  10. Turn off heat, put about half or 3/4 of the soup into a blender and blend for a minute or less–it should still be a little chunky. Then, add it back to the pot and stir. 
  11. Serve at room temperature (or cold) with sour cream, and crusty bread. (We had delicious french batard baked locally, in nearby Norwalk, from a wonderful bakery called Wave Hill Breads. My Riverdale friends might wonder if there’s a connection. Yes! The owners were married at Wave Hill!) 
Even though borscht is an old-world classic Russian recipe, my grandmother never made it, as far as I know. She did, however, make delicious stuffed cabbage and that is next on my list of winter cravings to satisfy. Yum. 

4 thoughts on “Borscht Under My Belt”

  1. Looks good! Honestly, borscht totally grosses me out but I love beets in other forms. Mo loves borscht though (childhood memories, obv.) so I may need to get over myself and try this recipe out. I so hear that about food memories that fall at perfectly imperfect times and stick in your mind forever. Blackout green borscht, lol.

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