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!
- 1 box of beef broth
- 1 bag of shredded cabbage
- 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.)
- 2 potatoes
- 2 carrots
- 1 medium onion
- olive oil, kosher salt and pepper
- 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:
- 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.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium or large pot
- Chop onions into a medium dice, and add to pot once oil is ready to go.
- Chop carrots and potatoes to roughly the same size, medium dice. Add to pot. Stir.
- Chop beets to same size, and add to pot.
- Salt generously, add pepper to taste and stir.
- Cook, covered, until the potatoes have softened.
- Uncover, add the bag of cabbage, the beef broth and the dill. Stir to combine.
- Let simmer, uncover, stirring occasionally until the ingredients have sort of melded together.
- 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.
- 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.