January 2015: See my new updated version of this recipe HERE!
Borscht, according to Merriam-Webster: a soup made primarily of beets and served hot or cold often with sour cream.
Borscht, according to Me: an amazingly delicious concoction of sweet beets and other root veggies cooked with lots of fresh dill that I love eating hot or cold often with Greek yogurt right out of the Tupperware the morning after I’ve made it (which I’m doing right now).
Take either definition… it’s mighty scrumptious stuff.
I’ve been participating in a CSA… I get a fresh box of locally grown organic veggies every Friday from the Santa Cruz Homeless Garden Project (it’s awesome, and a great way to support a good cause!). Not only do I get a plethora of fresh veggies each week, I get a heap of surprise veggies every week! I never know what it’s gonna be… whatever is in season finds its way into my fridge. This week, I got a load of beets! Naturally, I turned to one of my favorite soups ever… this is my take on borscht. 🙂
There are a ton of variations of Borscht. It’s origin stems from Eastern European countries such as Russia, Poland, and the Ukraine. Some have meat, some have cabbage, some are hot, some are cold. Since I don’t really follow rules in the kitchen, it may not taste exactly like the beet soup you may have had before… it’s a version I’ve created from the teachings of my amazing mother- and I love it 🙂
In my CSA this week, I got these amazing little carrots, an assortment of beets, some beautiful spring onions, and some fresh dill. Perfect… the main ingredients for my favorite beet soup!! In this version of Borscht, I also add potatoes, some celery (though I gotta say this week my supply was pretty weak… I usually add another stalk or two), chicken stock (use veggie for a vegetarian version), bay leaves, and my mom’s ‘secret’ ingredient… caraway seeds. Well, I usually use caraway seeds anyway… couldn’t find any in my spice cabinet at the moment, so opted for fennel seeds instead, a great substitute in my opinion. In the last couple of years, I started adding red wine vinegar also- it balances the sweetness out and adds a nice subtle acidity (thanks to my sis for the tip!!). I feel like you really can’t mess this soup up though, no matter what you do. That’s what awesome about soups- they’re really hard to botch- you chop things up, throw them together, and stir. Of course, you need to get your flavors balanced, but with a little tasting, adjusting, and continued stirring, you can make a wonderful soup to enjoy for days (though mine never last that long). I suppose my favorite thing about this soup in particular is that, in addition to being super healthy, delicious, and easy, it’s really good both hot and cold (not true for most soups). I love it warm the night I make it equally as much as I do the next day cold right out of the fridge… this means you can make it in summer, fall, winter, or whenever you want! It’s sweet, savory, and comforting any time of year.
To start your Borscht, you need some goodies from the produce aisle (or from your fridge if you have ’em… since my beets were from my CSA, I had a variety of sizes and shapes- mostly teeny little guys. Chances are you’ll be getting yours from a store, which means they’ll likely be large and round- in that case, you’ll only need a few beets, not ten random little ones like I had.
You can make changes as you want… for example, I had cabbage right in my fridge- ready to go, and while I know it’s traditional to use in Borscht, I chose not to because I like my soup to be mostly root vegetables… smooth and sweet. But adjust however you want… like I said, hard to ruin this one 🙂
2-3 cups fresh beets
1 onion, about 1 cup chopped
a few carrots, about 1 cup chopped
a few small potatoes or 1 large, about 1 cup chopped
a few stalks celery, about 1/2 cup chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
about 3/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp caraway seed (substitue fennel seed if preferred)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 tsp red wine vinegar (substitute apple cider vinegar if preferred)
couple tbsp olive oil
extra salt and pepper, to taste