I’ve been making borscht since my early days in New York City when I first ate the soup at Uncle Vanya’s on 54th street and I discovered the timing of beets and cabbage coming into the farmers market as the last of summer’s tomatoes were on the wane. As someone who is not always fall’s biggest fan, this soup offered a way to gracefully bridge the seasonal transition. I have a large and growing repertoire of soups, but this is the one that always says fall. With our rainy week (and clouds and thunder now disrupting our sunny Saturday and the damp clothes being whisked off the line), and in honor of my Peace Corps friends Veronica and David beginning their new chapter today in Kiev, the menu is homemade borscht. And yes, it does get a bit messy with the beets.
Borscht (Russian beet soup)
Saute in your big soup pot
2 Tbs canola oil
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
2 large beets, peeled and chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
Half a small red cabbage, chopped
1 tsp salt to help it all sweat
1 large can diced tomatoes (or peel and chop your own)
Enough broth to cover vegetables (I use Better than Bouillon veggie paste, but beef broth is traditional)
2 bay leaves
2-3 sprigs of fresh dill
2-3 medium to large potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ tsp pepper
Bring to a boil and simmer up to 45 minutes until everything is tender. Finish at the end with a splash (2 Tbs) of red wine or red wine vinegar.
Let it cool. Pull out your bay leaves, but leave the dill. Then put through your blender to make a lovely red puree. Add salt to taste.
To serve, heat and pour in bowls. Traditionally it is served with a dollop of sour cream and snips of fresh dill. I prefer a dollop of my Siggi’s Icelandic-style plain yogurt. Serve with black bread and butter. Or gluten-free black rice bread with earthbalance spread. And suddenly fall feels so much more manageable!