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February 05, 2011


Continuing my Red theme, I decided to share my all time comfort food: Borscht. Conveniently, my dad was coming back from his short trip to Russia and I wanted to treat him to a bowl of this ruby red hearty soup. There are many recipes for this dish out there, each equally delicious, but I share the one I've knows since I started making it myself.
This dish is known to the world mostly as Russian as Russian people are often called "Borscht eaters". However, other Slavic nations claim that Borscht is their invention. Some even say that it was created by Ancient Romans who grew tons of cabbage and beets specifically for this soup.
The name of Borscht, containing only one vowel and four consonants making it its not-so-easy to pronounce, came from Slavic word "бърщь" [brsch] meaning "beets". The soup has over 40 varieties, including cold--as they eat it in Lithuania, but it can be very easy to make.
I'm not going to bore you history of this rich red soup only because I don't really know it myself, but I know one thing--it is a delicious vitamin powerhouse! Key ingredients are available almost all year round so you can have bowl any time. It is fun to make especially for those cooks who love chopping. If you aren't found of this meticulous task, don't blame the unsharpened knife--sharpen your knife skills (and preparing borscht will be a good practice), or just buy pre-chopped veggies at your grocery store. Although you will find bagged chopped cabbage (cal slaw mix) or carrots (matchstick cup carrots) you will not find chopped beets. Well, at least I never seen any.
Besides all the vegetables, it is made with fresh herbs--parsley, dill and cilantro--but if fresh is not available, you can use dry. In fact, for following recipe I used dry dill and parsley but fresh cilantro (that's what I had). Sometimes, borscht is served with pirojki (Russian fried hot pockets with potatoes) but dinner rolls or french baguette will do, too. It is mostly served with sour cream.
You can make vegetarian borscht ("lenten" as it is known in Russia) or with any meat and poultry, preferably on the bone. Today, I'm sharing with beef-based soup, for it was made especially for my dad, who is a carnivorous! Oh, and another thing that makes my version easier--I use only one pot unlike other recipes, that call for skillet to sauté veggies.
2 TB spoons olive oil
about a pound beef ribs
1 cup chopped beets
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onions
2-3 cloves of garlic (pressed in garlic press) +couple more for serving
5 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2-3 bay leaves
1 dry chili pepper
2 TB spoons tomato paste
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dry dill weed
1 teaspoon dry parsley
about 12 oz shredded fresh white cabbage
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro for garnishing
Sour cream for serving
  1. Heat oil in a 10 qt. stock pot and brown beef ribs on one side until crispy and comes off easily, flip and repeat. Takes about 5 minutes per side to brown. Lower heat to medium.
  2. Add vegetables: onions, carrots, beets and garlic. Cover and sauté for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spices: dry herbs, bay leaves, chili, black pepper and salt. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring to prevent burning.
  3. Add potatoes and tomato paste, stir, cover and continue to simmer over med-low heat for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile boil 10 cups of water in a tea kettle.
  4. Pour 10 cups of boiling water, check for salt, adjust if needed; cover and continue to cook for 20 minutes over med-low heat or until potatoes are cooked.
  5. Add cabbage, cover and cook for another 10 minutes or until cabbage is cooked through.
  6. Turn the heat off, add fresh cilantro, cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
  7. Serve with additional fresh cilantro, freshly pressed garlic and sour cream. Melt and enjoy!
There's a joke: if you like yesterday's borscht, come by tomorrow--it is believed that borscht tastes best on a second day.

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