Thursday, April 7, 2016

Beet Borscht Soup from The Old Country


I don't know what made me make this blazing red beet borscht. As a child I turned my nose up at it. I don't even recall a spoonful of this passing through my lips or even close to them. Heaven forbid. It is only in my adult years that I discovered that beets are pretty good. Yes they are very red, but they are pretty good and very pretty in all their colorful forms, be it  gold or candy striped. Maybe it is nostalgia that made me make this. Maybe I just had to see for myself what this borscht was all about. I will always recall the jar of borscht  from Manischewitz,   kept in our fridge, specifically reserved for when my father came home for lunch; not that any of us kids would touch it. He ceremoniously poured it into a bowl and topped it with a dollop of sour cream and slurped away while reading the Chicago Tribune.



I'm not sure I've told you that my father came from Lithuania in 1938 when he was 7 years old, aboard the Normandy, with his parents, brother and sister, while narrowly escaping the demise of their village. Most of the family was not so lucky. My father is from the OLD Country-as he puts it- where I guess they eat food like red borscht. And potatoes. And cabbage. And bread. And had no toys! (So my father always told us.) As a child I thought Lithuania must be a very cold place, because when I stared at the family passport photo, everyone wore heavy coats. They came to Ellis Island in August when wearing a coat must have made them quite hot, so then I presume they ate their borscht cold-because borscht can be had both ways. Neither was very appealing, to say the least, when I was a wee one.


My mother told me that she used to prepare borscht for my father using meat-probably short ribs or brisket-but my mother always had a thing for short ribs. She told me she actually copied the recipe down from a Time Life cookbook that had gorgeous photos and at the time was too expensive for her to buy. Now I am curious what this book may have looked like, so I'll have to peruse Amazon and see if I can snag a few copies.

So I made this borscht while baking hamentaschen, which makes me quite the Bubby, I think. Even though I am far from being a Bubby; though my own Bubby had I believe- about 8 grand kids at my age-the oldest being moi. I never ate her borscht either-but I do remember eating sugar cubes that were hiding in her cupboard. While I was making this borscht Manservant poked his head in and said that it looks like I was making peasant food. Well...borscht is peasant food. It contains cabbage and potatoes and onions and yeah-beets. I asked if he'd like a spoonful and he politely replied, " That's OK. I'll pass". Ah, I thought-more for me- which is what my mother probably said years ago.


And so it is, I made my first bowl of borscht. I still can't imagine eating it cold, but nothing beats a bowl of hot borscht on a cold day. I may not be from the Old Country, but I'm proud to say that peasant food or not, those Bubbies way back when, knew what they were doing. Using whatever staples were available to them, they came up with a soup that has withstood time. Thank goodness I've finally made it. I hope my kids don't wait so long.


Beet Borscht Soup
Serves 4-6
Time to Make: About 30 minutes prep and 75 minutes for soup to cook
Adapted From: The Community Table
Ingredients:
1 t caraway seeds (optional)
1 lb beets, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1-1/1/2 t kosher salt
4-5 c chicken stock or veggie stock
1/2 lb Yukon gold potatoes-cut into 1/2" cubes
1 1/2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 c chopped red onions
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into 1/2" thick half moons
2 c chopped green cabbage
1-2 T chopped fresh dill
1-1 1/2 T cider vinegar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 T of honey or to taste
1 1/4 c tomato puree
1 T raisins-optional
Freshly Ground black pepper
Garnishes:
Sour Cream or Yogurt
Chopped Fresh Dill
Directions:
If you are using the caraway, toast it in a small skillet over medium heat until lightly colored. Set aside. (I don't like caraway, so I don't use it.)

In a large heavy bottomed pot, combine beets and 1/2 t salt with 4 c of stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beets are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and continue to simmer until the veggies are fork tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer veggies to a medium bowl and set aside. Reserve cooking liquid.

In a heavy bottomed soup pot, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, stir to coat with oil and saute one minute. Add the caraway-if using-1/2 t salt and saute until onions are translucent about 5 minutes. Add celery, carrots, and cabbage. Add reserved cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are fork tender, 10-15 minutes. Add the reserved potatoes and beets, dill to taste, vinegar to taste, lemon juice, honey, tomato puree and raisins, if using. Season with salt and pepper.

Uncover the pot and simmer slowly for 30-40 minutes. Add more stock if mixture gets too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more vinegar to taste. Serve in bowls, with a big hunk of bread and garnish with sour cream and dill.

More to try:
Chicken Soup Chicken
Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Meatballs
Matzoh Ball Soup
Onion Crusted Potato Kugel Casserole
Flourless, Gluten Free Passover Fudge Cake

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39 comments:

  1. I CAN SEND YOU THE RECIPE FOR THE tIME- LIFE ONE IF YOU'D LIKE. dAD AND I STILL LIKE IT. I consider it a MEAT borscht and the one from the Manischevitz jar a cold summer borscht. Loved reading this and the fact that you'd become a WOMAN when it comes to eating formerly verboten childhood foods.

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    1. Send it Mom, but I know I won't use the beef. Sorry! At 58 years old, I'm now a woman? And this is all it took?

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  2. I'll have my borscht hot, too! We've had rain, sleet and snow today---where is spring???! LOL at your hubby, mine wouldn't have even taken a taste. I'd be happy to have it all to myself.

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    1. Well, the weather was gorgeous here. I am so ready for Spring. Manservant didn't have a taste either!

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  3. This may be a duplicate -- delete if it is (I think I misclicked, and didn't hit the "publish" button). Anyway, beets are really good, aren't they? I really didn't like them when I was a kid (probably because my mom only served canned ones -- straight from the can!), but I've come to love them. I usually them mainly in salads, but borscht is SO good. I'm in the hot camp when it comes to this soup, but I like it cold, too. Anyway, super recipe -- thanks so much.

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    1. Thanks John! Now I guess I'll have to try the cold, but I feel happy that I just conquered this! And now I'm a woman! See 1st comment!LOL!

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  4. WOW! This recipe is loaded with full of flavors and something new to me. Looks super delicious and lovely color!

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    1. Thanks Kushi! New to me, too! And it was super good! Thanks for visiting!

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  5. Wish my husband loved beet!! He would rather eat green kale than beet cooked at any form! I adore beets and this soup looks really tasty, Abbe.

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    1. Thanks Angie! Wish Manservant loved beet, too!

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  6. We lived all during the 90's in Estonia and ate a lot of.....spelling is wrong but....it is called silianka and has meat. Sorry for the spelling but would love to have a good recipe for it. Here in Western NY our weather is so cold and I would love to make something different and then I remembered how we loved that soup in Estonia. YUM!

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    1. I've heard of that! This will surely hit the spot in NY! Thanks for commenting!

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  7. I've never had but it sounds wonderful! I love the color and the ingredient list is perfect. I made beet hummus one time - it was very pink :) Have a lovely weekend!

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    1. Great ingredients. I made beet hummus, too! I loved it, but not much of a hit with others. I don't know why!

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  8. Hi Abbe, I have not had borscht in years. We used to slurp it with a dollop of sour cream too, lools delicious, love the color.

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    1. Thanks Cheri! Definitely a slurping soup!

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  9. Beets are definitely "adult food". I'd go as far as saying they're one of the great things about being an adult. GREG

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  10. Like you, I hated beets as a child but have grown to love them. I had my first bowl of borscht in Russia and absolutely loved it! Terrific story about your family coming from Lithuania - they must have been so grateful to arrive in safety.

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    1. Very grateful, but I'm sure it was hard to leave. In fact, my grandfather actually tried to go to Mexico a few years earlier. He got to the port in France and actually ran into a man from his village who had just come back. Said it was to hot and so my grandfather turned around and headed home. He had a sister in Illinois, so she was able to sponsor him.

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  11. I've never made borscht, but I love beets. It's such a pretty color too. I need to try making it!

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    1. You should try. I was so pleasantly surprised!

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  12. My sister used to make this delicious soup all the time. However, it was never as pretty as yours so vibrant and pink. Good soup for between seasons.

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    1. Good for all seasons. Was your sister's similar?

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  13. It looks beautiful and vibrant!

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  14. Oh, Abbe, this soup is just lovely (and so are your fantastic photos of it)! I can't remember specifically liking beets as a kid, either - but at some point I had a little beet epiphany and now I like them a lot! I especially adore pickled beets on salad! But anyway ... this gorgeous soup ... I just love the list of ingredients! So much terrific nutrition and really wonderful flavors! I am so totally pinning this one! :D ~Shelley

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    1. This is a good one for you Shelley! It is delicious and wholesome and very nutritious! Thanks!

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  15. Wow! What a vibrant and healthy looking soup. Love how this is bursting out with so many delicious flavors. A must try recipe!

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    1. Thanks Anu! Let me know how it turns out!

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  16. I also cannot get my husband to eat beets, even as much as I love them - especially roasted in the oven. I love every ingredient in borscht so I'm sure I would enjoy it although I've never had it in my life. Must go on my bucket list! I loved reading the exchange between you and your mom :)

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    1. Too funny Susan! My newest obsession is spiralized beets. I toss them with some salt and olive oil and roast them until they are crispy. Oh man. These are divine!

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  17. I just had beet borscht once and I enjoyed it...I like beets in salad, and yet have to make borscht, one day I will get daring and try to make. Thanks for the recipe Abbe...have a great week :)

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    1. It is interesting all the ways to use beets. Funny how I used to think they just came in jars! Thanks, Juliana!

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  18. I can't remember the last time I had borscht and yours sounds especially good.

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    1. Thanks Karen! Great and simple recipe for borscht!

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  19. The last time I had borscht was 2 years ago , I think , and courtesy of Mr Campbell's lol I like roasted beets but haven't tried it in soup yet . I bet if you add a slab of meat to your borscht your Manservant will love it :D

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