Sunday, January 11, 2009

Professorial Borscht

Any cold weather naturally calls for soup, but soup season seems to heighten after the New Year, when we are craving both cozy, warming comfort foods, and light cleansing dishes to refresh and renew us as we embark on the gift of a new year.

I confess I haven't cooked beets very frequently in the past year, largely because of their lengthy baking time. When I came across a tip on microwaving beets in the most recent Bon Appetit issue, however, I was astounded that I hadn't thought of the solution earlier. I confess I was a bit skeptical at first (after all, beets are quite a bit harder than potatoes - I usually put my cleaver to use when chopping beets, even though I always feel a bit comically over-armed whenever I'm wielding a cleaver on beets, for goodness sake), but lo and behold, after 15 minutes, during which I was puttering about in the kitchen fixing the rest of our meal, the beets were perfectly tender and positively scrumptious, just as they were...

I decided they should have one more simple step, though... Our stuffed peppers seem to have brought on a rush of food nostalgia, for I found myself fixing yet another of my childhood dishes, borscht, with the lovely beets. Borscht is originally and traditionally an Eastern European dish, which has found its way into the giant soup pot of Jewish and Israeli cuisines as well. When I was growing up, my mother's borscht was very simple, consisting of just finely grated beets in a simple broth, which she always served cold with dollops of sour cream, even in the wintertime. Borscht was one of my favorite dishes, and I recall many a meddlesome cold being chased away by a cheerfully crimson bowl of beets and sour cream. It wasn't until I went away to college that I discovered, thanks to a fellow foodie professor, the heartier, warm version of borscht, complete with potatoes, onions, and sometimes cabbage. To this day, my borscht is still based on my recollections of the beautifully simple recipe she narrated to me as we sat in her office, supposedly discussing my progress on the latest research paper assignment...

Borscht (with gratitude to Dr. Regis)

8 beets, quartered
6 cups vegetable broth
1 T olive oil
1 large sweet vidalia onion, chopped
3 large potatoes, cooked (once again, the microwave comes in handy) and cut into cubes
Sour cream or vegan yogurt

~ Place the beets in a large, microwave safe bowl, and pour in 3 cups vegetable broth. Cover with a paper towel, and microwave for 15 minutes (until the beets are tender).
~ In a large soup pot, saute the onion in the olive oil over medium-high heat until the onion is soft and translucent.
~ Stir in the beets, potato chunks, and the remaining 3 cups broth.
~ Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and add salt and pepper to taste.
~ Serve warm, with dollops of sour cream or vegan yogurt on top!

* This is my entry to the wonderful, delicious, inspiring food blog event No Croutons Required, created by Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen, and Holler of Tinned Tomatoes. Lisa is hosting this month's event, which is themed, much to my delight, "nourishing veggie soups!" Be sure to visit Lisa's blog for the scrumptious round-up! *


Lucy said...

If only I hadn't given my microwave oven away!

I think a cleaver is THE best way to tackle them - especially the giant, woody winter variety.

I must confess that I've never made borscht, which, clearly having just read this, is a huge shame. Bookmarked, for winter. Thanks!

Lorraine E said...

Borscht is one of my favourite soups ever! Thankyou for the recipe, it looks delicious :)

Bellini Valli said...

I just love Borscht but don't often take the time to preapre it (even though it almost makes itself)

VeggieGirl said...

Confession = I've never even TRIED a beet before, haha!! I'm intimidated by preparing/cooking them :-)

Gorgeous soup!!

The Diva on a Diet said...

You're so right about craving soup at this time of year. Me too! I love both beet and borscht - though I do prefer the hot version. This recipe looks excellent and I'm going to have try that microwave tip too. Thanks!

Yasmeen said...

Borscht is a very nourishing soup with beets,love it:)

Gita's Kitchen said...

Delicious-looking soup...such a healthy soup....

Lisa said...

Thank you for this mouthwatering entry. Borscht is one of my very favorite soups.

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Meg Wolff said...

You site is looking great!! I LOVE beets.