From my Borscht to You
My father has raved and raved about a Borscht soup he used to have over at his Ukrainian friend when he was a school going kid. He just never stops talking about it. Now, a few years ago, I have never cooked beets, I only knew of them pickled or canned. And really, not like they were laying about looking pretty in the supermarkets. But my father kept at it and on a fine winter day, I made my first Borscht, I was so busy following the recipe, I did not see then simplicity of it. Also, I had added too much black pepper, it was a hot soup! I made it a few more times, changing it up a bit, depending on what I had in my pantry and fridge, I have even used vacuum packed pre-cooked beets to make it. I have also roasted the beets to make it. In the end, they were all good.
I don’t remember when I realized that Borscht is much like any winter soup, made with root vegetables and cabbage. I came across so many versions and all were good. Some are even creamed, now that I haven’t done yet because my father likes clear soups.
The soup I have made this time around was a stretch from any traditional Borscht, but oh so delicious.
Please think freely making this soup. Though I did not use red cabbage as I didn't have any, the soup was still a lovely color, I did not have any cabbage at all, I cheated terribly and use Romain lettuce, just added it before I served it. The family raved it was such a good idea. So here we go.
From my Borscht to You
Yields 12 Servings. (approximately)
4 stalks celery
1 large onion
2 large carrots or as many smaller carrots you like
1 red or colored pepper of your liking
1 giant large beet or lots of small ones
4-5 potatoes, peeled if older, no need to peel if thin skinned
3 garlic cloves (smashed and diced finely)
Zucchini (whatever you have, or omit it completely)
5-6 Italian tomatoes, or other kind, or even one can of diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp. Apple Cider vinegar
8 cups chicken broth (homemade, or not, no worries, beef stock works well too!)(Use vegetable stock if you wish a vegetarian version)
Lettuce of any kind, including Romaine
Chop all your vegetables into smallish even pieces. Whatever size you prefer.
Get the heat going under a large Dutch oven pot or other at medium heat. Add butter and /or olive oil or both.
Start by adding the onions, celery, carrots and peppers. Stir for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables, the salt, pepper and smoked paprika to the pot. Let the whole mixture sweat for at least 15 minutes.
Tip: Sweating vegetables for soups: That is one of my secrets, to let vegetables sweat before adding stock; they will release their own flavors into the pot, you will add less stock and it will taste so much better.
Add the stock and the apple cider vinegar. Let the soup simmer for about 40 minutes, give or take, depending on the size of your vegetables. Before serving at the lettuce and simmer another few minutes.
Now this soup is so healthy it is crazy, it is also great with grill cheese sandwiches, a fresh bread, or on its own, it reheats fabulously also. If I was to add meat to it, I would probably add cubed ham.
Tip: If you wish to use red cabbage or any cabbage, at it with the second batch of vegetables, red cabbage definitely brings the soup to a deeper red.
Serve it, inhale it, love it and share it!