Borscht – a European comfort food

Beets, which belong to the same family as chard and spinach, are loaded with vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C and are the foundation of Europeans’ beloved borscht. There are two main variants of borscht, generally referred to as hot and cold. Both are based on beets, but are otherwise prepared and served differently.

Hot borscht

Hot borscht, the most popular in the majority of cultures, is a hearty soup. It is almost always made with a broth made of beets. It usually contains heavy starchy vegetables including potatoes and beets, but may also contain carrots, spinach, and meat. It may be eaten as a meal in itself, but is usually eaten as an appetizer with thick dark bread.

Cold borscht

Cold borscht exists in many different cultures. Some of these include Lithuanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian cultures. This recipe from The Food Network has a nice balance of flavours. Garnished with the traditional sour cream and fresh dill, the presentation is fabulous. Yield is 10 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/8 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium russet potato (3/4 pound), peeled, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped red cabbage (about 1/4 small head)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 cups (or more) vegetable or chicken stock
  • 6 2-inch-diameter beets, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup drained canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Mutsu apple, peeled and grated
  • Rice wine vinegar, to taste
  • Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Sour cream, for garnish
  • Chopped fresh dill, for garnish

Directions

  1. Wrap the bay leaf, peppercorns, mustard seeds, parsley, thyme sprigs and garlic in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it securely with a piece of string. This is called a bouquet garni.
  2. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat.
  3. Add potatoes, cabbage and onion and sauté until cabbage softens, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add vegetable stock, bouquet garni, beets, tomatoes and apple.
  5. Bring soup to boil.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the bouquet garni.
  8. Puree 4 cups of the soup in a blender and return to the pot so that the soup will still be chunky.
  9. If desired, thin soup with more vegetable stock.
  10. Add rice wine vinegar to taste and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Ladle soup into bowls.
  12. Top with dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with dill.

Enjoy!

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