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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Beet. Beet. Borscht!

Inspired by the gorgeous, gorgeous borscht I saw on Rambling Spoon, I knew I was going to try making it soon.

By the time I stocked up on supplies, the weather had turned. A big pot of soup was perfect for today's gray skies and intermittent showers. Borscht, also spelled borsch or borshch, is a beet soup with Ukrainian origins. Borscht (English-speakers pronounce it with the T) made its way west to Eastern and Central Europe. Jewish immigrants brought the recipe with them to America. I've only had the tomato-based version, a frequent staple at Hong Kong cafes in the San Gabriel Valley.

But if I was going to make borscht for the first time, I knew I was going to make it with beets. Gloriously brilliant beets.

I've simplified the recipe as much as possible because I'm lazy like that. I eliminated the first step of making a stock and just put everything in the pot to simmer. The beets added so much flavor that you can easily omit the beef and make this vegetarian.

Adapted from Rambling Spoon. She says serving it with crumbled bacon is key. I also found a Russian borsch recipe, and a Ukrainian borsch recipe online. Between those three recipes, I came up with this.

For a 5-quart pot you'll need:

4 to 6 small to medium beets, peeled and diced
2 or 3 large beef marrow bones, beef neck bones, or oxtail bones
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 or 2 cups chopped cabbage
3 medium potatoes, diced
2 tomatoes, diced or 1 16-oz can diced tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp bay leaves
1 tsp caraway or rye seeds
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
2 tsp salt, or more to taste
1 small bunch fresh dill, mince and set aside half of the fronds for serving
1 small bunch fresh parsley, mince and set aside half of the fronds for serving

Optional: Sour cream, bacon crumbles, parsley, and dill to serve

Dice the vegetables. Set aside.

In a large stock pot, add a few drizzles of olive oil and saute mire poix (that fancy French word for carrots, celery, and onions). Add 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp caraway seeds, and 2 tsp bay leaves and sauté until fragrant and mire poix is softened.

Add beef bones and the rest of the ingredients. Add enough water to cover the bones by several inches.

Simmer on medium-low for about an hour for beefy flavor, or half an hour if you're making a vegetarian version. Before serving, fish out the beef bones, shred any meat, and add that back into the pot. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, bacon crumbles, and the chopped fresh parsley and dill that had been set aside earlier. Serve with bread too if you wish.

Beets add so much flavor and color to the soup. The lemon juice and vinegar added a slight sour depth. The parsley and dill added a freshness to the earthy root vegetables. The bacon crumbles give savoriness and a nice crunch in texture.

Just be very, very careful not to spill the beet juice when you're cooking or eating. And like all soups and stews, it's even better the next day when all the vegetables have a chance to meld.



  1. :O

    Oh my gosh, that borscht has an eye-popping pink color.

  2. More like fuchsia. And that's exactly why I made it. :)

  3. Why have I never made this before? I love the ingredients, and your photo is so appetizing. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. Excellent! So happy to hear you were inspired to make this vivacious dish.

  5. Hi Susan,
    I wondered the same thing myself. :) And all those veggies are good for you too.

    Hi Karen,
    Your borscht looked so gorgeous, I had to try making it myself.

    Hi Deb,

  6. i haven't really eaten made anything w/ beets. :) i've had it salad before. :D

  7. BC,
    I usually only ate mine steamed or baked, or in salads too. This was a really nice change. And I love the almost violent red color. :)

  8. WC -

    Great post!

    Though I'm of the right heritage, I've never had the beef borscht, only the vegetarian kind.

    Chilled in the summer, with sour cream and bits of matzo crumbled in it for crunch it is YUMMY and refreshing.

    If you're going to wander down the eastern european road - have you ever had sweet and sour stuffed cabbage? It can be done with meat or, as a veggie soup.

    Keep up the great cooking!

  9. Oddlyme,
    Ooh, I bet cold borscht would be lovely. I've never had sweet and sour stuffed cabbage, although my mom makes a VNese version.

  10. Chuck,
    Serve? I like borscht hot, but some people serve it cold during hot weather months.


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