Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Andrea Chesman: Borscht! Glorious Borscht!

What’s not to love about borscht? It is infinitely variable, infinitely delicious, and beautiful to behold. There aren’t many soups that are equally delicious hot or cold, in simplified or embellished form.

The strange thing about borscht is that kids hate it, and I don’t know why. I hated it as a kid, my kids hated it when young. The odd thing is, we all agree it tastes the same; it is just that now we perceive it as delicious, as in, “When are you going to make borscht again?!?”

One of the great things about borscht is that it uses a root vegetable that has staying power in the root cellar (yours or your friendly farmer’s). So this time of year, before the local harvests (at least in the Northeast), there are still beets to enjoy. Be aware, though, that some beets may look okay from the outside but be funky within. Therefore, it is a good idea to buy more than you think you will need.

Funky beets

If it turns out that the weather is chilly on the day you serve your soup, serve it hot. If it turns out to be a dazzling, hot spring day such as we have had lately, then serve it chilled if you like — with or without the potato. My family is split about the potato with a chilled soup. The potato lovers say potato is always appropriate; I’m more inclined to accompany a chilled version with buttered rye bread. Glorious!

Serves 4
  • 4 medium to large beets (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cups vegetable broth, chicken broth, beef broth, or water
  • 4 thin-skinned potatoes
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sour cream
  • Dried dill, to garnish
  1. Peel and grate the beets and onions. A food processor makes lovely, uniform shreds, which greatly enhances the soup.

  2. Shredded beets

  3. Combine the beets, onions, and broth in a saucepan. The broth should just barely cover the vegetables. Add additional broth or water if needed. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Boil gently for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and keep warm. When the beets have simmered for 30 minutes, add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 5 minutes, until the beets are fully tender and the flavors have blended.
  5. To serve, put a potato into each bowl. Break up the potato with a fork or potato masher, but do not mash. Ladle the hot soup over the potato in each bowl and top with a dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle dill over the sour cream, and serve at once.
Adapted from Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman © 2010
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