Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Borscht: Childhood memories in a bowl
can't count the number of times I've eaten borscht in my life. It was a winter staple during my growing up years, and in spite of a very well documented and loudly stated hatred of beets themselves, for some reason I have always enjoyed borscht. Can't tell you why, it just is.
Here I am, decades later, still making borscht! Love the smell, the flavor, the excuse to eat big spoonfuls of sour cream... And while there are many versions of borscht around that incorporate beef and beef stock, I tend to stick with the vegetarian version--it's just a clean, earthy flavor that I appreciate.
When I make borscht, it's like my childhood is alive in my kitchen. I can make believe this is an ancient family recipe that's been handed down and handed down... well, in reality, it's a little of this, a little of that. I think my mom made it one way, my Grandma Kandt had a few variations, and I probably add my own little twist as well... My Aunty MJ took the time and effort to write down her best approximation of my Grandma Kandt's borscht; it's pretty close to what I've always done. (Thanks for that, MJ. It provides a very good roadmap!)
Here's my take. More or less...
1 small cabbage, finely chopped (I use a bag of preshredded coleslaw cabbage and it works just great)
1 large onion, diced
3-4 celery stalks, diced
3-4 carrots, diced
2 large potatoes, cubed
3 large beets, cubed
1 large tin crushed tomatoes
Dill, fresh if possible
Salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil and add the onion, celery and carrots, having diced them each to the same approximate size dice. Saute until onions are translucent.
Add the cabbage, potatoes and beets and mix until thoroughly blended. Fill pot with water until the vegetable mixture is just covered, and bring to a gentle boil. Turn down heat and simmer until the beets and potatoes are tender.
Add finely chopped dill. I like a generous amount of dill, so I would probably put about a half cup in a large pot of soup. Go for it! Stir to incorporate the dill. Ladle into bowls and be ample with the sour cream too.
A bowl of this soup brings back wonderful memories of family suppers around the table, lots of fresh bread and warm soup. In my little Norman Rockwell fantasy, it's probably snowing outside. I'm undoubtedly winning at some verbal sparring match with my brother while my mom is keeping peace (or at least working at it) and my dad is rolling his eyes (and joining in). Ah, bliss.