I made the mistake once of bringing a pot of borscht to a church potluck. Most people, I wager, were turned off by the radioactive magenta hue, not knowing that the color came from perfectly natural beet roots. Many who knew about the beets turned up their noses because, let’s face it, beets can sometimes be gross.
But these naysayers were missing out. This is one of my favorite recipes, especially for a January day: healthy, satisfying, and warm, the perfect comfort food to keep up with your New Years’ resolutions.
This recipe I have adapted from the Culinary Institute of America’s Soup book, now sadly out of print. Incidentally, if anyone comes across a copy, please let me know. If you take it for yourself, though, I won’t blame you. Be sure to try the seafood chowder and the Vietnamese beef and spinach soup.
CIA Borscht, adapted
2-3 medium beets
2 tablespoons minced bacon
1 medium onion, diced finely
2 celery stalks, cut to matchsticks
2 parsnips, matchsticks (optional: I don’t add these as I think they are too sweet)
2-3 carrots, matchsticks
2 leeks, white and green parts, matchsticks
1/2 savoy cabbage, shredded (about 3 cups)
2 quarts chicken or veggie broth
Sachet: 1 tsp dried marjoram, 4-5 parsley stems, 2 cloves peeled garlic, and 1 bay leaf enclosed in a large tea ball or tied in a cheesecloth pouch (I usually use dried herbs for ease and just dump them straight into the pot. I mince fresh garlic for this).
Red Wine Vinegar to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dollops of sour cream and fresh dill
Wash the beets and simmer them in enough water to cover until partially cooked, ~10-15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel and reserve (use gloves)
Cook bacon in soup pot over medium heat until crisp, 6-8 min
Add the veggies, cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are translucent, about 15 min. Add the broth and sachet, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 min.
Grate the parboiled beets (wear gloves) directly into the soup. Alternatively, shred the beets in a food processor and add to the soup. Simmer until all veggies are tender, about 10 min.
Remove the sachet and discard. Season with the vinegar, dill, salt, and pepper. Garnish servings with sour cream and dill.