You have all sorts of excuses:
- You hate peeling them.
- They make your hands all dirty/red/purple.
- They taste like dirt.
In the meantime, maybe some of you will stick around and enjoy a bit of borscht -- which (if you believe it) I'd actually categorize as one of my favorite things.
I promise you, it's not just because the beets are so positively gorgeous (these came from the Jen Ehr Family Farm in Sun Prairie, WI). Borscht can actually taste good.
I have fond memories of borscht. My aunt made it every spring, and once I was living on my own she taught me to use the stock left over from simmering beef brisket to make my borscht -- and I'm quite convinced this makes some of the best borscht around. We use the "stock" left from making Burp! corned beef -- which is enriched with a bit of stout beer, tomato paste, and a variety of herbs & spices. If you don't have anything of that sort on hand, you can use a good quality (preferably homemade) beef, pork, or chicken stock. Add a dab of tomato paste and a bit of beer and you're in business.
And don't be intimidated. Borscht is just the sort of rustic fare that BEGS to be ad-libbed. Taste and smell often -- and the dish comes together more-or-less on its own.
We chop our beets and set them aside. I saute up an onion and a few cloves of garlic in a stock pot -- and then add the stock, which I heat until it's close to a boil before adding the beets.
A bay leaf, some dried thyme, and a bit of dill... and we let everything come to a boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the beets are tender. Sometimes I add potatoes and chunks of carrot to the mix. A bit of cabbage isn't bad. And turnips or celery root (any root veggies, really) actually work well here too -- though keep in mind that whatever you add will turn a VIOLENT shade of purpley-red and be virtually indistinguishable from the beets.
Once the vegetables are tender, you'll see that the broth has taken on a new character; it colors beautifully and thickens up a bit. If you like a bit of "body" to your borscht, you can puree some of the vegetables and add them back to the soup. Or you can simply eat the dish "as is". Borscht is definitely one of those dishes that is better the following day -- so I often make mine ahead and reheat it for dinner the next day.
We like to garnish our borscht with more fresh dill -- and usually a dollop of sour cream. You could do the same. Then grab a hunk of crusty bread, maybe a salad, and you're all set.
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