Monday, October 5, 2009

Favorite Things: Beet Borscht

I keep telling you how awesome beets are. And you don't believe me yet, do you?

You have all sorts of excuses:
  1. You hate peeling them.
  2. Ew.
  3. They make your hands all dirty/red/purple.
  4. Gross.
  5. They taste like dirt.
Beet haters even have their own community online... which, if you ask me, just promotes myopia among the haters... But, GO! Go check it out if you must. And report back with your findings.

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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  1. I'm a beet lover, but I've never made borscht. Looks delicious with the dill!

  2. Hi Lo! I think I commented earlier that I join you in your affection for beets. But it wasn't always so - read here -

    I am amazed, not at how many people hate them, but how adamant they are about their hatred! I think we're all brain-washed.

    I haven't ever tried borscht, but you certainly make a case for it.

  3. I just had once and love it, but I don't think I would attemp to make it...yours looks delicious and love the pictures of all the different beets :-)

  4. What a beautiful soup! The anti-beet folk crack me up. Someone dogged beets, chicken livers, brussels sprouts and anchovies all in one shot. As for me, that sounds like a near-perfect supper!

  5. Gorgeous. I love beets! This looks wonderful to me. I wish I had a bowl right now!

  6. I am a beet lover and I grew up on borscht! Yum!

  7. I love that you are using different kinds of beets for the borscht. I didn't use to like borscht when I was young because we had to eat it three days in a row but now that it is an occasional treat, I do enjoy it :)

  8. It's definitely borscht season! I bought beets and beef with that intention. I'll try corned beef in the borscht next time--it's a great idea.

    I remember dirty beet borscht in a hotel in Moscow. Ate it with salmon (hate fish) and hard rolls. I was pretty sure I was going to starve that month.

    A Russian mother took me in and I ate well.

  9. I've got "stout beer" stock from my brisket in the freezer... and now I've got a plan for it!

  10. I've never tried making borscht. Beets can be hard to find here (the fresh ones that is) so I just don't cook with them that often but I do love beets! Beautiful looking borscht you made!

  11. Yu're really trying to expand my horizons aren't ya?! :)

    Btw, I didn't check out that other site! Do I get points for sticking around!? :)

  12. Those beets are beautiful.

    But, sorry, I'm still a beet hater!

  13. Ingrid - You definitely get points for sticking around :)

  14. Awesome pictures, so colorful. Never tried borscht, but i do like beets. Maybe it's time to try some!

  15. WOW! just look at all the beautiful varieties of beets! Hey let's start an online community for beet lovers! We'll show them!!!!
    I totally and completely HEART borscht. I really need to make it - and soon!

  16. I am part of the community that really enjoys beets, Okay, I will admit that I don't like to dye my hands purple but, I like them anyways. I really enjoy roasting beets with onion and garlic-Yum! I can't say that I ever had borsht but, I know I would enjoy it.

  17. I'll have some borscht, I'll have some!!! While I love beets, I've only had borscht once. A friend's Polish mother cooked it for us along with several other Polish delectables! Those beets are so pretty, too. YUM!

  18. This dish looks absolutely beautiful! I love the variety of beets you added to the stew.


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