B is for borscht

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Also for beets…

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One spring weekend, I had a craving for Veselka‘s Christmas borscht and started a furious search for an online recipe. The only mentions I found praised it to the heavens, but had no recipes attached. I did, however, find an approximate recreation of their everyday borscht, which I finally got around to making this afternoon. So, so, so good. This is going into heavy rotation this winter.

recipe after the jump

Veselka-Style Borscht lightly adapted from A Peek Into My Life

I wasn’t feeling like a meaty soup this afternoon, so I combined the regular and vegan versions from the above site to get this. Do check out the original recipes, though. Lovely stuff.

1 bunch beets with greens
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
3 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
5 cups beef broth
2 cups water
1 cup canned diced tomato and liquid
1/4 small head cabbage

seasonings to taste
1/3 – 1/2 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

sour cream
fresh dill

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim stalks and taproot from beets. Wash the beets and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake about 1 hour, until beets are tender. Let cool. Peel beets and chop coarsely (while wearing gloves, if you care about maintaining your skin tone).

In a large pot, heat vegetable oil. Saute garlic, onion, carrots, and celery until onions are just translucent. Add the beets and sauté another minute or so.

Add beef broth, water, and tomato. While mixture heats to a boil, slice the cabbage into 1/2-inch wide strips and chop the beet greens and stems coarsely, then add to pot. Simmer covered for 45 minutes to an hour, or until everything is tender.

Season to taste. (Just don’t skimp on the vinegar, please.)

Serve with sour cream and dill.

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15 Replies to “B is for borscht”

  1. do you use your own beef broth? if not, do you have any recommendations for good ones? i rarely use it but have heard it can be extraordinarily tricky.

  2. When I have time, I go through the whole deal — roasting bones in the oven with tomato paste, separate pan for roasting veggies, then slowly simmering (but never boiling) all of it in water on the stove. When I don’t have time (and when I’ve run out of my stash in the freezer), I simmer meaty soup bones with onions, garlic & carrots, strain, then bump up the beef flavor with a little beef base. (Better Than Bouillon is decent and easy to find, but salty, so you can’t really use it on its own.)

  3. first of all – – love your blog! OK, must pipe up and share some borscht technique secrets. there are countless variations – -but this one is really authentic, and different enough to merit sharing.

    you need to saute the hell out of the beets – -i mean fry them. you do not use any beef or broth – -but bacon instead. think big dice of porkbelly…and fresh peas. the biggest secret is this – – don;t cook the cabbage for any length of time! it gets stinky. slice it with a mandoline (sp?), and drop it in about 5 minutes before you eat it. then it’s just tender, very “green” tasting and more fresh. also, better texturally….

  4. OK Marco, that sounds wonderful! I don’t know anything about authenticity when it comes to borscht, so thank you for sharing your techniques; I’ll be sure to try them next time around. Perhaps a borscht series is in order?

  5. I spent my first 13 years in Russia, so I LOVE beets and borsht.
    The recipe you provided is not the same my family uses, but I really like your idea of using the greens from the beets.

    This makes me crave my dad’s borsht.

  6. Yum!
    We partook of a lot of roasted beets and braised fennel over Winter, but I have never made borscht…Unfortunately it won’t be cool enough in Australia until at least May to try this lovely recipe.

  7. Hi Olga, hope you get some of that borscht you were craving! I just love beet greens and knew they’d wilt in the fridge if they weren’t included; what a waste that would be.

    Tina – got a good recipe for the braised fennel? I’ve made it a couple of times with mixed results. And you just have to rub it in that we’re heading into winter, don’t you? 😉

  8. Can you believe in all my time in NYC I never got to Veselka? Shameful. And I too have heard raves about their borscht. This looks amazing and I will have to give it a try.

  9. Hi Amy

    Trust me….Rubbing it in about winter is just my sad little way of trying to feel better about the fact that I will be spending the next 5 months or so feeling sleepy, sweaty and grubby.

    I do have a pretty good recipe for braised fennel. Do you want me to post it here or email you with it? (If the latter, please send me an email so I can reply).

  10. just getting back this…i must say – -there are a million borschts – even white ones, with NO beets! And being an expat NYer now in Moscow, I can still remember Veselka Borscht before they renovated the place. So, the main difference is this – – what meat you use. The one i mentioned is pork. The classic ukranian one is beef. and yes, this intense saute really deepens the flavors.

    here’s the kicker – pampushki – -little fresh brioche bashed in olive oil and raw diced garlic as a side dish.

    well, then you need some vodka…

  11. Okay I’m sorry I didn’t see this recipe when you published it a month ago. But my mouth is watering now and I think I need to go buy some beets…..

  12. I DID see that just a few weeks ago, and couldn’t hit “add to wishlist” fast enough! Even if I don’t get it next week, I’ll be buying a copy for myself soon after.

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