Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ruby Red Vegetarian Borscht- who needs beef?

One of my fall standbys...  Beets, beautiful red, earthy beets...  This hearty soup gets all of its colour from beets.  You'll fall in love with its sweet and sour flavour.  The sour flavour comes from the red wine vinegar.

It will benefit from being made a day ahead.  Serve it with freshly boiled potatoes and/or hard boiled eggs and sour cream and fresh dill, with a side of hearty, sour, dark Russian bread.  Here's my recipe...

To make six to eight servings...

1    tbsp unsalted butter (or olive oil)
1    medium onion, chopped medium
2    medium carrots, chopped medium
2    garlic cloves, minced
2    tbsp tomato paste
2   quarts vegetable broth, or water
1/2 small head of cabbage, shredded
1 3/4 lb beets, peeled and shredded
5 - 6 tbsp red wine vinegar
4    tbsp sugar
1    tbsp salt
2    bay leaves
3/4 lb small red potatoes, scrubbed
ground black pepper
chopped fresh dill
sour cream

Heat the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds.

Add the tomato paste and stir in 1/2 cup of the stock to dissolve the tomato paste.  Add the remaining stock, cabbage, beets, 4 tbsp vinegar, sugar, 2 tsps salt and the bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are soft and tender, about 45 minutes.  Taste your soup and adjust the "sour" with more vinegar or the "sweet" with more sugar and the salt and pepper.  Do it in small increments...

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until tender.  Drain the potatoes and cut into wedges.

To serve, ladle soup into a bowl.  Top with cut up potatoes wedges (and/or hard boiled eggs), sprinkle dill and add a dollop of sour cream.  Serve immediately.

I've made this soup in an electric pressure cooker.  It's amazingly easy and quick and tastes great.  Just heat the butter (or oil) in the bottom of the cooker, add the garlic and onions and cook until softened.  Add the tomato paste and broth to dissolve the paste.  Add all the other soup ingredients.  I have an electric pressure cooker and cooked the soup for 5 minutes.  When done, taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if you wish.

This soup freezes well, portion packed in medium sized freezer bags.  Don't include the toppings- make those fresh when you are serving.

If you must use beef, substitute good quality, rich beef broth (preferably home made) for the vegetable broth and add two cups of shredded beef to the soup.

Confession :-):  I didn't have tomato paste when I last made my borscht.  I substituted one cup of drained, diced, canned tomatoes and two tablespoons of homemade preserved roasted red pepper puree (it was in my pantry).  That maintains the soup's tomato "layer" and the colour of the vegetables work...   Enjoy!

For the freezer: let the borscht cool, laddle into medium freezer bags- about four cups will feed two hungry people.  Let the air out as you seal the bags, don't forget to label the bags, store flat in your freezer to save space.

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