Taking a page out of my blog, I called up my friends and offered my homemade vegetarian borscht to share. Saturday night dinner at Anna and Howard’s house was a Borscht bash. (Well, really, it was a modest get together.) The borscht was served cold and with a lovely fresh carrot and string bean couscous salad that Howard made, he hotted-up the salad with ginger.
What was different about the cold vegetable dish was the way Howard cut the carrots. They looked like golden flakes that were chipped off the carrot. It was a perfect meal for a steamy July night in Minneapolis. Howard served a sweetly, spicy wine. (Bogle – Petit Syrah) The table was beautifully set with a display of Farmer’s Market flowers and Heritage tomatoes with Anna’s usual flare for design.
Howard’s family served their borscht with fresh cucumbers in the soup. There was some discussion about the cucumber that was about to be sliced. “Will you eat it with the skin or not?” I prefer the skin removed because most cukes are sprayed with wax. “These are from some growers that we buy from regularly. They aren’t sprayed.” In the end, I had cucumbers without the skins. Howard and Anna put the cucumbers in the borscht. Having not grown up eating cucumbers in anything but salad, I ate mine as a side dish. They were crisp and fresh.
To keep my hosts on their toes, I promised them a mystery ingredient. They asked me what I had put in it, of course. (Recipe to follow for the curious.) I love a mystery, like guess what’s in this? I was nervous that they might not like the soup, throughout the meal, I asked, “Have you guessed the mystery ingredient?” “Not yet.” Anyhow, in the end, I had to tell them the answer.
I must be on a psychic wavelength with beet recipes, because Sunday’s New York Times supplement had a great article about a 13 year old who is growing vegetable and herbs in her yard and selling them through a CSA*. The end of the article had a beet and yogurt smoothie recipe called “Pink Borscht”. (They are everywhere, these beet pushers!)
*CSA or Community Sustainable Agriculture is explained at this site: http://www.sustainabletable.org/shop/csa/
Russian Vegetarian Borscht adapted from:
(It is not without some irony I report that this linked recipe lists butter and chicken broth for a vegetarian soup.)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 medium size carrots, peeled and sliced
1 small parsnip, cut into thin 2-inch strips
3 medium size beets, cut into thin 2-inch strips
2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon sugar (I left this out) and added one chunky sliced Jonathan apple (The secret ingredient)
6 cups vegetable broth – 4 cups of beet water from cooking the beets and 2 cups of water.
1 small cabbage, cut into 2-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup Balsamic or red wine vinegar
Sour cream for accompaniment
In a Dutch oven (or in my case a heavy cast iron pan) heat (olive) oil over medium heat and sauté onion, carrots, parsnip and beets until onion is translucent.
Stir in the garlic, bay leaf and sugar and cook for 30 seconds. Add broth, cabbage, salt and pepper.
Simmer, covered until vegetables are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. I used red wine vingar
Cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight.
To serve: Ladle cold soup into bowls and place a dollop of sour cream on top.
Enjoy with friends on a muggy summer evening.