After over-indulging on a lot of rich foods over the holidays, we were craving something light and nutritious for supper tonight. I decided to make my version of borscht (beet/cabbage soup). My version qualifies as light because we have it as our main course and because I do not add meat, potatoes or carrots as many other versions do. This is a vegetarian borscht because I use vegetable broth. You can use chicken or beef broth if you choose. It is difficult to 'ruin' this soup. Once you get the basic ingredients going you could add the potatoes and carrots to make it more hearty - but our family is not used to it that way.
The list of ingredients is at the end of this post. I will describe the method with the photographs. So let's get started!
The first thing you must do is cook your beets. You can boil them, but I prefer to roast them in the oven wrapped in aluminum foil. Roasting deepens and sweetens the flavor of almost any vegetable. As well, I saute the other vegetables in olive oil before adding the liquid ingredients. Sauteing adds more flavor than simply boiling them.
In the photo above are more of the ingredients. Celery seems like a mild vegetable, but in cooked dishes it can overpower everything else. So I only add a little celery for flavor.
My beets have been roasted in a 375 degree over for about an hour and a half. Let them cool, and then when you can handle them, you can simply push the skins off with your fingers. They will slip right off. (Your fingers will pick up the pink color, but after a couple of washings as you continue to make the soup, the color will be gone.) Set the beets aside, while you saute the onions and cabbage, etc.
Saute the onions in olive oil.
Add parsley and celery to the onions in the pot.
Chop lots of garlic and add half to the pot now. I add half again later after the tomatoes and beets have been added. I find adding the garlic in different batches layers up the flavor for a better result.
Chop your cabbage into pieces small enough to fit on a soup spoon and add it to the pot with other vegetables.
Whiz your canned tomatoes (2 cans) in a food processor or blender, just to break them up - I prefer to have a few small chunks - so watch that you don't end up with a puree. You may want to process only one can at a time, depending on the size of your food processor.
Add the vegetable broth and processed tomatoes to the sauteed vegetables. If you have not seasoned as you went along with salt and pepper, do so now.
At this point, you basically have the components of a cabbage/tomato soup.
If you want borscht, you have to add the luscious, jewel-colored beets. Cut them in 2-3 inch chunks and add to the processor or blender. You do not have to clean the processor after doing the tomatoes. Again, don't over-process, you want the beets in small chunks so that you can tell what you are eating.
Once processed they look like little garnets shining in the Cuisinart bowl.
Add the chopped beets to the pot.
Load up your processor with water to clean out any beets that are stuck in it and pour the water into your pot. Even a few beets turn the water a beautiful fuchsia color. Add enough water to make a soup-like consistency.
At this point I add about a tablespoon of dried dill, and two bay leaves. I just don't think it is borscht without the addition of dill. If you do not have dried dill, fresh is even better but add much more - perhaps half a cup. Reserve some of the fresh dill to garnish the soup when serving.
All the ingredients are in the pot. I let it simmer for about 45 minutes, turn it off, and let it sit for an hour or two for the flavors to marry before reheating it for serving.
Yum - it looks good and the house smells so inviting.
True borscht has a bit of a sweet and sour component that is added after it simmers. To get the sour, you can add a bit of red wine vinegar (1 tbsp) or a couple of tablespoons of fresh lemon juice. For the sweet, add a tablespoon of sugar or honey. Do not boil the soup after the addition of the vinegar or lemon juice.
Serve the soup with a nice dollop of low fat sour cream or yogurt. Creme fraiche is yummy too, but higher in calories and fat. Sprinkle liberally with fresh dill. I did not have any fresh dill today, so I sprinkled each bowl with a pinch of dried dill.
Everyone agreed that it was simply delicious!
Ingredients I used today for borscht:
1/2 small head fresh green cabbage
3 medium/large beets
2 medium/large onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
4-5 cloves garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 cans of stewed tomatoes
1 large container vegetable or chicken broth
4-6 cups of water (and more later as needed to get the desired consistency)
1 TBSP dried dill
1/2 cup Fresh dill
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
salt & black pepper to taste
3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
2 TBSP sugar or honey
Hints for the Vegetarian Borscht (Cabbage Beet) Soup Recipe:
I want my borscht to be a beet soup not a cabbage soup, so I always try to include more beets than cabbage. This way it tastes of beets!! To my mind, the more beets the better.
Do not let the liquid to boil after you add the vinegar.
Borscht should have a sweet and sour taste and a bright, intense color.
It is the best to eat the soup 1-1.5 hours after it is done or the next day.
We serve it with a dollop of no fat sour cream or yogurt, and sprinkled with lots of fresh dill.
As with most soups, it tastes better the next day and can last for several days in the fridge.
If you are serving fussy eaters, don't tell them there are beets in the soup until after they have had a couple of mouth-fulls!
This borscht recipe is a vegetarian one, but you can use a beef or a chicken stock as a base instead.
WARNING: If you love this soup as much as I do and eat it at noon and supper.....do not worry if you see that your urine is reddish. It is NOT blood in your urine, it is the beets that are coloring it. Don't want any of you worrying about your health!!!