Can’t ‘beet’ Borscht

A Gent in the Kitchen
By: Brandon Bosworth

The first time I ever had borscht was about 20 years ago at a Russian restaurant in Las Vegas whose name escapes me. Even though it was located in a dinky strip mall, the interior was all wood and decorated like a dacha. The customers wore lots of black leather, smoked cigarettes, and resembled extras from the movie “Eastern Promises.” To call the staff surly and brusque would be an under-statement.

Ah, but the food! I ordered borscht primarily because I had never had it and it is such an iconic dish. I wasn’t disappointed.

In the following years, I rarely ate borscht. It isn’t an easy item to find in Hawaii restaurants, so I decided to try to make it myself.

I looked at several different recipes, especially those by chef Mark Reinfeld, picking and choosing between them to come up with something delicious.

Borscht
Serves 6
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
6 cups of water or vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 potato, peeled and chopped
3 beets, peeled and chopped
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar (or two teaspoons of each!)
1 tablespoon tamari or other soy sauce
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
2 tablespoons (at least!) of minced fresh dill Sour cream or mayonnaise

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large pot with a lid on medium-high heat. Add the onion, stirring for three to five minutes. Add the garlic, and stir for another minute. Add the celery and carrots, and continue to stir for a couple of minutes.

Add the water or broth, bay leaves, potato, cabbage and beets. A word of caution: If you aren’t used to working with them, peeling and slicing beets can be a bit of a chore and a tad messy. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The beets usually take the longest to cook. Check them periodically and, once they are soft, uncover and add the lemon juice, vinegar, tamari, nutritional yeast, caraway and celery seeds, and dill. Stir well, and cook for about another five minutes.

The time has now come for you to make a big decision: Do you prefer your borscht chunky or creamy? If you prefer chunky, you’re basically done. If you prefer creamy, get out your immersion blender and start blending. I prefer a sort of Goldilocks borscht, neither too chunky nor too creamy, so I only blend about half of it. The result is a borscht that is basically creamy but with a few chunks of tasty veggie goodies.

Serve will a dollop of sour cream or mayonnaise, and cue up some Tchaikovsky for the total Russian experience.

(Brandon Bosworth blogs about food, fitness, philosophy, martial arts, and other topics at www.agentintraining.com.)

The borscht cooking, prior to blending.

The borscht cooking, prior to blending.

Borscht, after being blended.

Borscht, after being blended.

The final dish.

The final dish.

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Category: News