Posts tagged beets
Thursday, July 14, 2011

cold borscht – chilled beet soup

cold borscht

This here, to me, is the epitome of a Russian summer. A cold borscht on a hot summer night. Pull up a chair, stir some sour cream into it, and taste how refreshing beets can be. The tang of sour cream, the crunch of the cucumber, the grassiness of dill – that’s the stuff you remember years later and it makes your mouth water just thinking about it, and your stomach growls audibly. You grow both giddy and slightly melancholy just thinking about it.

I had a good childhood in Russia – a wholesome, leave-it-to-Beaver-whole-milk childhood. It stands at a stark contrast to what people might imagine a Soviet childhood to be – and mine was a good as they get full of books, walks in the forests, fishing in the rivers, and gazing at the stars. Summers were idyllic in particular – I spent them at my grandmother’s: a lot of time outside, hours foraging for berries and mushrooms, dipping my toes into cool lakes (I couldn’t swim back then), scratching itchy mosquito bites, and icing bruises and scrapes – the childhood that was simple and minimalist, yet lacked nothing. Bill Cosby had this stand-up bit back in the day, when he would talk about his childhood and how his parents would give him a stick and would tell him to go play in the back yard. And there he would be, sitting in an empty backyard, dirt all around him, digging a hole in the ground with his stick, happy as happy can be. That was me, happy to be outside and dig a hole with a stick. Happy to find wild strawberries and bring them home in a basket to have them for dessert sprinkled with sugar and dotted with golden-hewed cream so thick you could stand a spoon in it.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

russian borscht

soup - ready to eat

Sometime last week, I felt the inspiration to cook and toss all my daily tasks to the wind. I suspect that sudden burst of energy and desire were prompted more by the cold weather and bone-chilling wind than by anything else. My mother, one of the best soup makers I know, happens to have an amazing borscht recipe under her belt. And when seasons shift definitely colder, borscht is one of the soups, along with Russian cabbage soup (schi) that I turn to.

Many an American has wrinkled his nose when a beet is introduced into a conversation. Growing up in suburban America, I was always defending the virtues of root vegetables: turnips, carrots, beets, radishes. Because I was an immigrant, my food preferences were considered strange at best, and disgusting at most. And I grew up thinking that not only beets were uncool (albeit tasty), but they were also a form of lower-income diet. Imagine my surprise when my monthly issue of Martha Stewart Living arrived (I must have been the only 16-year old with a MSL subscription) and I found a salad of beets and chevre beautifully displayed as one of the recipes. Either beets were gaining ground or Martha was going back to her Polish roots. Either way, beets were comin’ up!

These days, you will find beets in the most illustrious of restaurants. They’re tucked into salads, displayed in vegetable arrangements, cooked in soup, and hidden in chocolate cake. Their deep, rich color and sweet earthy flavor and texture are both filling and surprisingly light. They smell of the earth, of winter, and of home. And despite their lowly upbringing and modest looks, they’re quite elegant and sophisticated.

Borscht is a little bit of a commitment. Set aside a few hours over a weekend to make it if only because you want the flavors to gradually develop. Deeper flavor means more delicious borscht. To make up for taking its time, borscht is not a complicated soup to make. And as most soups often do, borscht tate better the next day. If you make this soupd with beef, it’s a meal in and of itself. Russians often serve it as a first course at dinner, but in smaller portions. Whichever way you choose to eat it, borscht is guaranteed to make this winter season a little more palatable.

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