When I was a young boy I remember two cold soups that my mother loved. I don't think anyone else in the family ever touched either one of them. One was beet borscht and the other was schav. I never took a liking to schav, but I acquired a taste for beet borscht with a large dollop of sour cream. Most of the time, both types of soup come from a bottle. It wasn't until much later that I decided to make it from scratch.
The beet root you use should be round and firm with leafy green tops. Beets can be red, white, or even a swirl of red and white. The green tops are often used in place of spinach. Smaller beets are more tender than the large ones. When you cook the beets, leave one inch of the stem attached to prevent the loss of nutrients and color. Before you use the beet it should be washed, and be careful not to pierce the skin. Peel the skin from the beet after cooking.
These recipes for beets and beet borscht can turn the most ardent beet-phobes into true beet-believers.
Adam's "And-It-Was-Good" Borscht
- 2 lbs. fresh lean beef brisket
- 2-3 lbs. beef marrow bones
- 1-2 large onions, peeled, quartered
- 2 large carrots
- 3 sticks celery
- 6 sprigs parsley
- 2-3 bay leaves, tied together
- 1-2 tbsps. Salt
In a heavy 6-8 qt. pot, bring the beef, bones, and 4 qts. of water to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam and scup as they rise to the surface. Add the onion, carrot, tied greens and salt, partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to low.
Simmer 1-1 1/2 hrs. on low heat, or until the meat is tender, but not falling apart. Remove the meat from the pot, cut into 1/2" pieces, and set aside.
Continue to simmer the stock, mostly covered, for about 2-4 hours longer, adding water if necessary.
Strain the stock through a sieve over a large bowl (or carefully remove all solid ingredients with sieve/slotted spoon). The vegetables can be pureed and kept as an appetizing bread spread. Discard the bones.
With a large, flat spoon, skim off as much of the surface fat as possible (or, if you're in a high fat mode, to taste).
- 4 medium tomatoes
- 6 tbsps. oil/fat
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 lb. beef, cut into 1/2" chunks
- 6 celery stalks, sliced
- 1 bunch parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch dill, coarsely chopped
- 4 parsnips, sliced (4 cups)
- 2 turnips, cut into 1/2" chunks
- 1 lemon de-seeded, completely pureed (including ½ rind)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2/3 cups raspberry vinegar
- 2 tbsps. salt
- 2 qts. beef stock, fresh (see above)
- 1 lb. boiling potatoes, cut into 1/2" chunks
- 1 lb. cabbage, cored, coarsely shredded (or substitute beef leaves for an equal weight of cabbage)
- 2 lbs. boiled beef brisket (see beef stock, above), cut into 1/2" chunks
- 1/2 pt. non-dairy sour cream
Drop the tomatoes into boiling water for 15 seconds. Run them under cold water and peel them. Cut out the stem, slice them in half (gently squeeze out seeds to discard) and coarsely chop, then set aside.
In a heavy, large (10-12") skillet or casserole, melt the oil/fat over moderate heat. Add the onions and garlic and stir frequently while cooking 6-8 minutes (until soft and lightly colored). Stir in beets, celery, parsley, dill (except for 1/2 cup to be saved for garnish), parsnip, turnip, the ground lemon, sugar, vinegar, salt, 2 cups of the meat stock, and half the tomatoes. Bring to boil over high heat, then partially cover the pot and lower the heat. Simmer for 40-50 minutes, making sure not to let it dry out - add more stock as necessary. (This vegetable mixture alone is amazing! If you stop here, this can be served as a side dish. Just make sure everything is cooked to al dente firmness or better.)
Meanwhile, pour the remaining stock into a 6-8 qt. casserole and add the potatoes and cabbage (and, if you choose, beet leaves. I tend to use 1/2-lb. cabbage and 1/2" beet leaves, which are a beautiful green-red). Bring to a boil, then simmer partially covered for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart.
When the vegetable mixture has cooked its allotted time, add it to the casserole with the remaining tomatoes and the meat. Simmer partially covered for 15-20 minutes to thoroughly combine flavors. Taste for seasoning.
PAREVE: Eliminate meat and substitute truffle oil and Portobello mushrooms.
DAIRY: Eliminate meat and substitute truffle oil and Portobello mushrooms, use butter to sautee, and garnish with real sour cream.
This is a very HEALTHY recipe, even more so if you slightly reduce the amount of fat and salt, skim off all the fat, and garnish with no/low fat non-dairy sour cream/yogurt, if any at all. This is also delicious served CHILLED - just skim the fat off first.
Chilled Beet Soup with Dill Cream
- 4 lbs. parve chicken soup
- 1 lb. beets
- 1/2 cup margarine or butter
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3/4 cup peeled chopped carrots
- 2 tsps. chopped garlic
- vinegar to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsps. chopped fresh dill
- 2 tbsps. green onion or chives, chopped
- sour cream
Saute in margarine or butter: beets, onion, carrots, garlic and flour in a saucepan. Slowly add parve chicken soup. Bring to a boil and simmer until vegetables are soft. Cool slightly, puree in blender until smooth. Transfer to bowl, mix in sugar, season with salt, pepper and vinegar to taste. Cover and chill at least 4 hours to overnight.
Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with dill and chives. Top with sour cream.
Beet and Greens Salad
- 1/2 lb. beets
- 1 small bunch of greens (beet greens, chrysanthemum arugula)
- 1 tbsp. vinegar (white or red)
- 1/4 cup oil
Peel beets and cut into 1/2" wedges. In a steamer set over boiling water, steam beets until tender - about 10 minutes - and transfer to bowl. Discard coarse stems from greens. Wash greens well and dry. In a bowl whisk together vinegar and salt and pepper to taste and whisk in oil until emulsified. Pour half of vinaigrette over beets and toss well. To vinaigrette remaining in bowl, add greens and toss well. Arrange salad on 2 plates.
Makes 2 servings.
Beet Salad with fruit and Feta Cheese
- 12 2"-diameter beets, tops trimmed
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup walnut oil or olive oil
- 1 1/2 lbs. firm but ripe fruit (kiwi, grapes, plums or nectarines) pitted, cut into ½" pieces
- 1 medium-size red onion, sliced into rings
- 1 1/2 6-oz. bags fresh baby spinach leaves
- 8 ozs. soft fresh white feta cheese, crumbled
Preheat oven to 375°F. Wrap beets tightly in foil packages (3 beets in each). Place on baking sheet. Roast beets until tender, turning packages occasionally, about 1 hr. 45 min. Unwrap beets; cool completely. Peel beets and cut into 1/4" thick rounds. Place in large bowl.
Combine vinegar and sugar in blender. Gradually blend in vegetable oil, then walnut oil. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper. (Beets and vinaigrette can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover separately; refrigerate. Let beets stand 2 hours at room temperature before continuing. Re-whisk vinaigrette before using.)
Toss beets with 1/4 cup vinaigrette. Toss fruit and onion with 1/2 Overlap beets around edge of platter. Mound spinach in center of platter; drizzle with some vinaigrette. Spoon fruit and onion over salad. Sprinkle with white feta cheese and serve.
Makes 10 servings.
Active time: 30 minutes. Start to finish: 2 days.
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp. pickling spice
- 1/4 tsp. mustard seeds
- 1/4 onion, halved
- 1 small bay leaf (not California)
- 3/4 tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 1/4 bunch fresh dill
- 3 beets (1 lb. without tops)
Bring all ingredients except beets to a boil in a 2- to 3-qt. saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cover and simmer 30 minutes.
Cool marinade, then chill, covered, 1 day to allow flavors to develop. Pour through a fine sieve into a bowl.
Cook beets in a saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, 1 to 1 1/4 hrs. Drain and cool. Slip off skins and cut into ½" pieces.
Stir together beets and marinade, then marinate, covered and chilled, 1 day.
Makes about 3 cups.
Beets and Caramelized Onions with Feta
Active time: 20 minutes. Start to finish: 45 minutes.
- 2 tbsps. cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard (preferably whole-grain or coarse-grain)
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 5 tbsps. olive oil
- 1 lb. onions (2 medium), quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1" pieces
- 2 (15 oz.) cans small whole beets, drained and quartered (or halved if very small)
- 3 ozs. crumbled feta (1/2 cup)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (1 oz.), toasted and coarsely chopped
Whisk together vinegar, mustard, pepper and 1/2 tsp. salt in a large bowl, then add 3 tbsps. oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined well.
Cook onions with remaining 1/4 tsp. salt in remaining 2 tbsps. oil in a 12" heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 18-20 minutes. Add onions to dressing, then add beets and cheese, stirring gently to combine. Serve sprinkled with pine nuts.
Makes 4 first-course or side-dish servings.