- tomato sauce
Vegetarian Borscht!?!? From the land of lamb and mutton comes this beetroot soup, and I’ve dared to make it without any meat or broth at all. Crazy! Borscht originates in Ukraine, but varieties come from many parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where it is regularly consumed. I have recently learned that in Poland they make a vegetarian version of this that is eaten on Christmas Eve…so I guess I have good timing with my recipe share.
My husband is from Central Asia. Since I enjoy cooking, I do try to make foods that he grew up eating, from time to time, if I know how. Sometimes I get lucky and make something that is so called “American” food or just something I invent and he’ll comment that it tastes like his mamma’s cooking. ! Borscht is one of the things I periodically make, to honor his cultural heritage. Beets are grown and eaten A LOT in the entire former soviet union region, including Central Asia. Beets are also easily grown here in the Pacific Northwest United States, so of course, I grow them in my yarden (my yard that is now a garden) (I still need to get that word in the dictionary) (I coined it first!!) :).
Beets are fun to grow. They germinate quickly and shoot up tiny red and green leaves. If they need to be thinned out, you can eat the leaves in a salad. If you have plenty of other produce to harvest, they can sit in the dirt until December, which is exactly what I do with them. I pick a few at a time in the last month of summer and into the end of autumn. I just harvested the last of my row on December 10th. I particularly enjoyed beets mixed with apples, in my juicer and beets are delightful, roasted in the oven.
Back to my soup.
I soaked my beets, carrots, and potatoes (that I dug up) in a bucket of water overnight. Next day I brought them inside and scrubbed them again. I picked the stringy beet root end off and chopped them up, leaf and all. I put these, along with chopped carrots, potatoes, celery, cabbage, and onion, into a soup pot. (About 1/2 cup to 1 cup of each veggie). I added lots of fresh chopped garlic, a can of tomato sauce, a few cups of water and turned it on to medium-low heat. I added a little sprinkle of salt, a large shake of black pepper, and one teaspoon of dill weed. For a variety, you may add vinegar or sour cream to this soup when serving it. I allowed this to cook all afternoon, low and slow. The vegetables softened and released their own juices, which were plenty flavorful so I didn’t need a meat broth. Most recipes for Borscht will suggest use of beef or lamb meat and broth. I’ll admit that one time in an effort to use up some ham, I made it with ham. It was way too sweet since beets are full of natural sugars. I won’t repeat that recipe!
We all ate this soup that night and then again in lunch boxes. I froze a few glass containers of it for later lunch boxes. My 2 year old ate it because we talked about how we had grown the vegetables in the garden and dug them up together. But if you don’t think your kids (or spouse) will eat this, try pureeing it. The flavor is great, it’s the texture and the viewing of leafy greens that will scare a picky eater away. Lastly, this may be eaten hot or cold. I prefer soups that are heated, but in some countries this soup is eaten cold, so take your pick.