Breathe properly. Stay curious. And eat your beets. ~ Tom Robbins
It's decidedly fall here. Leaves are turning and falling almost simultaneously. As much as I adore summer, there is something quite special about the smell and light and the feeling fall has. Borderline melancholic with a good dash each of wistfulness and hope - that's how I think of fall. With this new season there seems to be a shot at a fresh start. Plans to make. Pencils to sharpen. Out of summer la la land and into a deeper focus of what's important. Plus, lets not forget new TV season. (Homeland tonight!). In garden-land, things have quieted down considerably, and I'm happy for it. My evenings no longer have to be about watering and weeding and harvesting. Tomatoes are still on the vine and I watch the frost warnings like a hawk. There are a few roots left - the beets and carrots don't mind the chill and are quite forgiving of my neglect. It's put-the-garden-to-bed time, and what better way to use up the last of your hard work than with a big pot of soup bubbling away on the stove. See ya later, summer. Fall is my new best friend and I'm bringing it on with borscht.
Borscht is one of those soups where you probably think you make it the best. Or your mom does. Or your grandma. And I'm not going to fight on you that. There are probably as many borscht variations as there are beets. But this is how I like it and I think it's pretty great. A couple of things. This one is vegetarian, but you could easily cook up chicken, beef or pork bones and use that as your base. I also add whole beets to the soup and remove them once they have cooked and then shred them. I think this saves a little time and a bit of mess and amps up the flavour. Lastly, I added black beans at the end. There is probably a Baba out there shaking a finger at me. How dare you add beans to borscht? But there is also another Baba who would give me a high-five. The beans increase the nutrition and I like the flavour. If I were using beef bones, I'd add the meat, too. Borscht is one of those soups where you can do whatever the heck you like. Leave out potatoes or double them up. Don't like cabbage? Don't add cabbage! I added the beet greens at the end, only because they looked lovely and I hate throwing out food. But let's face it. Borscht isn't borscht without the generous dollop of sour cream. And a good dose of dill. One of the prettiest soups, each empty bowl is almost a masterpiece. Happy autumn, friends.
Beet & Cabbage Borscht
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup cubed carrots
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cup shredded green or purple cabbage
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed (if peel is nice, leave it on)
1 798 ml can diced tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
8 cups of veggie broth or chicken, pork or beef broth
4 medium beets, scrubbed but unpeeled
1 1/2 cups cooked white or black beans
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
2 handfuls beet greens or chard, chopped
handful chopped fresh dill
sour cream to garnish
Heat oil in large soup pot. Add the carrots, onion and garlic. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cabbage and potatoes and cook 5 minutes longer. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and broth. Stir well. Add the whole beets. Bring to a boil, simmer, covered for about 1 hour. Remove beets, let them cool, then shred them. Add to the soup, along with their juices. Stir in the cooked beans, vinegar, paprika, honey, salt and pepper and beet greens. If too thick, add more broth. Simmer 5 more minutes on low heat. Stir in dill. Adjust seasonings. Serve into soup bowls and garnish with a healthy amount of sour cream. Serves 6 to 8. Recipe adapted from Cinda Chavich's book High Plains.