I’ve posted many times about my favorite veggie. “Do you know what it is, Zoë?” I asked.
It’s usually red but sometimes yellow, and some people swear it tastes like DIRT. Ha! To me it tastes like the salt of the earth. Our favorite time of year to cook with this veggie is Christmas… partly because it’s red, and partly because at Christmas time, like all root veggies, it is available locally.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m talking about that fabulous storehouse of antioxidants, minerals, and vitaminz (no, Zoë, you can’t help me type)… BEETS. Yay!
A short history of my borscht
I’ve tried many recipes over the years for this traditional soup we serve every Christmas Eve, made from beets. The very first time I tried, I had no idea how to make it. I’d only tasted it out of a jar I found at the super-market. But because my friend was of Ukrainian descent, I wanted to make a typical 12-course Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner. That meant I needed to learn how to make this soup with the funny-sounding name… borscht.
In those days, at the dawning of time, we didn’t have the Internet. But because we lived in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, we DID have a lot of embassies representing countries from all around the world. As borscht is a favorite dish in Russia, we decided to tackle the Russian Embassy. Besides, it was just around the corner. And besides that, my friend spoke a little Ukrainian and thought he could fake it. We turned up unannounced at the door and stated our business: Can you tell us how to make Borscht?
The helpful woman at the main desk gave us some instructions, using a bit of English and a lot of Russian. Luckily, my friend understood a little Russian, and the soup turned out to be delicious. It was the first of many variations on the theme we’ve tried over the years.
My favorite borscht recipe
I tasted the recipe I present here at a friend’s house at Chanukah this year. It’s fast and easy, once you’ve boiled the beets, which takes about an hour. Using medium-low heat means you don’t need to pay any attention at all. This recipe is so easy, I asked Zoë (who is just two) to help me. Fun!
Borscht with beets and cucumbers
Similar to the borscht served at Calories restaurant in Saskatoon
Makes four or five 6- to 8-ounce (200-250 milliliter) portions
- 1 lb (½ kilogram) red beets (about 4 medium)
- 1 cup (250 milliliters) water the beets were boiled in
- 1/2 cup (125 milliliters) thick yogurt or sour cream
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) honey
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- ½ English cucumber, diced
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) finely chopped fresh dill
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal and chopped
- ½ cup (125 milliliters) thick yogurt or sour cream
1. Boil beets in enough water to cover, until fork tender (at least 1 hour). Cool them under running cold water, then peel them. The skin slips right off. Dice half of one of the beets and reserve. Cut remaining beets into chunks and put them in a food processor.
2. Add the beet stock, yogurt, vinegar, lemon juice, honey and salt and blend till smooth. Wear an apron, as beet juice stains.
3. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in reserved diced beets and diced cucumbers. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, honey and lemon juice. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
4. Serve soup cold, garnished with yogurt, green onions and dill.
Note: When doubling the recipe, use the same amounts of seasonings and adjust the taste at the end, to suit.
How did it taste?
Me: Fresh, zingy, crisply delicious.
Zoë: Strangely red. She didn’t want to taste it. But she loves yogurt and helped me measure out her favorite food. “Can we make the yogurt red?” I asked. Zoë thought that was a great idea and happily mixed some red borscht into a bowl of creamy white yogurt until she had a lovely bowlful of pink cream. Then she ate it all up :).
This marked the beginning of a tradition with the younger generation.
- Jack Spratt’s breakfast beets – After his gall bladder attacked him, Jack Spratt could eat no fat. He had to learn a few new tricks in the kitchen. Beets are bile’s best friend! Recipes include Jack’s beety breakfast bowl. Delicious!
- The Queen’s beets: Let them eat cake – Grated beets add nutrition as well as sweetness and color to your chocolate birthday cake. Also, read the untold story of Marie Antoinette.
- Beetniks, a winning formula – Sonny and Cher show us how beets can give you the edge in your next race. Learn how to use the leaves of beets to make beetniks, a wildly popular party food on the prairies. Go Go Go!
- Pretty in pink – At your next party, serve a low-fat, low-salt beet hummus, packed with flavor and good carbs.