First, the heresy -- there’s no meat in this soup (except for the broth, which only counts if you’re a vegetarian), and it's not chunky. I’ve been told more than once that proper borshch has to have meat; the more the better. Given the joke about the Kazakhs ranking second only to wolves as the world’s biggest meat eaters, I can forgive the funny face Gulnara made when I told her how I make it. But I’ve been making it like this for years, the family recognized it right away, and it’s cheap and delicious. What’s not to like?
The cheerful part? The gorgeous ruby claret color, which turns to a creamy raspberry after swirling the required dollop of sour cream. If it ain’t got beets, it’s just cabbage soup.
As it turns out, my recipe isn’t all that different from her Moscow mother’s “frugal vegetarian recipe” described by Anya von Bremzen in Please to the Table and The Greatest Dishes! (I love cookbooks with commentary as interesting as the recipes). And, again because I like it this way, I whiz it all in the food processor before serving for a smoother texture. A thick slice of dark pumpernickel (hold the caraway) and you’ve got a wonderful winter meal.
Nyura’s Cheerfully Heretical Borshch
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 large potato, peeled & chopped into chunks
1 smallish head of green cabbage (about 4 cups chopped)
1 - 1 1/2 lbs. beets, peeled & shredded (about 4+ cups)
2 14 oz. cans chicken or beef broth
3 c. water
2 tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp.dried dill, or 1 tbs. chopped fresh dill
2 tsp. salt or to taste
Sour cream (NOT optional)
Heat a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onion, carrot, potato & cabbage 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally Add remaining ingredients beets through salt, cover & heat to boiling. Turn the heat down and simmer a while (until you feel like it’s done, 20-40 minutes), stirring occasionally. Cool somewhat, then whiz in the food processor in batches. Return to pot and heat through. Or better yet, put in the refrigerator for a day, then reheat and serve.
Sour cream container goes on the table with a spoon, for each person to plop and swirl into his or her own bowl. Mmmm-mmmm-good.