Russian Gourmet: Borscht

During the course of my (long) life I have tried many variations of the beet and cabbage soup otherwise known as borscht: hot and cold, with meat or vegetarian, chopped and  shredded, home-made and not, but no one ever managed to make it better than my Mom. Now my daughter says that mine is even better than that, I guess this is just how life works. Borscht is delicious and good for you, but most importantly it’s cheap and easy to make. A word of caution: you can’t make a small amount of borscht, there will always be more than you expected.
First, assemble the ingredients: beets (I had 4 medium), 2 carrots, small or medium head of cabbage, 1 red pepper, some fresh parsley, 2 stalks of celery, 1 medium onion, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 3-4 potatoes and a can of V-8 or tomato juice.

Cut off the beet greens and discard them unless you have a pet goat or a vegetarian friend. Peel the beets.

Put the beets in a large pot half-full (half-empty?) with slightly salted water.

Cover, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour until a knife can easily go through a cooked beet.
In the meantime, chop an onion and sauté it in a small amount of (olive) oil. While this is being done, shred carrots and chop parsley and celery.

Add all of this to the skillet with onions and continue to sauté.

Now you have time to slice the cabbage, red pepper (I used half) and cube potatoes (not too small).

When the beets are ready, remove them from the pot and set aside to cool down. Add all the vegetables and the contents of the skillet to the pot. Cook until potatoes can be cut with a spoon, about 20 minutes. When the beets are cool enough to handle, shred them and add to the pot. Bring to a boil. At this time add tomato paste and V-8. Bring to a boil and adjust the salt. You are done.
Since this borscht is virtually fat-free, a dollop of sour cream will add a bit of substance and contrast the sweetness of the beets. You can serve it cold, warm or hot and it will only get better the next day and even better after that, if you still have any left.

There are thousands of borscht recipes on the internet and every schmuck with a video camera posted one on  Youtube; I have no idea and no desire to try what they taste like, most likely they are disgusting vinegar-tasting pots of overcooked cabbage and beets. The only recipe you’ll ever need is here. Enjoy it or else!
Here is a video of the yesterday’s borscht-cooking session.

  • Grace

    Looks great, I love borscht. My personal favorite is the Ukranian version at Veselka in NYC. But why would you discard the tops? I’ll have you know I buy the tops alone all the time (as well as mustard greens, turnip tops and kale, all of which I use interchangeably with beet greens). Sautee greens with garlic and olive oil and top with eggs for breakfast, chop up and add to any soup (I just added a big bunch to a pot of mushroom barley, also like it in lentil brown rice soup). Greens are also great with pasta, for instance sauteed with sausage, anchovy and garlic in lots of oil and served over penne with parmesan. And I don’t have to tell you how good they are for you. I’ll bet they’d even taste good chopped up and added to this borscht. Think how frugal and efficient that would be!

    • I eat greens, just not beet greens or, for example, carrot leaves, or potato plants, etc. I like spinach, lettuce, etc.

  • Now this looks like something I could make! Funny thing, when I was in grade school and the word “borscht” came up in something we were reading, it seems the description we were given implied that sour cream was a major player in this dish. Now I find it’s a rather minor ingredient, and only a dollop is required.

    Another bubble, burst.

  • DLC

    Beet greens are indeed great–a lot like chard but they should be used quickly because they get, er, limp, uh quickly. Yeah.

  • must be lack of stimulation

  • That sounds delicious! I’ll definitely try the recipe the next time I have company over for dinner.

  • Melinda

    Love the pictures, hate the food. So kudos for making it look good.

  • amy

    like beets – but they make my pee pink. i know that is really gross (i was going to type urine, but that is way ickier). the first time i seriously thought i was bleeding to death. nice dishes!

  • it can be cool bar bet, “How much you wanna bet that I can pee pink…”, although women shouldn’t have a problem getting free drinks anyway.

  • amy

    grin – i’ll keep that in mind should i find myself in a bar after recently eating beets…though i can’t really envision i’d ever be drunk enough to invite another person into a stall for a viewing to settle the bet. i only get that drunk in the privacy of my own home.

  • OK, after making this, the only things I’d do differently is add a couple more potatoes and put the whole red pepper in, rather than just 2/3 of it.

    I can’t wait to see whether Cliff and his sister like it as well as I do.

    What’s neat about this is it’s totally different from any dish I’ve ever tasted; it’s always fun to discover new tastes.

  • Sandra

    This is a little different from what I had in my recipe, but looks worth trying. I thought I had to use chicken soup. It gives a very tasty flavor to it. Let me say my old recipe was from my former russian teacher, she made us cook under her command while drinking beers and vodka, so I don´t know if that was the secret o she got us drunk on purpose so we wouldn´t pay attention. I´ll have to try this one now and I´ll let you know…..thanks , Sandra

  • There are all kinds of recipes with meat and chicken,but my Mom always cooked this vegetarian style and it still tastes the best to me.I tried others but never liked them better than this.

  • Pudge450

    Why are they schmucks?