Borscht: Georgian Beet Soup
Besides Greg Patent’s long career as The Baking Wizard, he is also a great all-around chef. His recipes have been featured on his TV show, radio show and newspaper features for several decades. Now, Greg has added his new blog, So You Want to Move to Hawaii, to his publication list. Along with other interesting stories, he occasionally throws in a favorite recipe that is not from his baking repertoire.
Here is a fall favorite!
~ Nora, Greg’s Geeky Sidekick
What is a healthy vegetable soup?
Covid struck and knocked Dorothy and me out for a few weeks. Dorothy’s fine, now, and I’m not too far behind in getting healthy again. We both had lost our appetites, but a home delivery of fresh produce a few days ago—a bag filled with with fresh beets, carrots, and onion—made me want to make a steaming hot pot of borscht, just like my Russian Georgian Baba made.
What is Borscht?
Borscht, a soup that has many spellings, is a classic bright red beet soup. Borscht’s long history includes many Eastern European cultures, each claiming the soup as its own creation. Basically a sweet-sour soup, borscht can also have a life in the summer, served chilled. But hot is the only way I’ve eaten it. Including in Hawai’i! This soup is really packed with vegetables that you add sequentially so that each cooks to its best texture.
How to prepare beets.
I begin by cooking the beets. My favorite method is wrapping them in foil and baking them. While the beets bake, I prep the other vegetables so they’ll be all ready to add to the soup when their time comes. When the beets are cool enough to handle, I remove the peel with my fingers.
Borscht: Georgian Beet Soup
- 6 medium size beets (2 pounds total)
- 1 large leek (about 1 pound)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onions (about 8 ounces), peeled and chopped
- 2 large carrots (8 ounces), peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 2 red-skinned boiling potatoes (3/4 to1 pound total), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 4 small sweet peppers, mixed color, (about 1/2 pound total), cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 ½ quarts beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
- pepper, freshly ground
- 3 cups green cabbage (about 1/2 pound) shredded
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more if needed
- sour cream or unflavored yogurt, for garnish
- fresh parsley or dill sprigs, for garnish
- Wash the beets and wrap them tightly in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Set them on a baking sheet and bake in the center of a preheated 375 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Cool the beets in the foil. When cool enough to handle them, peel the beets and cut them into 1/2-inch cubes.
- Split the leek lengthwise and rinse under cool running tap water to wash away the dirt. Shake off excess water and pat the leek dry. Thinly slice the white part and about 1 inch of the tender green portion. Save the dark green portion to use in stock.
- The best vessel for this soup is a 5- to 6-quart stainless steel sauté pan. This is a pan with high straight sides and a 12-inch-wide cooking base that is ideal for tossing and turning food. I find stock pots or Dutch ovens too confining. But use any large, heavy pan that you have.
- Add the oil to the pan set over medium heat. When hot, add the beets and cook them for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown a bit.
- Add the leek and onion and stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the carrots and garlic and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Toss in the potatoes, stir well and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the peppers and cook another 2 minutes.
- Add the broth and salt and pepper to taste. If your broth is unsalted, about 1 1/2 teaspoons salt should be enough. Bring the soup to the boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat. Stir in the cabbage and bring borscht back to the boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer the borscht, uncovered, until the cabbage and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Stir in the lemon juice. Adjust the seasoning carefully with salt, pepper and lemon juice. You can make the soup ahead and reheat it slowly until piping hot before serving.
- To serve, ladle the soup — it will be thick with vegetables — into warmed bowls and place a dollop of sour cream or yogurt in the center. Garnish with the parsley or dill. Before eating, swirl the sour cream or yogurt into the soup. Accompany with crusty bread of your choice.