Spring Break

Spring has sprung! I am on spring break this week. The break has started with just spending time with Rob doing things we love – running in the canyon, having beers at the brewery, and walking downtown for a coffee on a sunny afternoon.  I plan to get some more adventure in but for now I am also cooking things up leisurely in the kitchen. While I haven’t even thought about my garden, and the start of the farmer’s market here in Flagstaff is still months away, I have my heart set on the vegetables of spring. I think about radishes (look for a recipe soon!), peppery arugula, tender carrots and beets always beets! If it is not yet clear we love beets in this house.

When I think of beets I also think of Borscht. I have never made this iconic soup and I wanted to try my hand at it. I lived in the former Soviet Union for two years when I was small and while I don’t remember eating this red soup I do remember the brown bread and pickles. Sometimes when we traveled that is all I ate. Somehow even without having eaten this soup it still brings memories of my childhood.

I did some internet surfing to get an idea of how the soup might be made and came up with my first try. Borscht is an art – I think I might just spend my life perfecting this recipe – sweet, sour, earthy it has such complex flavors. This version is relatively light, the broth is made up of beet crystals which really amps up the lovely red color and subtle earthy flavor. Potatoes add a little bit of depth and the beets are roasted first. Cabbage is added late in the cooking process – if my beets had nice greens with them I would have added those too. The soup is topped off with sour cream and dill and accompanied by some warm buttered pumpernickle bread. We added an arugula salad studded with my own pickled beets and some creamy goat cheese. Some of the pickling liquid helped to amp up the tang in the soup – I think apple cider vinegar would be equally good. I have plans to add some shredded raw beet right at the end next time, or some southwestern spicy heat like green chilis, and may experiment with using other root veggies. One thing I will definitely keep is the beet crystal broth, such a nice subtle flavor. Find the crystals here. In the depths of winter I might mix this with some liquid from soaking dried mushrooms like porcinis – might add a “beefier” flavor. Can you tell I am excited about having a new recipe to play around with! Hope you enjoy this first spring rendition. We of course had some delicious Wanderlust beer as well – the Bier de Garde is delicious and complemented the soup wonderfully.

Spring Time Borscht

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butterIMG_1685
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 medium carrots peeled and diced
  • 4 ribs celery diced
  • 3 beets roasted, peeled, and diced. See roasting directions here
  • 1 bay leaf and a few whole allspice
  • 2 small waxy potatoes peeled (optional) and diced
  • 1 small tomato chopped or 1/2 can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 3 heaping tablespoons beet crystals
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 medium green cabbage shredded finely
  • IMG_16811 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar ( I used some from my pickled beets, apple cider would also be a good choice)
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill
  • sour cream and extra dill to top soup
  1. Heat oil and melt butter in a medium soup pot
  2. When foam subsides add onion and saute until soft and translucent about 5 minutes
  3. Add carrots and celery – sauce for about another 5 minutes
  4. Dissolve the beet crystals in the water or broth
  5. Add the diced beets, bay leaf and allspice, saute gently for 10 minutes, add a little of the broth if too dryIMG_1674
  6. Add broth, salt, tomatoes, and potatoes – bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are tender – about 15 minutesIMG_1676
  7. Stir in the garlic and cabbage – simmer until all vegetable are tender about 10 minutesIMG_1677
  8. Add sugar, vinegar, and black pepper – stir and taste add more if necessary
  9. Add chopped dillIMG_1679
  10. Top with a dollar of sour cream and more chopped dillIMG_1682
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