Russian Borscht

I have been eating borscht, or beet soup, since I was a baby. My grandparents on my father's side both came from the area around Kiev, in what was then the Russian empire. Borscht was hearty peasant food for Russians and Russian Jews alike. The Jews who were lucky enough to make it out of Eastern Europe before (and a handful, like my grandmother, after) World War I brought with them the recipes for these kinds of healthy, warming soups and stews.

I've been making my own versions of borscht since I was tall enough to stir a pot. The recipe I am sharing today is very loosely based on the one in The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. Our copy of this book is so old, every page is decorated with stains. I believe my husband owned this particular copy when I met him almost 30 years ago. It is certainly a big part of the reason I fell in love with him. But the main reason was his sense of humor. He is one of the very few humans on this planet that find me funny. I don't know why this is the case because I find myself hilarious.

(Did I mention today is our 22nd wedding anniversary?) And I am making this borscht as one of my gifts to him.

I cut corners and used a quart-sized box of Trader Joe's organic beef broth for the first time. I had no idea about all the added stuff they throw in there. In case you have allergies, please note this product contains soybean oil. Of course, all the ingredients in it are organic, but there is salt, sugar! and quite a few seasonings.

As usual, I have tweaked and played with the original recipe to create my own version. Feel free to do the same. It is very difficult to ruin a soup like this.


2-3 TB butter
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3-4 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
6 beets, scrubbed and thinly sliced
1-2 large carrots, thinly sliced
2-3 stalks of celery, sliced
3 cups chopped green cabbage
1 cup chopped greens (beet greens are great, but collards, kale, or swiss chard is fine)
1 TB golden raisins (optional)
4 cups beef stock (or veggie stock or water)
2 cups tomato puree
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

sour cream
chopped fresh dill

Begin by melting butter in a large, heavy saucepan or stock pot. Saute onions over medium heat until translucent and soft. Add all the other veggies, stirring to coat with butter. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Cover pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for at least 1 hour or until everything is tender. Taste to correct the seasonings if needed. Serve with a dollop of sour cream (or Greek yogurt) and a sprinkle of fresh dill. When you stir in the sour cream, the soup will turn a gorgeous magenta pink. Makes plenty, probably about 6-8 hearty servings. At least. Enjoy!