A classic Eastern European soup, this vegetarian borscht is a quick and filling meal for a cold winter's night.
The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi are turning out to be quite an event and not in a good way. Human rights issues, environmental concerns, corrupt economics, stray dogs, and terrible hotel conditions plagued the games before the fifth Olympic ring could fail to appear at the opening ceremonies.
Despite the Wikipedia page, Twitter hashtags, and BuzzFeed posts dedicated to the fiascoes of the Sochi olympics — I just wanted to know about the food. What was everyone eating?
A recent New York Times article reminded me that the athletes are, of course, eating specific diets to maintain their top performance and health. They arrived with their own chefs and their own supply of food from their homelands. Trying new foreign foods probably isn’t high on their priority list right now.
Exploring Russian food
But I was curious what the average Sochi resident was eating, or for that matter, what the average Russian eats. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how little I know of Russian cuisine. As the largest country by landmass, there must be more than vodka and stroganoff.
The food in Russia certainly varies from region to region. But in general, my brief research of cookbooks and the web most commonly describes Russian food as hearty, simple, and old-world. Sounds good to me.
With much of Russia experiencing harsh winters, hearty vegetables such as cabbage, potatoes, and beets are common staples. And soups make good use for these crops, not to mention a means of warming up from the cold. Perhaps you’ve heard of borscht — a beet-based soup with many variations, not to mention spellings — and maybe, like me, you have never actually tried it.
A sour beet soup
Borscht isn’t just a Russian soup; it’s also popular with Ukrainians, Poles, and Lithuanians. In some cultures, borscht is served after funerals, while in others, it’s enjoyed as part of a Christmas Eve dinner.
Though I love beets, I have to admit that beet soup never sounded that appealing. But I had plenty of beets and everything on hand to put the soup together, so I gave it a try. I grow my own beets, but not enough to last me this long into winter. Luckily, they're always easy to find at our wonderful winter farmers market from many of our farmers.
I’m happy I finally gave borscht a chance, as this soup is just my thing. Borscht is not just a beet soup, it’s a sour soup, and I love everything sour. The beets offer a natural sweetness that is balanced by the broth's sourness, due to red wine vinegar and lemon juice. Then you top the soup with sour cream, which adds a little more tanginess to the mix.
a simple vegetarian borscht
Although a simple dish, it sure is satisfying on a cold February night. I served hard-boiled eggs on the side, as is common in Eastern Europe. While this is a vegetarian borscht recipe, borscht can include meat such as beef or pork. Sometimes the meat may be smoked. Sometimes fish is used instead. The more I researched borscht, the more I found that there's no one way to make it. The variations between countries and regions are so great that some borschts don't even include beets!
This straightforward, unfancy borscht recipe is a good starting point if you're also new to the soup. And if you also love beets, give my Red Flannel Tempeh Hash a try.Print