It’s not lost on me just how lucky I am to be married to someone with such a passion and skill for cooking. A recipe with more than a few ingredients has me sweating and stressing in the kitchen. In contrast, Christina is in her element and seems to execute flawlessly the more challenging the dish. Consequently, I have become a master level dishwasher and only occasionally raise an eyebrow at the amount of cookware piled high in the sink! I had never heard of borscht before Christina made it the first time for us, but it quickly became one of my favorites. So much so that borscht is now a regular at the running camps we host a few times each year.
– Rob Krar, Flora Ambassador
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 I am leisurely cooking things up in the kitchen for now. 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 (recipe here!), 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, it’s 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 with Red 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 pumpernickel 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, but 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. I may also experiment with using other root veggies. One thing I will definitely keep is the Red Beet Crystal broth because of its 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 to add a “beefier” flavor.
- 1 tbsp. olive oil (or butter)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled & diced
- 4 ribs celery, diced
- 3 beets roasted, peeled, and diced. (See roasting directions here)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2-4 whole allspice
- 2 small waxy potatoes, peeled (optional) & diced
- 1 small tomato, chopped (or 1/2 can diced tomatoes)
- 6 cups water (or vegetable broth)
- 3 heaping tbsp. Salus Red Beet Crystals
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 medium green cabbage, finely shredded
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 – 1 tsp. sugar
- 3 tbsp. vinegar (I used some from my pickled beets; apple cider vinegar would also be a good choice)
- black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped dill, plus more for topping
- sour cream, for topping
- Heat oil and melt butter in a medium soup pot
- When foam subsides add onion and saute until soft and translucent about 5 minutes
- Add carrots and celery – sauce for about another 5 minutes
- Dissolve the beet crystals in the water or broth
- Add the diced beets, bay leaf and allspice, saute gently for 10 minutes, add a little of the broth if too dry
- Add broth, salt, tomatoes, and potatoes – bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are tender – about 15 minutes
- Stir in the garlic and cabbage – simmer until all vegetable are tender about 10 minutes
- Add sugar, vinegar, and black pepper – stir and taste add more if necessary
- Add chopped dill
- Top with a dollop of sour cream and more chopped dill
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.
Christina Bauer is a self-described adventure runner and desert maven. Her most loved adventures are long days solo or with friends in the high country or the depths of the Grand Canyon. Christina’s second great love is cooking and through the years she has found more and more joy in creating meals for friends, family, and strangers alike. She lives in Flagstaff, AZ, with her husband Rob Krar. For more delicious recipes, visit her blog at FeedingTheFrenzyBlog.com.
Photos courtesy of James Q. Martin