Sunday, May 31, 2015

Healthy Recipes from Around the World: Russian Borscht

By Tereza Hubkova, M.D.

Growing up behind the Iron Curtain inside communist Czechoslovakia, I was not exposed to a variety of cuisines. Once every couple of years, though, my mom took me to a Russian restaurant called Beriozka (Birch Tree), in Prague.

A trip to our capital was itself a great adventure, but visiting this restaurant for me was the highlight of those days. We almost never ate out in a restaurant, never mind food from another country.

My recipe now is undoubtedly different than that of the Beriozka of my memory. Over the years of making borscht, I combined various recipes and changed them a bit each time based on what happened to be in the refrigerator. What has not changed though, is the heart-warming feeling I get when I eat it with my family
who are now Borscht lovers, even if some started as beet haters.

For a large pot of borscht that could serve 5-6 people, you will need:
2 Tbps Oil (for frying)
1 Medium Onion (chopped)
4 cups Water
2 Large Potatoes (diced)
1 Large or 2 Small Red Beets (diced)

2 Carrots (sliced)
1/4 Large or 1/2 Small Cabbage (chopped well)
4 Tbsp Tomato Ketchup
Fresh or Dried Dill (a couple good shakes or one fresh stalk)
1 Tbsp Honey
2 Vegetable Bouillon Cubes
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon

1-1/2 lbs Lean Grass-fed Beef Cubes (about 1") or 1 Can Lima Beans (vegetarian vs. non-)
Salt and Pepper (to taste)

A Dollop of Sour Cream or Creme Freche (for decoration)

If you prefer the non-vegetarian option, in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, start by browning the (salted) beef cubes in a vegetable oil of your choice, for about 7 minutes, then add the chopped onion, cooking until translucent. Then add 4 cups of water and cook covered, over medium heat for 45 minutes (or 10 minutes, for the non-meat version).

Add chopped vegetables as well as the rest of the ingredients (except lemon and sour cream); cook for additional 30 minutes, or until all ingredients are tender.

(If you prefer the vegetarian option, add the Lima Beans now, heating through.)

Squeeze half a lemon (or a tablespoon of vinegar, if you have no lemon) into the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Decorate with a dollop of sour cream or creme freche.