Borscht, The Wonderful Roasted Beet Soup

Borscht is usually a beet soup that is a part of many religious holidays and cultural traditions from Eastern Europe. When I used to visit New York City with my father I loved eating the exotic flavors found in “kosher cafes” that followed Jewish law not to mix dairy products and meat. 

Most people think of Kosher as being a Jewish tradition but actually Islamic kitchens follow several dietary traditions as well called Halal which are similar to kosher rules. For example, both traditions do not eat pork or shell fish among other differences.

Back in the day when kosher Jewish cafes were more common in large cities like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, “dairy cafes” featured blintzes with Crepes filled with sour cream, and vegetarian specialties like kreplach which are like raviolis, and kugel which is a special noodle dish.

The Kosher “meat cafes” served “fleishika dishes” or dishes that were flesh bearing like matzo ball soup in chicken broth, roasted chicken, chicken liver or pastrami sandwiches, among many other meat dishes. Borscht was more often served in these cafes because beef broth was more often used in borscht. Today this tradition has become optional and recipes reflect this change.

Vegetarian Borscht with Roasted Vegetablesis

Serves 6-8

2 lbs medium beets, roasted, peeled and grated
8 cups veggie stock
2 leeks, remove the stem, cut all the white part plus 2 inches of the dark green, rinse thoroughly, slice ½-inch wide
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 medium carrots, 2 celery stalks
2 medium parsnips, cut into thirds
½ cup savoy cabbage, shredded
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into quarters
leaves of 1 stalk thyme                                                                                                    1 tsp marjoram                                                                                                                     1 tsp dill
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup low fat sour cream
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 Tbsp 1-inch squares of roasted beets for garnish

1. Rinse, scrub and roast all the beets. Enclose in aluminum foil and place on a sheet tray in your oven at 425 F for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, insert a small, sharp paring knife into the beets to make sure they are tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2. At the same time, roast the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, parsnips and potatoes until tender on another sheet tray for 45 minutes and then remove from the oven, cool and puree these vegetables in a food processor in batches.

3. Pour the vegetable stock, the tomato paste and the pureed vegetables into a large pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

4. Remove the skin from the beets, shred (do not chop) in the food processor and combine with the pureed vegetables and the vegetarian stock.

5. Add the shredded cabbage, thyme, marjoram and dill to the mixture. Gently mix everything together while returning the mixture to a boil and then to a simmer for 40 minutes.

6. Allow the mixture to cool for 15-20 minutes

7. Remove the pot from the heat. Add the vinegar, horseradish, salt and pepper to taste.

8. Add the beet cubes to the mixture with the sour cream and enjoy.

This is not the common, everyday beet soup you may know. Rather this is a wonderfully tasty and delicious concoction of roasted beets and vegetables that is a knockout taste treat without meat. It can be eaten hot or cold. Enjoy. It’s the season.

Chef Allan Zox


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