BUT, we love borscht.That earthiness is perfect when combined with dill and vinegar in a sweet & sour soup. And you can fine-tune the amounts of ingredients until it's as beety or non-beety as you wanna be. Borscht is one of those recipes that is fought over; many people claim their version is the "authentic" one. Fierce debates rage over whether it *must* have beef or cabbage, or whether it should be beets in their simplicity. This one has no claims of authenticity; we just think it's great.
Our recipe is vegetarian, and uses porcini mushrooms to add umami. We add carrots and potatoes for sweetness and contrast with the beets, vinegar and lemon juice for sourness, and finish it with a kick of hot sauce.
One note: Unless you want to have the bloodied hands of an ax murderer when you are through, we strongly suggest that you wear rubber or latex gloves while peeling and chopping the beets!
Serves 4 as main course, 6 as an appetizer
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, peeled and diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon dried dill seed or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
4 medium carrots, chopped
2 russet potatoes, about 1 pound, peeled and chopped
1 bunch red beets, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and chopped
4 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
juice of 1/2 of a lemon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup chopped parsley, beet greens, or carrot greens
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons hot sauce, plus additional to serve at the table
sour cream, to serve
Soak the mushrooms in 1 cup very hot water for 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid, and chop finely. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine mesh sieve or a coffee filter to remove any impurities and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stock pot. Add the onions, and saute until translucent. Stir in the garlic, caraway seeds, and dried dill, if using. Cook, stirring, for a minute, then add the carrots, potatoes and beets.
Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables have started to soften. Add the water, salt, lemon, sugar, vinegar, mushrooms and their soaking liquid, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Stir in the greens and simmer for a minute until they have wilted, then add black pepper, to taste, and the hot sauce.
Serve warm, or let cool and then puree. Serve with the hot sauce and sour cream at the table.