Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Emma's Famous Beet Borscht Recipe

Emma's Famous Beet Borscht

There are a few dishes that I grew up eating that are my soul food. High on my list is borscht, a beet soup from Eastern Europe. I like it hot, I like it cold. I like it thin, I like it thick. I like it with beef, I like it vegetarian. And I particularly like it with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt. The beets somehow transform mundane carrots, onions, and potatoes into something sweet, juicy and scrumptious. 

I used to make borscht from a recipe from The Victory Garden Cookbook. It's a great recipe from a really great cookbook, but it is incredibly involved and time-consuming. To the rescue comes my friend, Emma. Emma is a colleague of mine so I get to see her fairly frequently at events around town. She is in some ways a bit like me — she is curious, has a great appetite, is interested in art and strongly opinionated. We don’t always agree about everything but I am guaranteed a good conversation with Emma and I truly enjoy her company. Recently on a long drive together I learned about her life in Kiev and her story of coming to America. 

So it should come as no surprise that Emma has a good recipe for borscht. The most common variety of borscht is from Ukraine. It’s not just good, according to Emma, it’s famous. She tells me I’ll love it so much, I’ll soon be making it once a week, just like she does. While it’s not exactly a quick recipe, a big pot can be made in just about an hour. I used a bit more liquid than she did, adjust the liquid as you see fit. A few things to note, I peeled the potatoes but did not peel the beets or carrots. I also added water in addition to broth, and used at least a teaspoon of Kosher salt to season it. 

Emma’s Famous Beet Borscht Recipe
Makes about 6 servings
This recipe is adapted from Emma Krasov of Art and Entertain Me


1 32 ounce box chicken stock or broth
2-3 cups water 
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, sliced
2-3 red medium beets, scrubbed, tops and bottoms trimmed
1 medium green cabbage
1 large potato, peeled and diced
Fresh dill
2-3 Tablespoons of tomato paste 
Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon  
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Sour cream


Heat the broth and water in a large soup pot. When it comes to a boil add the onion, carrots and beets. Bring to a low simmer, cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the diced potato and cook for another 15 minutes. 

Remove the beets with a slotted spoon and let them cool. Add shredded cabbage. Cook for 10-15 min. until soft but not mushy. Add the tomato paste and stir until it dissolves. Meanwhile, grate cooled beets on a big-hole grater. Sprinkle with lemon juice and add to the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat for a couple of minutes. 

Taste and adjust seasoning again as necessary. At this point, Emma says you can add paprika, cayenne, more lemon juice, any herbs, but in small portions, to taste. Turn off heat, stir in chopped fresh dill.  Serve hot, and garnish with sour cream. Keeps well for a week.   


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