Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What's Cooking Wednesday - Jen's Rockin' Summer Vegetable Soup




Please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.

I think if I were going to create a dedicated food blog, I'd call it Vegetables in My Sink. Now, that might not sound very appetizing, but one way I can know if I've had a good cooking day is if there are vegetable bits in the sink, because that means I've been using my cutting board repeatedly. I compost, and we don't have many scraps, but inevitably bits and pieces stray from the board or my favorite santoku knife.

One of my favorite summer vegetable preparations is real Russian Borsch. This has nothing to do with the jarred "stuff" you get in the supermarket and serve chilled. I know that's an addiction for some, but it almost permanently put me off beets.

Until I lived in Russia and had the real thing. Now, Borsch in Russia varies by region and maybe even by town, and shows the individual stamp of that part of the country. I was first taught how to make Borshch from my friend Rimma, and she taught me a Ukrainian variant, which made sense, because I lived in Krasnodar, which is not far from the southern Ukraine.

I make Borsch all summer long. I wait until Tantre has delivered beets and carrots and cabbage to my box, because those are the basics for my version. A couple of weeks ago, there were beets and carrots, but no cabbage (it's just too early). It was also getting to be the end of my Tantre week. I not only wanted to use those beets and carrots, but I had some other things to use up - spinach, chicken broth (my Borsch recipe is vegan, so I couldn't use the broth for that), and carrot tops (which are excellent in soup, btw).

So, I decided to experiment - I was going to combine Borsch with another summer tomato soup favorite, and use the chicken broth. Well... this was one of those experiments where you say, "ALL RIGHT!" when you're done, and if you feel like doing a victory dance, well, you can do that, too.

You pour this baby over some stale baguette or any other bread broken into pieces, shave some good quality parmesan (hey, use some Reggiano, if you've got it), and you are good to go for a RICH, lovely meal. So I give you...

Jen's Rockin' Summer Vegetable Soup



2 cups of chicken broth (home made, preferably)
4 cups of organic vegetable broth (or, for a vegan version, use all vegetable broth)
2 - 3 beets, peeled
equivalent of 2 - 3 carrots (I used 8 tiny carrots from our farm share)
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes (or stewed or the equivalent)
equivalent of 1 medium onion, thinly sliced (I used 8 spring onion bulbs)
2 cups of carrot tops, chopped
6 cups of spinach, rinsed well and torn into small pieces
1 pinch each - dried oregano, dried parsley, cayenne pepper and 2 - 3 pinches of dried basil

1. Heat broths (or broth) to a low boil.
2. Add whole beets and cook for 10 minutes
3. Using a food processor or grater, etc., julienne cooked beets. Julienne the carrots, as well.
4. Add all the other ingredients.
5. Heat at a simmer for 1 - 1 1/2 hours.

Enjoy!

31 comments:

glamah16 said...

Ihave yet to have a real borsht. Looks so good and healthy.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

There's nothing like the real thing. This isn't borsch - it's a ... hmmm... I don't know what the heck it is, but it was GOOD.

Real borsch HAS to be served with lots of pepper and some sour cream. The parmesan would be just plain weird.

Peter M said...

You lived in Russia? How cool is that!

You know, I've yet to have a good borscht...I'll remedy that this fall and ask you for the definitive one.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Hey Peter! I'll definitely be posting a "real" borsch recipe as soon as I get all the right ingredients in season, because that's the time to make it (and then it freezes beautifully, so you can taste summer in the middle of winter). Living in Russia was quite an experience. I was an exchange teacher towards the end of the Cold War.

Dingo said...

What a pretty soup/stew! I think I love it based on the color alone. Now, for a taste test.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

The color is definitely one of the fun parts. In fact, that's even better with this soup than borsch, because borsch is mostly pink, and with the spinach and carrot tops, this has some contrast, which is fun.

Virtualsprite said...

Sounds wonderful! My beets are starting to reach critical mass... I may have to try this!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Not to blow my own horn, Sprite, but I thought this was really pretty good. Especially with the baguette/cheese.

Lilacspecs said...

My one sort of grandma used to make borsch, but I never tried it. I'm more a gazpacho or vishisoi (the cold potato one) gal myself. But CB likes beets so I'll keep this in mind.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

But this is NOT the cold stuff, Lilac - it's hot soup. It would be awful cold. ;-)

Sandy C. said...

I've never tried Russian Borsch. It looks delicious! My hubby loves beets too.

I totally get the vegetables in my sink thing. I ADORE chopping, cooking and eating vegetables of all kinds. I love my santoku knife too ;)

Alex Elliot said...

When did you live in Russia? I have to confess that I've never been a fan of borsch, but maybe I'll give this a try.

anno said...

Oh wow, this looks great! I never would have thought about beets & parmesan, but your version looks terrific!

BTW, I drove into our garage just as the storms began to hit...

Shan said...

Great recipe. It reminds me of my Grandma.

bleeding espresso said...

Ooh yum. Nothing beats beets! Sorry, couldn't resist ;)

Goofball said...

when I hear "Borsch", I immediately think "Doukhobors" in the Kootenays in Britisch Columbia. And I also remember the Ukrain neighbour of one of my hostfamilies.

i am not fond of beets though so I have tried to avoid borsh all year during my exchange, even though it's all around in the Kootenays!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Sandy, me, too! Fortunately, D loves vegetables, too. C, otoh, is a meat kind of guy, but we're trying to change that.

Alex, this isn't borsch, but I will certainly post the real thing when my farm share cooperates. ;-) I lived in Russia in the fall of 87 on a teacher exchange, and then I also brought a group of U.S. high school students over for a camp exchange in the summer of 89.

Anno, glad you made it! We kept losing power on and off last night... yikes. I think the parmesan works because of the tomatoes, spinach and carrot tops. And the spicing. So this really is a blend between a summer tomato soup and borsch.

Thanks, Shan! My grandma was not a soup person, but she was great with desserts and main course kind of stuff.

Oh, Michelle, that was too good a pun to leave out! ;-)

The question is, Goofball, what kind of borsch? As I said, I avoid the cold, sweet stuff myself.

Goofball said...

@Jenn: no no I am not even thinking about cold borsch...never heard of cold borsch...I think cold borsch would be weird. Where can you get cold borsch anyway? Who drinks that? What does it look like? Hmm cold borsch, what a strange idea ;).
The only top cold soup is gazpacho. I could live all summer on gazpacho though. although cold melon soup or cold cucumber soup with fresh mint is quite good as well.

ok, I am getting distracted here.

No I just don't like beets, I think.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

The cold borsch, Goofball, is a sweet soup that's enjoyed in summer time in Eastern Europe and Russia. It's quite sweet, and served with sour cream. It's supposed to be "refreshing", but it's not to my taste.

I never liked beets, either. Then Russian friends invited me to their house (before I went to Russia) and served Borsch, and I didn't want to be impolite, so I tried some. And I loved it! I'm still not a huge beet fan, but I like them in borsch.

hotmamamia said...

I just cannot get my mouth to wrap around a beet! My mother used to love to smash beets in with mashed potatoes and meatloaf...YAK! Such a pretty color, can't et it passed my lips!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

You know, Hotmamamia, I can so understand this. I don't know why I like borsch, but remember, in the real thing there are so many other ingredients! My version includes beets, carrots, potatoes, a tomato, and cabbage, so it's not like "beet" soup, you know? But I think many of us who grew up with Eastern European Jewish heritage have trouble with the beet thing. Either that or we adore them. I'm in your category. ;-)

Los Angelista said...

I was just telling my mom that I feel like I've been eating so much crap over the last week of vacation, so a soup like this may be just what I need to get my body back to some semblance of health! Yum! And have a happy 4th!

Dru said...

I tried borsht at one of the local Russian restaurant, it is an acquiring taste. But at least I tried it.

Happy Fourth!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Happy 4th! this looks yummy and healthy. I didn't like beets growing up. My mom didn't care she made us eat them anyway but now I like them.

Amy said...

Happy 4th!

I love Borscht, so this looks like a good summer compromise. Can't wait for the "real" recipe (though don't tell my m-i-l, she'd be sad if I stopped using HER recipe).

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Los Angelista - there's no doubt that this is a good, healthy recipe, especially without the parmesan and baguette!

Dru, again, if it's the cold, sweet stuff, it's nothing like the version I make.

NYC, this is so simple and if you already like beets - it's great.

Amy another borsch fan! Yay!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I LOVE borscht! You used to live in Russia? Wow, Jen, everything I learn about you is fascinating.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Thanks so much, Jenn. I had a teacher exchange in the fall of 87 and brought U.S. students over on a camp exchange in the summer of 89. I wish I could go back, but the area I lived in is rather dangerous these days for foreigners, especially those with a Jewish last name derivative on their passports (ie. me).

Sophie said...

We would like to feature this recipe on our blog. Please email sophiekiblogger@gmail.com if interested. Thanks :)

Sophie
http://blog.keyingredient.com/

EAT! said...

Many would say it's too hot in the summer for soup -- I say no way. I like the combination of flavors in your soup.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Thanks both Sophie and Eat! Sophie, I'm sorry... I didn't see your comment until today. Let me contact you.

EAT! Thanks so much for stopping by.