In the dark days of winter, we indulge in soup but crave salad. With the plethora of root vegetables and cabbage left from the fall harvest, we can have both. After making my annual giant pot of beef stock, I just had to make borscht, but instead of adding cabbage to the soup, I sautéed it and served it with cooked giant beans (Christmas limas from Rancho Gordo), drained beets from the borscht, with smoky Black Forest bacon and parsley on top. This was a wonderful warm winter salad, a meal in itself. The borscht recipe is below. It was inspired by “Hot Beef Borscht for Aunt Gertie” (minus the braised brisket) in the terrific cookbook, Staffmeals, by former Chanterelle owner David Waltuck.
Borscht inspired by David Waltuck’s Staffmeals
1 medium-large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Butter or vegetable oil
4 c homemade beef stock (or a combination of beef and chicken)
4 medium-large beets, peeled and grated (3½ – 4 c)
3 tbsp lemon juice
4 c shredded green cabbage
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: 1-2 tsp caraway seeds
Optional: Sour cream
In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onion in butter or oil until translucent. Add the garlic and stir, cooking until it is aromatic.
Add the beef stock and the beets, raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat, add the lemon juice, and let the mixture simmer, uncovered, until the beets are very tender, about 30 minutes. You can make the soup ahead to this point.
Sauté the shredded cabbage in butter or oil over medium-high heat until it is lightly brown and wilted but still crunchy. Add it to the beet mixture with the red vine vinegar. Season aggressively with salt and pepper (it might need quite a bit of salt). Add more liquid if needed, preferably stock but water would be fine. Simmer for a few minutes to let the flavors blend.
If using caraway seeds, add them to individual servings at the end. They get bitter if added earlier. Serve hot as is or with a dollop of sour cream.