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Your Russian Cuisine Fix

A tribute to the Olympic games in Sochi, here’s a recipe for a classic Borscht and rye soda bread from the chef behind A Zest for Life

Borscht—or “Borshch” as it’s more commonly spelled—is a popular soup in both Russian and Polish Cuisines. Typically served hot and cold, it’s an everyday soup based on red beets and a bevy of other vegetables available locally. Beets have a condensed sweet flavor, and the soup’s other tangy ingredients compliment this—namely, vinegar and sour cream. Classically, pork or beef ribs and cabbage are stewed into the hearty ruby colored broth. The Russian Tea Room (which first opened in 1927) serves the soup nightly in grande cuisine style, usually studded with meats that are fall-off-the-bone tender, including pork, beef and sometimes duck.

But each Eastern European family cooks Borscht their own way, handing down their particular recipe for generations. I became familiar with the soup in my childhood; my mother loved to whip up a batch and serve it cold. Here, I’ve reinvented the soup with a greater vegetable profile,substituting beets for meat and roasting them to create an earthy flavor. A dollop of sour cream on top (lower-fat versions are available) is essential for thickness and a bang of tangy notes, and, swirled into the soup, creates a gorgeous magenta tone. azestforlife.com

Russian borscht soup; photo by Karen Sheer


Russian Borscht Soup

Serving Size: 6

A rich-tasting vegetarian soup. Roasting the beets is essential to its flavor. At the end, puree a little soup for texture, then add a dollop of sour cream and a generous sprinkle of fresh dill. Enjoy a rainbow of color and essential healthy nutrients in every bowl.


3 medium red beets, scrubbed and trimmed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup red onion, or sweet onion, 1/3″dice
1 cup leeks, whites and light greens, cleaned- 1/3″ dice
6 large cremini mushroom, cleaned, 1/3″ dice
1 cup potatoes, peeled, 1/3″ dice
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled, minced
1 cup turnips, peeled, 1/3″ dice
1 cup parsnip, peeled, 1/3″ dice
3/4 cup celery, peeled, 1/3″ dice
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon himalayan pink salt
7 cups home made vegetable broth, or chicken broth for non-vegetarian
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon cane sugar
3 tablespoons sour cream, or light sour cream
1/4 cup fresh dill, cleaned, dried and chopped


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the beets in a large sheet of heavy foil. Add a drizzle of oil and wrap tightly. Place on a baking pan and roast for an hour until the beets are just tender. Cool, peel and dice 1/3″. Set aside.

Meanwhile make the soup base: In a heavy large soup pot, add the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks, mushrooms, potatoes and garlic. Stir for 3 minutes until crisp tender. Add the turnips, parsnips and celery, stir 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, pepper, paprika and salt. Stir well to release the flavors.

Add the stock, vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the reserved diced, roasted beets. Stir and cover. Cook the soup for 20 minutes, then remove from the heat. Taste for seasonings.

Remove 1 cup of the soup and blend with a emulsion blender stick (or place in a blender) until smooth. Add to the pot, and stir well.

Place soup in bowls, dollop with a swirl of sour cream if desired, and a generous sprinkle of fresh dill.

NEXT: Serve with Russian Style Quick Rye Soda Bread 

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