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Celebrate May Day with a healthy cup of borsch

In one form or another, the first day of May is celebrated as a holiday in most parts of the world. Originally designated as a day to celebrate workers, most countries still recognize it as Labor Day or International Workers Day, although here in the United States the date of May 1 was specifically avoided because International Workers Day was thought too closely aligned to Communism. In Hawai'i May Day is also known as Lei Day, when flower lei and other aspects of island culture are celebrated. International Workers Day was also the national holiday of the former Soviet Union, although the day is now celebrated in Russia as "The Day of Spring and Labour." While May Day isn't the most popular or flashy of American holidays, it's still a day to celebrate the full bloom of spring.

Borsch, or a beet and vegetable soup, is widely eaten throughout Eastern Europe and Russia.

Feeling a bit Russian back in January for Russian Christmas, we crowd sourced a recipe for borsch (or borscht, in some countries) the old Russian standby, which is also widely eaten throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The hearty soup features beets (a nutritional powerhouse), potatoes, cabbage, onion, dill, and whatever leftover meat is at hand. Enjoyed hot or cold, it's typically garnished with a dollop of sour cream.

Borsch is typical of Russian home cooking - made from fresh, healthy ingredients cooked simply and not overly spiced or seasoned. Each household has their own particular recipe, and like any soup, the fun is in experimenting with each new batch. Our borsch recipe is included below, or you can try the variation from Ukraine which is presented in the video at top.

Most people boil a beef or pork bone to make a rich stock, and break off pieces of the meat to add to the soup. Beans or lentils can be added instead of meat for protein. The recipe can be expanded or reduced to fit the need. This one serves about eight.

Medium Onion, Diced
Four Cloves Garlic
Parsley for soup and for garnish
Four medium carrots cut into pennies
3/4 pound to 1 pound of Beets, peeled and diced
1/2 a large head of cabbage
8 - 12 oz. (to taste) of cubed beef, pork, or sausage or lentils, if using
1 T Tomato Paste
1 T Flour

Boil lentils (if using) while chopping up all the veggies. If using a bone and meat, boil that.
Saute onions, garlic and carrots. In a separate pan, fry up some flour (do not add oil) until it is light brown. Stire frequently to avoid burning. This is the thickening agent for the soup broth. When the flour is golden brown, add about a tablespoon of tomato paste and a few spoonfulls of soup stock. Stir all together and add to the soup pot. Add vegetables, along with the sauteed onion/garlic/carrots into the soup pot. Add dill to taste (2 - 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill works best), salt, pepper, and parsley to taste, and cook until all the veggies, especially the beets, are cooked.Serve with a dollop of sour cream and fresh parsley.

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