The first time I had Borscht was in 2000. We lived in a one bedroom apartment on the Westside off the Theatre District. The place I had it at was the Russian Vodka Room, better known by its moniker, ‘Attitude Adjustment Hour’. Velvet curtains parted to steps leading down to a curvy bar, banquettes, and a piano. Vats of vodka, infused with different fruits and vegetables, sat atop one wall. More nights than I care to (or can) remember were spent in the smoky, liquid, lyrical space, a throwback to another age. I had my first taste of Russian food here. Smoked fish and pickled vegetables, caviar, blinis, schnitzels. Having had a long childhood affair with beets, I found them here again, presented in a new yet highly nostalgic form. Cooked with or without meat. Delicious anyway.
2 large beets
1 large carrot
1 large onion
1 large potato
1 can cannellini beans
half head cabbage
2 tbsp. tomato sauce
2 cups vegetable broth
2-3 bay leaves
Yogurt/ sour cream
dill to garnish
- Thinly slice the beets, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage. I like to use a mandolin to get the thinnest slice possible (since I like the texture). If you prefer the more blended texture, you can dice and then cook down. Or even use a handheld blender at the end.
- Dice the onions.
- For the broth, I have a preference for the Knorr vegetable stock cubes. Any other preferred stock can be used.
- Heat oil in a deep dish. When hot, add the onion and cook down till they turn transparent and develop brown edges.
- Add the bay leaf and saute more.
- Now add the sliced vegetables and cook for 10 mins.
- When turning slightly soft, add tomato sauce, beans, and broth and bring to a boil.
- Cover, turn heat low and simmer for 2 hours until the vegetables are totally cooked and reduced.
- If necessary, add water through the process to get the right consistency.
- Turn heat off, added picked dill and let it cool down.
Can be served hot or cold, with some more dill added for freshness. A dollop of yogurt or sour cream or a wedge of lemon, as per preference.