I grew up eating cold beet borscht in the summer and hot cabbage borscht during the winter. My version of hot borscht includes veggies that my Russian grandmother might have used, had they been available to her. It's basically a thick winter vegetable and beef stew with a sweet-sour tang. Whatever root vegetables and members of the cabbage family are cheap or hanging around in the vegetable drawer can be added. Any meaty bone and/or tough cut of meat will work. Potatoes can be added. Vegetarians can omit the meat or substitute white beans or chickpeas. With agave and without the sour cream garnish, a veggie version will be vegan. Buttered rye bread with caraway seeds is the ideal accompaniment. —zora
a huge potful
large white or yellow onion, chopped
1 or 2
small head of garlic, peeled and chopped
carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
parsnip, peeled and chunked
small celery root or 1/2 large one, peeled and chunked, or 2 large stalks of celery, chunked
rutabaga or 1 turnip, peeled and chunked
large bulb of fennel, or 1 small bulb, roughly chopped
small head of cabbage
small bunch kale, chopped
2 or 3
small can of diced tomatoes
cider vinegar, add more to taste
honey or agave syrup, add more to taste
salt, add more to taste
bouquet garnie of parsley, thyme, bay leaf, celery leaves
1 or 2 teaspoons
fresh ground black pepper
beef knuckle bone, shank, short rib or neck bones
beef stew meat or chuck roast (optional)
fresh dill and sour cream or creme fraiche for garnish
Roast the bones on a sheet tray in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, turning once, until they are browned.
Wrap the beets individually in aluminum foil and roast in the oven with the bones, turning the oven down to 300 after the bones are removed. Roast until softened: depending on the size of the beets, this can take 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, or more.
In a large, heavy pot saute onion and leek in oil until translucent. Sprinkle with a little bit of the salt. Add garlic and sweat for a few minutes. Add root vegetables and saute. Pour in the canned tomatoes with their juices. When the bones have roasted, nestle them into the pot along with any other meat and the bouquet garnie, and top them with the chopped cabbage and kale.
pour in the wine and vinegar. Add remainder of salt and the ground black pepper.
Add enough water to cover all of the vegetables. Bring the pot to a boil, and then put into the oven with the roasting beets, if they have not yet been removed. After 1 1/2 to 2 hours, check to see if the meat is tender enough to shred.
When the beets have cooled slightly, peel them and cut into small chunks.
When the meat is tender, remove the pot from the oven, add the beets and honey or agave syrup, and adjust the salt, vinegar and sweetener until an optimal balance of sweet, sour, and salt has been achieved.
Serve with a large dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche and a generous sprinkling of fresh chopped dill. Parsley can be substituted if dill is unavailable.