Saturday, February 8, 2014

From Russia With Beets

Hey there!

It's wintertime in Canada, and in case you haven't heard, it's been pretty damn chilly since the end of November. And it's at this time of year that we pretty much NEED the kind of food that sticks to one's insides like tasty, edible spackle. Now, there are numerous cuisines that come from Northern climes and aren't always well-known or given their due in popular culture and food trends. I already blogged about one Czech comfort dish many moons ago, now I want to move to the northeast, to our friends in Russia. Russian (and by extension Ukranian, Lithuanian and some aspects of Polish) cuisine isn't exactly en vogue (has it ever been?) and yet it features utterly delicious, hearty and nourishing fare, well-suited for the climate in which it originates and in which the mighty Canuck lives.

Now, this post happens to coincide with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, even though we made the meal back in late November (Xmas and moving were in between then and now, don't judge me!). This post is by no means a plug for the Olympics or for Russia itself, because they're a freakin' sh*tshow this year and should never have been awarded to such a repressive country as Russia. OK, getting back off my soapbox and back to the food. Because they do have tasty food.

One of the stalwarts of Russian cuisine is Borscht. Borscht is a stew and/or soup (or "stoup" as my wife likes to call it) that is pretty much always based on beets. It comes in both hot and cold forms, and both are fairly well known. Now, root vegetables are always a favourite in the colder months. They keep for a fairly long time, they're hearty and they do a great job at thickening stews and soups, allowing you to make the "stick-to-your-ribs" goodness a body craves at this time of year. Beets have the added bonus of being delicious with a unique flavour profile no other vegetable can match. They're sweet, earthy and rich, not to mention versatile; you can use them as the base of a salad, slice and fry them into chips, pickle them, and so on. And, of course, make a whack of Borscht!

 I found this recipe for Borscht on the Internet thanks to Martha Stewart (don't judge me) and adapted it to my tastes and desires.

Add caption

Hot Borscht


- vegetable or olive oil
- 3 large beets
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup dried mushrooms (see note below), or 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced or roughly chopped
- 2 stalks celery with leaves
- 1 apple, cored
- 1 cup beef stock (or vegetable stock if you want it to be vegetarian), keep some extra in case you need it
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 of one lemon
- fresh dill, chopped
- sour cream or yogurt


- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Soak dried mushrooms for 5-10 minutes. Once done, chop mushrooms, reserving the liq
- Coat beets in vegetable oil and wrap tightly in foil. Please on baking sheet and roast for about an hour, until beets are tender (simply prick with a toothpick, if it goes through beets easily, they're done). Set aside until cool enough to handle.

- Peel skins off beets (they should just slide off) and chop roughly.

- While beets are cooling, in a large pot, heat 2 tbsp of oil.
- Sauté potatoes, onions, garlic, mushrooms, apples and celery.
- Stir in stock and beets, bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.

From boring ol' whitish-brown...

... to delicious silky red! Just add beets!

- Simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes. Stir in maple syrup and squeeze in lemon juice.
- Simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth.
- Serve soup garnished with fresh dill and a dollop of sour cream/yogurt.

For the other part of the meal, we had Beef Stroganoff, but I wasn't as impressed with that as I expected to be. Regardless, here's the basic recipe I used/adapted (went with sirloin instead of tenderloin). My suggestion is to get a big ol' loaf of your favourite crusty bread or maybe pumpernickel and eat the soup with that. Probably less likely to cause a food coma as well.

Preparing for hibernation? Here's your meal!

Dos vedanya Tovarisch!

PS: If a 5-month old likes it, you know it's good!

Agog at the goodness!

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