Sunday, November 7, 2010

Easy Beet Soup (Borscht)

Borscht was one of my mother's soups. Like any frugal housewife, she made plenty of soups that were all about using up leftovers and squeezing the last bits of flavor from bones, and getting rid of wilted vegetables. Those were good soups, but they were different every time.

On the other hand, there were a few soups that she specifically set out to make, and those tended to be a bit more consistent. Beet soup - borscht, was one of those soups.

The funny thing about borscht in our house was that we were sort of like the three bears. My dad liked his borscht steaming hot, my mother liked hers chilled, and I liked it best when it was right in the middle - not hot, but not cold, either.

But no matter if we ate it hot, cold, or in-between, we always had is served with sour cream and diced cucumbers. When stirred into the soup, the cream turned the soup a pretty pink color, and the cucumbers added a nice crunch. Now, when I make beet soup, I serve similar sides. But to be honest, sometimes the sour cream is actually home made Greek-style yogurt.

I never got my mother's recipe for beet soup, but I know what it tasted like. It was always pretty tart, and she used either white vinegar or her secret ingredient - sour salt - to add the tartness. Beets were coarsely grated for finely julienned and added to the soup. And if she was working with fresh beets with nice leaves, the stems and leaves also went into the soup.

The beets I had didn't have good leaves, so I skipped that. I had some beets that were already cooked and peeled, and I didn't think ahead about using the cooking liquid, so that was out. And then I cheated a bit with the flavoring. Or, really more than a bit. I found this in a Polish grocery store:

How could I NOT add this to my soup?

I grated about four of my cooked beets into a saucepan, added water until it the water/beet ratio was where I wanted it to be, added a spoonful of the instant borscht, and tasted it. It needed salt and vinegar, and I added a bit more of the instant borscht. Let it simmer for while so the flavors could mingle, and that was it. Done.

Served with a bowl of my home made Greek-style yogurt and a bowl of cucumbers, for garnishing.