Borscht (Beet Soup)

a bowl of borscht

This borscht recipe has been with me since my catering days in Billings, Montana, when I was preparing soups for a café in an art gallery, during the early 1980’s.  Now it graces my table every summer.  A particular prayer partner claims my version is far better than that which she had in Russia.  Indeed, this chilled soup is a beautiful offering on a hot summer day!

This delicacy has been long popular in Eastern European countries under the following names: borscht, borsch, borshch, and bosht.  Over time it has spread from these nations to other continents, as their people emigrated; in North America, it is commonly linked with the Jews and Mennonites that came from these areas.  The common name borscht is derived from the Russian borsch meaning cow parsnip, which was an original recipe ingredient of the Slavs.

The most familiar American adaptation of this soup, which is made with beetroot, is of Ukrainian origin.  With its first record being in the 12th century, this dish subsequently emerged from a wide variety of sour-tasting soups present in the Eastern European section, such as rye-based white borscht, sorrel-based green borscht, and cabbage borscht.  Our well-known Ukrainian recipe was originally inspired by the addition of leftover beetroot pickling; thus, its brilliant color and tart flavor.

There are as many different preparations for this beet soup as there are homes in which it is consumed; they may include the additions of meat, fish, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes.

Spanish conquistadors brought potatoes and tomatoes from America to Europe in the 16th century; these vegetables weren’t a common part of the Eastern European peasants’ diet, however, until the 19th century, at which time they found their way into the Ukrainian and Russian borscht, food of both poor men and princes.  As a result of emigration, tomatoes and potatoes are a part of borscht recipes around the world, but my version has neither of these.

Still other variations occur with this renowned soup involving its garnishes and side dishes.  Smetana, or sour cream, is its most common topping; chopped herbs, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, and sausage may also be utilized.  There are plentiful side dishes; among them are pampushky (Ukrainian garlic rolls) and treasured pirozhki (individually sized pastries or dumplings filled with meat and onions).

You can see that despite its centuries-long history there is no consistent receipt for this sustaining chilled delight, for even this latter characteristic may vary, and it may be served hot.  My borscht is a cold, meatless, summer soup adorned with sour cream and eggs; for the benefit of added protein make this recipe with bone broth, from my post on Tortellini Soup (2016/10/10).  This is a treat!

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borscht

https://www.britannica.com/topic/borsch

www.dictionary.com/browse/borscht

easy mincing of onion

Borscht (Beet Soup)  Yields: 4-5 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr/  active prep time:30 min/  cooking time: 30 min

1 tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

1 medium/large yellow onion

3 large purple beets, a little less than 2 pounds without the tops

1 quart broth  (I prefer bone broth, 2016/10/10, for powerful health benefits including high protein.)

1 cup water

2 small lemons, juiced  (Use half to start; then, adjust with more to taste.)

1 tbsp honey, or to taste  (Local raw honey is always best, for its localized bee pollen is known to relieve allergies naturally through the concept of immunotherapy.)

1 tsp Better than Bouillon, or to taste

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available at your local supermarket.)

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

sweating onions

Sour cream

3 extra-large eggs, hard-boiled and chopped

  1. Chop the onion in small pieces the easy way (see above photo).  Peel it leaving the root on; next, score this by cutting slices close together across the top one way, going 3/4 of the way down into the onion; then, turn it and cut slices the opposite direction.  When onion is thus prepared, shave the small pieces off the end with a sharp knife.  May discard root end; set aside chopped vegetable.
  2. Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat; add piece of onion; when it sizzles, add remaining onion; sweat, cook only until translucent (see photo).  Set aside, go to next step.
  3. Spray beets with an inexpensive, effective vegetable spray (mix 97% distilled white vinegar with 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle).  Let sit for 3 minutes and rinse well.
  4. Peel and cut beets in 1/4 inch dice; add to cooked onions.
  5. Cover with broth and water; bring to a boil over medium/high heat; reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until beets are soft.
  6. borscht cooking in pot

    Add half the lemon juice and honey.

  7. Stir in Better than Bouillon; then, add salt and pepper.
  8. Adjust lemon juice, honey, Bouillon, salt, and pepper to taste.
  9. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.  Serve topped with sour cream and chopped hard-boiled eggs.  (May make ahead and freeze.)
  10. I love this summer soup!

Portuguese Figos Recheados

figos recheados

When I entertain, I always serve homemade candies along with the dessert.  Usually these are my Peruvian bolitos de chocolat y coco (see 2016/11/28) and the treasured national candy of India barfi; this recipe will follow in the future.  Sometimes, however, Portuguese figos recheados (figs stuffed with chocolate and almonds) are the final inspiration at my dinners.  Such was the recent case with my beloved missionary friends Val and Waffle Lomilo.  I take a tangent today into their world, so we can learn better to eat with reverence.

My relationship with Val goes back 22 years.  Our mutual friend Kelly, who now resides in heaven, introduced us over slides in her basement of Val’s mission work in Uganda.   My heart had just been softened, by my asking Jesus to live in it; thus, my supple emotions were mesmerized by this people and especially their food.

I learned that the meager diet of these poorest of poor, which are in my friends’ arid mission region, consists primarily of foraged herbs and a bitter fruit with its nuts, which are boiled three times to be made palatable; garden vegetables are available only as the frequent droughts allow; maize (cooked corn mush) and beans are also a luxury, which they can’t always afford.

The diet of the wealthier, in Uganda’s more lush areas, has a greater amount of organic garden vegetables, such fruits as mangoes and papayas, and ample beans and maize.  Also, it delightfully includes the ceremonial slaughter of a chicken for honored guests.  This nourishment of these better off is simple and pure, making it healthier than ours with all our fast foods and altered ingredients-added hormones in meat/dairy products, foods with GMO’s, etc.  (Note: in this poor country genetically moderated organisms being added to their crops is just now a controversy; they have already lifted the ban for GMO’s in the banana crop, due to its recent huge failure.)

In America food is so available that obesity is a major problem.  Our countrymen are often thrilled with weight loss when they visit Africa.  I learned, to my delight, that Africans are overjoyed with the compliment ‘you look so fat’; gratitude is expressed after a meal with ‘thank you for increasing my volume’.

At present there is a famine in Uganda’s arid region, which hurts the children and elderly the most.  We in this country can’t comprehend such food shortage and its effect on the human spirit.  According to my friends, it produces a sense of deep community, in those that withstand it, as they share each other’s pain.   These humble people know the true meaning of grace-God’s grace that keeps them alive in stark adversity.

Waffle and Val, who experience a heart for the broken, feed these hungry souls the word of God, which is also known as the bread of life.  This proven substance, in turn, can provide them with answers to their natural needs, for this is what our gracious Father does best.

We are grateful for our vast provision here in America, striving to honor our bodies with healthy eating.  Our faithful prayers move mountains as we intercede for those less-fortunate.

Now, may we take courage to experience moderate, joy-filled pleasure in this incredible dessert: be blessed by these simple figos recheados, the third recipe in my Portuguese series.

shaving chocolate

figs ready for baking

Figos Recheados (dried figs stuffed with almonds and chocolate)  Yields: 12 large stuffed figs.  Total prep time: 1 hr /  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 50 min.

Note: these are best served hot, but they are also great at either room temperature or cold.

1/4 cup almonds, plus 12 extra almonds (18 extra almonds will be needed for topping smaller figs, such as mission figs.)

12 large figs   (Turkish figs are best for size and quality; 18 figs will be needed, if using the smaller mission fig.)

1/2 ounce (1/2 square) semi-sweet chocolate, finely grated

  1. Best if served hot, but room temperature is also good.  (For hot figs, do steps 2-9; then, set aside.  Twenty minutes before serving, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake as directed in step 10-11.)
  2. Preheat oven to 265 degrees.
  3. Place almonds on a cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes in middle of oven; go to next step.
  4. With a sharp knife, finely grate the chocolate, place in a small bowl, set aside (see photo).
  5. Cut off stems of figs; make a careful, but deep, indentation in the opening of each with the tip of your finger; set aside.
  6. After nuts are toasted, remove from oven, and turn up oven temperature to 350 degrees, unless you are waiting to bake just before serving.
  7. Set aside 12 almonds (18 for smaller figs) and pulverize the other 1/4 cup in a food processor, by repeatedly touching the pulse button.  (May use a blender or Vita Mix.)
  8. Add almond meal to grated chocolate, mix well.
  9. Using a spoon and your finger, press this mixture in the hollow of each of the figs; pinch openings together firmly (see photo).  Place stuffed figs, stem side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  10. Bake in middle of an oven, preheated to 350 degrees, for 5 minutes; then, turn figs upside down and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  11. Gently, but firmly, press a whole toasted almond in top of each hot fig.
  12. May keep leftovers in refrigerator for future use, cold figs are also excellent.

Ensalada Iberica

ensalada Iberica

Ensalada Iberica is the perfect accompaniment to last week’s Portuguese pork, because of its sweet base of oranges and dates, along with an abundance of piquant onions and lemon-vinaigrette.  This quick salad pleases our palettes.  Its strong combination of complimentary foods is additionally enhanced with the spice coriander, which is also a “seasoning match made in heaven” for pork, as noted by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page in Culinary Artistry; thus, these dishes balance each other, resulting in excellent flavors and joy unspeakable.1

During the 1980’s, my extensive cooking classes in Montana included a group of 12 professionals, all of whom were friends.  For years they came monthly for each new theme I presented.  We grew to love each other, as I taught them easy steps in making glorious food.  A grieving took place at our parting, brought on by my decision to move to Portland in February of 1986.

My strongest fan among them Larry organized a going-away party for me.  He chose an upscale Chinese restaurant, since a travel agent in the group had hoped to take me to China, to teach native foods on one of her tours.  At our celebration, they graciously presented me with a restaurant-caliber, 15 ½ x 10 ½ inch cake pan and stock pot, as seen in my photos; how these have blessed my work.

At one of our classes, someone encouraged me to consider the then new concept of computers for my work.  I responded that I will never do that, for it was beyond me.  Technology, however, has enabled the expansion of my endeavors beyond my imagination.

Back then I wrote everything out by hand, as I constantly discovered new themes from various cultures and ages.  All my research came from hard copies of books and publications; I searched for the sources of my inspiration at the local library, in an array of cook books, and in such publications as Montana newspapers, the New York Times, and numerous fashionable magazines.  My existence was marked by creativity, as I developed my faculty for research.  This skill was further honed in my graduate work at Portland State University, 1988-91.

Discovering truths in food history is what I do; it is essential that I know their validity.  As a result, to this day, I prefer to obtain my information from actual books, which possess a soundness that I trust over that of internet.

Both this and its subsequent post, on Portuguese foods, are from that early application of my studies in Montana.  These entries provide exceptional taste treats, enjoy.

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), pp. 159, 160, 268.

chopping orange segments

Ensalada Iberica  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total prep time: 25 min.

Note: best to make and chill several hours before serving.

2 large oranges  (Organic is best for flavor and quality, as orange skins readily absorb pesticides; these are often available at a good price at Trader Joe’s.)

1 small/medium red onion, thinly sliced  (May use 2 small, organic cipollini onions; they are expensive, but so good!)

1 small can sliced ripe olives, net dr. wt. 2.25 ounces

1/2 cup pitted dates, packed down, cut in halves lengthwise  (About 1/3 pound is needed.)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice  ( 2-3 small lemons are needed.)

3/4 tsp salt, or to taste

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper, or to taste

1/4 tsp ground coriander

Bed of spinach leaves or lettuce

  1. easy juicing of lemons

    Peel oranges, divide them in half, cut each half cross-wise in half again, so it is easy to separate segments (see photo above).

  2. Peel and slice onions thinly.
  3. In medium bowl, combine oranges, onions, olives, and dates halves.
  4. Juice lemons with a hand-held juicer, watch market for this marvelous tool (see photo).
  5. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and coriander in a small sealed jar; shake vigorously; adjust seasonings.
  6. Pour over fruit, mix well, and refrigerate until serving time-preferably for several hours-so flavors can meld.
  7. Serve on a bed of spinach leaves or lettuce.
  8. This is a favorite of mine, which I have made since the early 1980’s.

1960’s Portuguese Pork

Portuguese pork roast

My gift of hospitality was birthed during my youth in the mid-twentieth century, for then I watched my mother host elaborate dinner parties.  As an excellent cook, she prepared glorious feasts, often with international themes; this 1960’s recipe for Portuguese pork blessed guests repeatedly.  While in college, I meticulously copied her treasured receipts and began my own journey, fostering nourishment of body and soul.

In 1982 God converted this inherent gift into my lifetime work; then, I began catering meals and teaching a profusion of cooking classes, utilizing researched historical recipes.  One of these classes was on my mother’s Portuguese foods, on which I expanded, incorporating the salad Ensalada Iberica and dessert Figos Recheados, my next weeks’ posts.

Slowing down, smelling the roses, feeding ourselves and others are important traits. In doing such, let us choose pleasure in even the simplest of foods, especially when someone else prepares them; thus, their charity reaches our hearts regardless of what is served.  Macaroni and cheese can thrill us, when made with love by a friend.

There is an element of courage, which results in unexpected joy, when we graciously receive ailments we aren’t sure of.  While living in Billings, Montana, a friend invited me to celebrate Easter with her.  Upon arrival I discovered we were partaking of rabbit; I was challenged in eating this, especially on this holiday!  Expressing gratitude, I bravely proceeded and found it palatable, as long as I didn’t concentrate on it being Easter.  Though I have never again experienced this meat, fond memories flood my mind whenever it is mentioned.

Let us be strong in both giving and receiving benevolent fellowship; use my series of proven receipts to host this cultural affair for your loved ones, or better yet invite someone newly acquainted.

In Culinary Artistry, Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page note strong compliments to pork; among the most vibrant are vinegar, garlic, black pepper, oranges and onions-all of which are present in this detailed dinner.1   Enjoy my creative repast!

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 159.

chopping jalapeno peppers

Portuguese Pork  Yields: 8-10 servings.  Total prep time: 1 day plus 4 hours/  inactive prep time-for marinating: 1 day/  active prep time: 30 min/  cooking time: 3 1/2 hr.

4 lb pork loin roast

1 1/3 cups water

1 cup cider vinegar  (Trader Joe’s carries an inexpensive raw version, which has great health benefits.)

5 medium/large cloves of garlic, minced

3 tepino peppers  (If desired use jalapeno peppers, which are milder.)

Salt and pepper  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in the health section of local supermarket.)

1 cup sliced green olives  (May serve additional in a bowl at table.)

Baked yams  (Yams and sweet potatoes are different varieties of the same vegetable, they are interchangeable.)

  1. Place water and vinegar in a 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 3 pan (3 quart baking dish).
  2. Mince garlic, add to vinegar mixture.
  3. Cut peppers in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds with a spoon, chop fine, and add to vinegar mixture (see photo).  Note: be sure to wash hands thoroughly, as burning will result from touching eyes if you don’t.
  4. Place pork in marinade and marinate in refrigerator for at least 24 hours, turning roast halfway through, at about 12 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Before placing in oven, turn roast again, salting and peppering the top well.  Bake for 1 3/4 hours; then, turn roast for the last time; once more, salt and pepper the top well.  Bake for another 1 3/4 hours.  Proceed immediately to next step.
  6. Wash yams and pierce several times with a fork.  Cover with foil; place top of foil on potato, where sealed, face-up in the oven while baking; this keeps juices from leaking.  Start baking these at the same time you begin roasting the meat; bake for about 3 hours, as the oven is only set at 300 degrees.
  7. When cooking is complete, remove roast from oven, cool for 15 minutes.  Toward the end of this time, take yams out of oven and place on plates; next, cut pork in thick slices and arrange on dishes; top with sliced olives.  (It is good to serve additional olives in a small bowl at table.)
  8. This pork is superb with the Portuguese salad Ensalada Iberica and dessert Figos Recheados, my next weeks’ posts.