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!

Apple Pancake

baked apple pancake

baked apple pancake

Our pastor shared that her husband, our other pastor, made an apple pancake to bless her, when he returned home from the men’s advance this year.  (Note: my church goes on advances, not retreats!)  Her email said that she had really missed him during his absence.  His offering of this pancake was a sacrificial act to demonstrate his love, serving her promptly upon his return.

I have witnessed what holy matrimony is by watching the relationship between these two.  Here there is honor, respect, and mutual edification at all times.  They esteem one another, by submitting first to God and then to each other; in this way their individual needs are met so they can live fully in perfect peace.  Through watching them closely, I learn to joyously submit in my marriage to Jesus.  My gratitude to them is great.

This exceptional souffle is a great entrée or breakfast meal for special occasions; it pleases beyond words the sweet tooth of the child in each of us.  May we follow the example of my pastor and use this recipe as a tool to honor those special to us.  These directions are easy to follow; yet, the outcome is a work of art, a display of love.

Our prized pancake weds together flavors, that strengthen and embellish each other.  Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page inspired me with their helpful contribution concerning the enhancement of foods, one with another.  For instance, they list “food matches made in heaven” in Culinary Artistry.  This comprehensive list, with its apt name, includes superb parings for apples.  My favorite are: bacon, cheese, currants, maple syrup, oatmeal, nuts, raisins, rosemary, sausages, sour cream, and yogurt.1

Among Dornenburg and Page’s classic poetic unions for apples are: brown sugar, caramel, cinnamon, cream, custard, and vanilla.  Indeed, this dish is a testimony of the symphonic joining of these outstanding ingredients, for here they are baked together as one glorious whole.2

This book teaches beautiful truths about how foods work in harmony, by employing either specific techniques or adding various ingredients.  Our authors write: “One flavor can overwhelm another, while in smaller quantity, as an accent, the same flavor has the power to bring out the other.”  We supplement sweetness with a pinch of salt when making fudge, while a touch of sugar is required to complete tart balsamic vinaigrette (see balsamic vinaigrette, 2016/08/22).  Such small additions intensify the main ingredient, giving relative prominence to it. However, too much of them will destroy the finished food.3

The above made me think of my acting days in community theatre: there I learned not to upstage my fellow actor, or steal away from his critical moment.  However this truth transcends acting: we all need to uphold our partner’s performance by downplaying our own.

Much like salt used in cooking, we can augment each other tastefully in our relationships-whether this be in holy matrimony or God-given friendships; thus, we grow together.  Let us regard our loved ones carefully by being salt and light to them.  Begin practicing this principle, by entertaining someone sumptuously this Valentine’s Day, with this triumphant apple pancake.

  1. Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, Culinary Artistry (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 88.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid., p. 47.
prepping ingredients for apple pancake

ingredients for apple pancake

Apple Pancake  Yields: 2-3 servings.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 10 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 50 min.

Note: this is especially good served with Aidell’s natural sausage-their spicy mango with jalapeno gives a beautiful hot, spicy contrast; you may choose to double the recipe, providing you have 2 10-inch Pyrex pie plates, as cold left-overs are great with vanilla ice cream!)

10 inch Pyrex pie plate

5 tbsp of butter

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour  (If desired, grind 1/3 cup organic,

soft winter white wheat berries to make 1/2 cup flour.)

1/2 cup unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic is my favorite; note you may choose to omit the whole wheat flour and use all unbleached white.)

1/2 tsp salt

5 large eggs, beaten

1 cup milk  (May use alternative milks, such as almond or soy; soy has estrogen-like qualities, important for women in menopause.)

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract  (I use a high quality and terribly inexpensive Mexican vanilla, which I get through friends traveling there.)

 

1/2 cup brown sugar  (Organic is best; may be found at Trader Joe’s and at times Costco.)

1/2 cup granulated sugar  (Organic is available in a 2 lb package at Trader’s, or in a more economical 10 lb bag at Costco.)

2 tbsp cinnamon   (A superb, organic Korintje cinnamon is available in bulk, at Portland’s local Fred Meyer’s.)

2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced very thin

 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Grind flour, if you are using fresh-ground.
  3. Place butter in a 10-inch Pyrex pie plate.  Melt butter in oven.
  4. In a medium/large bowl, mix together flour and salt; blend in eggs and milk; stir in vanilla.  Set aside.
  5. When butter is melted, pour batter in pie plate.  Place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until edges are puffed up and golden brown.
  6. Immediately prepare apples: first blend sugars and cinnamon in a medium/large bowl, then cut and add apple slices; mix well.  Sugars will get wet (see photo).  Set aside.
  7. When pancake is puffed up after 20-25 minutes, quickly remove from oven and distribute apple mixture evenly in the hollow made by the edges.
  8. Return to oven as fast as possible and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until pancake is deep brown (see top photo).
  9. Serve immediately.  This is a heaven-sent treat!

A Simple “Frittata”

dinner with Dave

dinner with Dave

I am deeply blessed by Abundant Family Life Church here in Tualatin, Oregon.  Our pastors not only provide us with the bread of life (the true word of God), but also the fruits of their labors during the harvest season. This year’s bumper crop of tomatoes and zucchini inspired Pastor Dawn to create this frittata-like dish, which I have expanded on here. It boasts of these rich autumn vegetables. The receipt is so easy that it cries out for many encores.

The traditional frittata, or Italian omelette, has a two-stage cooking process.  You normally begin making this egg dish on the stove top and finish it in the oven. One may even purchase special pans for preparing this.  However my simplified version is made in a frying pan, solely on top of a burner.

The original frittata is a cross between an omelette and quiche, which is comprised mostly of eggs with some vegetables.

"frittata"

“frittata”

On the contrary, my “frittata” is mostly vegetables with several eggs scrambled in.  There is no guessing with these easy steps of preparation. The result is intense flavor, good protein, and creative cooking with fall produce.

My beloved cousin and his wife, whom I hadn’t seen since 1995, were here for dinner several weeks ago.  We indulged in this European creation and my honeyed-lime kale with turkey. (See Cooking with Kale, 2016/09/07.) The presence of God and this delicious food nourished our souls during our lavish repast.

You will relish this “frittata”-it is so good!  Also, may you find abundance of life in my church’s teachings, by googling alfc.net.  Enjoy!

A Simple “Frittata”  Yields: 4-6 servings.

1 ½ tbsp oil  (Coconut or avocado oil is best.)

1 medium yellow onion, halved at the core and thinly sliced

3 medium/large tomatoes cut in eighths

2 medium/small zucchinis, thinly sliced

½ tsp dried oregano  (A great, inexpensive, organic variety is available at Trader Joe’s.)

¾ tsp dried basil

4 large cloves of garlic, minced  (May use 2 cubes of frozen garlic from Trader’s.)

Salt and pepper to taste  (Real Salt is best, available in health section of local supermarket.)

4 large white mushrooms, brushed, with mushroom brush, and sliced

3 ounces good quality cheese, grated

3 large eggs, beaten  (I like to use duck eggs, which are creamier and higher in protein.)

  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Place a small piece of onion in hot oil. When it sizzles, add the rest of the onions.  Cook until golden brown; stir occasionally.
  2. Add chopped tomatoes, zucchini, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to medium/low. Cook vegetables about 40 minutes, or until liquid is gone and sauce is thick. Be sure to stir occasionally. Watch carefully toward the end of cooking, so vegetables don’t burn.  (May set aside at this point and reheat, to finish recipe, just before serving.  Watch carefully when reheating, so as not to burn the sauce.)
  3. Add mushrooms and cheese to hot sauce. Stir well.
  4. Add eggs to vegetables; stir gently several times, as they cook. Cook until eggs are done. Mixture will be soft.
  5. Adjust seasonings.
  6. This is delicious served hot, room temperature, or ice cold.  Leftovers are great!