After watching a TV interview of Meryl Davis and Charlie White discussing their diets, I was excited to see their first course being blinis, which I had written about for Valentine’s Day. Next on their menu was borscht. I remember making borscht, a beet-based soup, while in culinary school and thought this was the perfect time to try my hand at it. It’s still February and close enough to Valentine’s Day to create another dish that evokes the color of passion.
Borscht is an eastern European soup (popular in Poland, Russia and the Ukraine) that can be complicated or easy, hot or cold, delicious or gross. It all depends on your approach. While I try to be authentic whenever preparing a classic dish such as this, I wasn’t willing to pick up a spit-browned chicken, round of veal, marrow bone, a duck, another chicken and 6 large sausages for the 6-hour long recipe written in the Larousse Gastronomique cookbook of all cookbooks.
On the other hand, I wasn’t willing to go the Joy of Cooking route that consisted of a can of condensed consommé, cream of chicken soup, a can of beets, and a token clove of garlic that are all whipped up in a blender. This is what I call absolutely gross. It’s an insult to all palates.
My approach was to create a recipe that is modern, healthy, fresh and beautiful by using fresh beets, organic vegetable stock, spices, and blood orange juice.
Last night was book club again, and the ladies were my focus group of taste testers. We ran out of bowls, which was a good sign. The soup passed with flying colors.
I had made two versions of this soup – one with fresh beets and one with canned beets. Skip the can. The color fades and the flavor is flat. It’s best to go FRESH.
This soup is delicious cold and hot. Hope you all enjoy.
FROM BORSCHT WITH LOVE
Makes about 3 ½ cups soup
Special tools: immersion blender and mesh sieve
Serve hot or cold (It makes for a terrific cold soup)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp whole fennel seed, crushed
1 tsp whole coriander seed, crushed
3 Tbls grapeseed oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
4 cloves of garlic
1 Tbl concentrated sun-dried tomato paste
1 quart organic vegetable broth
3 beets, average in size, peeled and quartered
7 ounces Russet potato, diced (paleo subsitute sweet potato)
2 6” long stems of fresh tarragon
4 Tbls of sugar (paleo — not needed if using sweet potatoes)
2 Tbls of cider vinegar
Juice of one blood orange (about ¼ cup – any orange will do)
Salt and pepper to taste
CHAMPAGNE YOGURT (paleo and vegan diets can skip this)
½ cup Noosa plain yogurt
3 tsp champagne vinegar
1 tsp honey
water as needed
Fresh tarragon sprigs
Preheat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the spices to the dry pan and heat until fragrant. Add the grapeseed oil, onion, carrot and garlic, stir and cover. Sweat over low heat until onions are translucent. Stir as needed to prevent browning.
Stir in the tomato paste and heat through. Add the broth, beets, potatoes, bay leaf and tarragon. Partially cover and simmer about 50 minutes or until beets and potatoes are tender. Add the sugar, cider vinegar and blood orange juice and heat through.
Remove pan from heat. Remove and discard the bay leaf and tarragon sprigs. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup. Strain the soup through a mesh sieve to create a smooth yet thick soup.
In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, champagne vinegar and honey. The Champagne Yogurt should be the same consistency as the soup. Add a little water if the yogurt is too thick.
Ladle about ½ cup of soup per serving. Garnish with a dollop of the Champagne Yogurt and a sprig of fresh tarragon.