An easy way to make a hearty, beef and beet borscht

  • Vinegar and brown sugar bring the sweet and sour flavors of this borscht to life.

    Vinegar and brown sugar bring the sweet and sour flavors of this borscht to life.

 
Updated 1/6/2016 6:05 AM

There are many varieties of borscht, which is a standard dish in Eastern European countries. I have tasted this soup in Vienna, Paris, New York and Los Angeles, each having its own personality. The one common ingredient is beets.

Some soups are lighter versions, made without meat, and have additional vegetables such as chard and potatoes; other versions are loaded with sausages or beef along with the classic cabbage and beet combination. There is even chilled vegetarian borscht reserved for hot days.

 

When it's cold outside this is one dish I never tire of serving. A classic Russian peasant soup, this borscht, replete with beets, cabbage and beef, is wonderful as a main dish soup for company. If you want a vegetarian version, just omit the meat.

An added bonus is that the soup improves if made a day ahead. You can also steam little potatoes and add them to the soup at the last minute.

To avoid red hands and stained cutting boards, use kitchen gloves and place a piece of plastic wrap or foil on the cutting board. If you find beet stains on your cutting board, use a little bleach cleanser and the stains will come out.

• Diane Rossen Worthington is the author of 18 cookbooks. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Borscht

6 medium beets, cleaned and trimmed

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 pounds stewing beef, cut into bite-size pieces, about 1 inches

2 medium leeks, finely chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

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1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes, well drained

1 medium head green cabbage, coarsely shredded

10 cups water

2 tablespoons tomato paste

6 sprigs fresh dill weed

5 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar

1/3 cup brown sugar, plus 1 tablespoon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

cup sour cream (for garnish)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill weed (for garnish)

Place the beets in a large saucepan and cover with an inch of water. Place over medium heat and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until fork tender. Remove the beets from the pan, reserving 2 cups of the beet juice, and place them in a colander. Run under cold running water and peel. Cut the beets into 3/4-inch pieces and reserve.

In a large soup pot heat 2 tablespoons of the oil on medium-high heat. Brown the meat in batches, making sure not to crowd the meat, for about 5 to 7 minutes for each batch. Reserve the beef.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Add the remaining oil and saute the leeks and carrots for about 5 to 7 minutes or until nicely softened and lightly browned.

Add the 2 cups of the beet juice, reserved beef, tomatoes, cabbage, water, tomato paste and dill weed to the vegetables making sure to scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer, partially covered, over medium heat and cook for 1 hours or until the meat is tender when pierced with a fork.

Add the reserved beets, vinegar, brown sugar, salt and pepper and simmer 5 more minutes. Taste for seasoning. You may need to adjust the sweet and sour flavoring to your taste.

To serve: Ladle borscht into deep soup bowls and garnish with sour cream and the chopped dill weed.

Serves 8 to 10

-- Diane Rossen Worthington

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