i have recently discovered the beauty of beets, thanks to one of my favorite food blogs, www.noteatingnoutinny.com. they are vitamin and fiber packed and stain your hands (and anything else porous) the most brilliant shade of magenta. i've taken to roasting them, but when i saw the pre-chopped parsnips at the grocery store the other day i instantly began craving a Pretty Hot And Tempting bowl of borscht. which in turn always flips the swedish chef switch in my head and i want to sing jovial mock swedish nonsense as loud as the boys in the house will let me, but change the ending to borscht! borscht! borscht! moving on...
i ran into a few roadblocks along the way but since i don't really use recipes improvisation isn't really a problem. when i went back to the store they had thrown away all the parsnips (!), their excuse being that since they were closed for christmas they had gone bad. i was tempted to ask if they could go back and fish the plastic tub out of the garbage and just give them to me, as i was going to use them within the hour, but i refrained from looking like the desperate parsnip lady. i spied the rutabagas on sale for 99 cents and decided a substitution could be made. i grabbed a baking potato and some carrots and was out the door, remembering halfway home that i had forgotten to buy dill. despite my love of lists, i rarely make them and often forget what i'm doing, where i'm going, and what i need.
at home, my roommate is still asleep as i begin to quietly chop, bang, and mash my way to purple nirvana. as i said, i don't use recipes, so all of these measurements are estimated, but i think all food should be made to suit the people eating it. if you don't like cabbage, leave it out. lots of borscht recipes call for diced tomatoes or tomato paste, but i skipped it. my favorite part of being in the kitchen is not having to listen to anyone tell me what to do, i'm a bit anti-authority. but in case you like a little direction, here is a vague description of what happened in my teeny kitchen between 8 and 11 this morning.
whatchoo need: (this makes enough for around 4 generous servings.) 2 medium beets, scrubbed and the greens chopped. (save the greens!) 1 baking potato, cubed. 2 large carrots, chopped. rutabaga, peeled and cubed. (i matched the amount of potato i had.) chicken stock, homemade if you have it. (veggie stock would work just as well). allspice. 3 cloves garlic, finely diced. yellow onion, diced. (i used about 2 slices.) 1 cup red cabbage, chopped or diced. beet greens, stemmed and chopped. olive oil. sour cream. DILL! it makes a difference, i promise.
whatchoo do: -wrap the beets in tin foil and toss in the oven at about 350 for an hour or until soft. -after you take the beets out of the oven, ope up the tin foil and let them cool while you boil/saute the potato, carrots, and 'baga in about a cup of chicken stock until they are soft enough to mash. (i like my borscht chunky, but if you prefer the smooth kind then you can skip the mashing and just toss them in a blender.) -once the beets have cooled a bit, the peel should be easy to rub off. chop the top and bottom off, dice them up and toss them into the pot with the other veggies. then mash, mash, mash! (or blend! blend! blend!) until it resembles cranberry sauce, or perhaps the manic panic color "deadly nightshade"; silly, yet accurate. -in a saucepan, saute the onions, and garlic until they are translucent. if you want to save dishes then you can skip the sauteeing and just throw them in the pot, but i think the flavor is much better when you make them sweat a bit (much like a first date). -add the onions, garlic, cabbage, beet greens, and enough chicken stock to get the consistency you prefer. the allspice is up to you, i used just a pinch and wouldn't really recommend much more. i added tons of black pepper, because i like it that way. -let it sit on medium-low, covered, for about 45 minutes,or whichever temp keeps it at a slow boil or simmer. -serve with a little sour cream dill and you're done. bork bork bork.
the men in the house tend to live off of indian food and cheeseburgers, and shun anything from the ground unless it's covered in curry. as i was having my sample bowl of borscht before i put it in the fridge for dinner (and lunch and another possible dinner tomorrow), my boyfriend stepped out of bed in his robe and described it as looking like "what they used for guts in zombie movies before they got the color right". so if it looks like technicolor innards and tastes like heaven, you've done well.