Beets with a few other root vegetables and some aromatics make a stunning and delicious Borscht that is easily customizable in many ways.
With hundreds of individual variations, borscht (a Yiddish term) is an Eastern European class of soups consisting of a blend of root vegetables, sometimes with a protein, finished with a sour component historically from a pickled ingredient. Beets are popular and characteristic but not required—in fact, beetless green and white versions are found along with the bright-colored standards.
Many are off-put solely by the vibrant, oddly unnatural color of this native Ukrainian dish. Fundamentally, this is nothing more than a vegetable soup with beets. The beets lend color (obviously; note that they will easily stain everything) and a mild vegetal sweetness, almost with hints of apple. Otherwise, the familiar basics of a rustic meatless soup in a rich beef base come through.
Where the cook takes the recipe from here is almost endless: use different varieties of culinary plants (beans, peas, corn, apples, leafy greens, peppers or pickled vegetables); add cubes of beef, chicken, sausage or freshwater seafood; substitute chicken or fish stock, or even a vegetable broth for a purely vegan meal. Purée the final product for a smooth and creamy version, served hot or chilled.
Pause a moment and consider the condiments and accompaniments. For a traditional and authentic meal, include a savory yeast bun (pampushka) or cured and chopped pork fatback (salo) sprinkled in as a condiment. Sliced hard-boiled eggs would also not be unusual.
However, a dollop of sour cream or yogurt adds a luxurious dimension in both flavor and texture, and the caraway in a slice of rye bread pairs amazingly well. Do not forgo these simple yet substantial elements.
14.5-oz can tomatoes (diced)
1 rib celery
½ yellow onion
1 clove garlic
4 c beef broth
1 T dill
1 Peel and dice the beets and potato. Chop the celery, onion and cabbage. Grate the carrot, and mince the garlic.
2 Sauté the beets, onions, garlic, carrot, celery and cabbage in oil and butter until softened and beginning to brown, about 5-10 min.
3 Add the tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Add the potato and dill then simmer, covered, until the beets and potato are cooked through, about 25-30 min. Finish with fresh lemon juice, and season to taste.