Today marks the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and what better to celebrate the opening ceremony than with a big bowl of borscht? I’ll admit that I until recently I never really thought too much of this blood-red soup. But a trip to the McCarren Park Greenmarket last fall changed all that. They were hosting their own Borscht Olympics of sorts, and in the lineup were Greenpoint strongholds such as Karczma and Lomzynianka, but there was also a submission from Eat, that gorgeous little vegetarian restaurant on Meserole. From one spoonful to the next, each soup was so unique and delicious—some more vinegar-y, some more vegetal and garlicky—but it was Eva Schmidt (of Eat) whose beautiful borscht I wanted to give the gold medal to. I asked her if she would share the recipe for it with us, and she graciously sent it over– a party-sized recipe at that!
Sentimental holiday sidenote: Could there be a more perfectly colored food to make for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day? I think not.
Eva’s Heart-Warming Borscht:
4 lb beets
3 lb carrots
2 lb potatos
57 Garlic cloves
23 dried chili peppers (depending on heat intensity)}
Food processor or blender
2 soup pots
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Use 3 lb of beets, and peel and quarter or cut them into smaller chunks if using large beets. Use appx 1.5 lb of carrots, and peel and cut up into medium-sized chunks.
2. Cook beets and carrots in boiling water until soft enough to puncture through with a fork (On the softer side is better will be easier to process later on).
3. While these beets and carrots are cooking, peel and dice the potatoes and remaining beets and carrots into 1/2 1 inch cubes. In a mixing bowl, toss the diced veggies with olive oil so they are evenly coated and glistening. Sprinkle with sea salt and toss again. Spread the veggie cubes onto a baking sheet space evenly, with no piling. Bake veggies in oven until they are cooked through and soft to puncture with a fork. NOTE: Be careful not to over bake or dry them out! You may hear them sizzle and smell when they’re ready. They won’t take long since they’re petite in size.
4. Remove the baked veggies from the oven and let them sit and regain moisture. Turn off the oven!
5. Ok now the boiled beets and carrots should be ready…Ladle the veggies and their juice into the food processor or blender. Pulse and process beets and carrots until you achieve a smooth, creamy even, consistency (You will be able to determine how much water to use in proportion to veg depending on your preference. If its too thick, add more water, if its getting too thin, process more veg!).
6. While you’re blending the beets+carrots, with each batch, add chopped or full cloves of garlic and chopped dried chili peppers to taste. (Add one garlic clove at a time, sprinkle in the chili in small amounts Be sure to taste after each addition. Improvise!) Add a slow stream of olive oil to one batch of purée. Pour each batch of processed beets, carrots, garlic, chili and olive oil into another soup pot on low heat stir the puréed soup to integrate all of the flavors.
7. At last fold in the baked beet, carrot and potato cubes into the purée. Salt to taste. Continue to cook on low-med heat. The baked veggies will absorb the delicious sweetness of the purée. Ladle borscht into soup bowls, garnish with sour cream, parsley or whatever your heart desires and ENJOY!
Thanks to Eva and Eat for sharing their lovely recipe.
Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg