Not sure what to do with those fresh herbs and vegetables you are harvesting from your garden? Instead of everyday vegetable soup, make Russian borscht.
My neighbors in Philadelphia introduced me to this beautiful deep fuchsia soup, which is packed with fresh herbs and colorful vegetables. Mrs. Mikhaylova’s borscht is truly fabulous and you’ll soon discover that eating it once is not enough. Its smooth flavor is unforgettable.
My family likes borscht so much that I make a large pot of it for birthdays and holidays. I try to make enough for leftovers so that everyone gets a takeout container of it for lunch the next day. With nine vegetables and four fresh herbs, I use my Wusthof Classic knife set and a Cuisinart 14 Cup food processor to prepare it. The Wusthof Classic knives are razor sharp and slice through the vegetables easily while my Cuisinart Elite food processor saves about an hour of prep time!
I am sharing Irena’s original recipe with you, which for one meal, serves four people. I multiply this recipe by four for dinner parties to serve close to 20 people as a first course. It does not require hours of simmering, so most of the preparation is in dicing the vegetables. Adjust the simmer time to your preference for vegetable crispness. I add the bell peppers, green beans, and peas at the very last moment, but you may prefer that they simmer slightly longer.
From the Kitchen of Irena Mikhaylova
- 2 small red beets (the smaller, the tastier), diced
- 2 small potatoes, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup green string beans, diced
- 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1/4 small head of cabbage, shredded
- dill, parsley, basil, cilantro (any herbs you like)
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 black peppercorns
- sour cream and dill, for garnish
I use a Cuisinart 14 Cup food processor for these ingredients: onion, tomatoes, cabbage, basil, parsley, dill, and cilantro. Using the large chopping blade, I pulse the vegetables a few seconds to dice then into nickel-sized pieces. I pulse the onions and herbs slightly longer for very fine pieces. For the rest of the vegetables, I use the paring and cook’s knives from my Wusthof Classic knife set.
Peel the beets and dice into small pieces. Place the beets in a saucepan and pour cold water over them so that you have 2″ of water on top of the beets. Bring to a boil and then add 2 teaspoons of sugar. Add 1/8 teaspoon of lemon acid powder (available in Russian markets) and a little more cold water. Reduce the heat and simmer for one hour until beets are soft.
Shred and chop the cabbage. Place it in a separate stockpot and fill it halfway with water. Add bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Peel the potatoes and cut them into small pieces. Peel and dice the carrots. Finely chop the onion. Add these to the stockpot with the cabbage and bring it to a boil again. Simmer another 15 minutes. Add peas, green beans, red pepper, and tomatoes. Bring this to a boil again and simmer for five minutes. Add salt, freshly ground pepper, and a handful of finely chopped basil, parsley, dill, and cilantro (all of these herbs combined total one handful).
Add the beets and their broth to the stockpot of vegetables and the borscht is done. Ladle into bowls and finish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream and a garnish of fresh dill.
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