My least favorite part of the day is waking up.
(hi, welcome to Practice with Danielle where you will find zero rainbows or sunshine).
Mostly because I wake up to the realization that the heat’s turned off and it’s freezing in the bedroom. The only thing standing in the way between cozy warmth and freezing reality is the plush comforter that’s collected body heat throughout the night. Ripping this off of me is a small death I have to face every morning.
Just when I think cold mornings can’t get any worse, I slip on Bella’s frozen pee on the sidewalk. Welcome to January in Denver where it snows, melts and freezes in a matter of 12 hours.
Today’s Russian recipe promises to bring warmth and comfort no matter what sort of frozen hell you’re dealing with this winter.
Borscht is a classic Russian soup but it’s not exactly wildly popular in the US.
It sounds intense. Not inviting. Harsh, like the winter it’s up against.
But this soup is at the top of my must-make soup lists this year (and every year).
Before you tell me how much you hate beets, just hear me out.
The beets in this recipe add a special depth; a robust and sweet flavor you can’t get in any other soup. The normal earthy beet-y flavor you’ve eaten in salads or other dishes doesn’t exist. They are soft, sweet and make the most beautifully colored soup.
As a side note, beet juice gets EVERYWHERE. And it’s so so pretty. But unless you want your white shirt/counter/napkin to stay pink, I suggest being extra careful when you make this soup.
That said, I strongly considered pulling a Jackson Pollack for this photo shoot by spraying pink juice all over the counter. The only thing stopping me from creating a unique form of counter-art was the fact that I was starving.
One last pitch for this Classic Russian Borscht Soup as your new winter soup staple – it’s filled with root veggies which makes it filling, but is made with a veggie broth so you can happily eat more than one bowl in a single sitting.
I don’t know what happens in the pot, but the combo of potatoes, beets, veggies, tomato paste, vinegar, dill together creates a uniquely delicate and flavorful soup that will make you wonder why you aren’t eating more Russian food.
Start by prepping your beets, potatoes and carrots. You’ll peel all veggies (unless you are like me, and like potatoes to keep their vitamin-rich skins). You can grate or slice your beets into matchsticks (this is just texture preference). Potatoes and carrots will be cut into similar sized pieces, think 1/4 inch rounds/quarters.
In a large pot, you’ll get 2 Tbsp of olive oil warm on medium heat. Add your beets and sauté for about 10 minutes until they start to get soft. Add your stock and water. Then add your potatoes and carrots and bring to a simmer/loosely cover your pot. Make sure to add a little salt along the way.
While this is simmering, prep a medium sized pan on the stove with the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. You’re adding your diced onions, celery and peppers to this pan. Once everything gets soft (about 5-7 minutes) add your tomato paste and cook for another couple minutes. Add a little salt to season along the way. Remove from heat.
Once your potatoes and carrots are fork tender, add your onion/pepper/celery mixture to the pot. Add your bay leaves, a couple Tbsp of vinegar (to taste), salt/pepper (to taste), garlic, and a ton of chopped dill. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so.
Serve in a giant bowl and top with a dollop sour cream and another handful of chopped dill. Serve with Russian Black Bread or anything that allows you to soak up the pretty pink soup.