i finally lost my virginity…my ukrainian borscht making virginity that is! in 1.5 years here i’ve tackled ukrainian cake, salad, and entree recipes but there was something about borscht that just terrified me. and i know i’m not the only pcv to think so too. some of us would nervously ask if another had made it…or ever tried it…or if they did, what is was like and concluding they were so cool…as if asking about experimental days of college.
ukrainian borscht is an absolute staple to the diet of every dima, sasha, and jenya out there. it’s about ukrainian as ukrainian gets. so much so that it’s usually question #2 of the top 5 questions everyone here asks you — ‘have you had ukrainian borscht?’ which is right after ‘do you like ukraine?’ and right before ‘are you married?’
the move to my new school and village has really been an overall plus in my book. with the exception that my new school doesn’t have a lunch break (well there is one at 10:00am…i’m still struggling to understand this). so no real lunch means no real cafeteria which means no real borscht.
my last school, a boarding school, served absolutely wonderful borscht. and while i ate some form of soup EVERY SINGLE DAY for lunch as is custom in ukraine …and for someone that doesn’t consider herself a ‘soup kinda girl’ took some getting used to, i found myself actually looking forward to it. well it was either borscht or fish soup…yea…fish soup days were never good days.
so for someone that usually avoids most soup intake, never once would i have thought i’d suffer cravings for a nice hot bowl of borscht, have the desire after a school day to tackle such a feat of what seems like 20 zillion ingredients and endless peeling & grating, or even to love the smell that lingers after cooking it. so i guess my cultural integration is complete. and i’m one step closer to turning into a babushka. yes.
i wasn’t sure what would come of my final fearless dive into the world of borscht making. honestly i thought it would turn out just okay…just edible…maybe even terrible! but some how, some way, i ended up creating probably THE MOST delicious borscht recipe i’ve tasted…and i swear i’m not being biased ; ) but really…first time well done kristen, malodets. and slava boh because it was certainly a lot of work (well more than my usual throw-whatever’s-in-the-fridge-into-a-skillet idea of cooking). good thing there’s extra for the freezer cause i’m not sure how often the babushka spirit in me will have the desire to actually put effort into my meal-for-one anytime soon.
15 cups of water
2 chicken bulion cubes
2 large or 3 medium potatoes, sliced into bite-size pieces
2 large or 3 medium beets, washed peeled and grated
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, grated
1/2 head of cabbage, thinly chopped
1 can white beans
4 tablespoons oil
3 bay leaves
5 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tsp salt
(the original recipe calls for dill…but i didn’t have any and ukraine kinda dilled me out anyways)
1.) mentally prepare yourself to spend a lot of time peeling, grating, and chopping. prepare all ingredients before you begin cooking.
2.) wash, peel, and grate beets and carrots. chop onions. set aside in a bowl.
3.) wash, peel, and slice potatoes in 1/4 inch thick pieces. finely slice 1/2 head of cabbage.
4.) fill a LARGE soup pot with 15 cups of water and bring to a boil. add bullion cubes and potatoes. cook for 15-20 minutes (meanwhile begin step 5). when potatoes are cooked add cabbage and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
5.) while potatoes are cooking, heat a large skillet over medium/high heat. add 4 tbsp olive oil and saute beets, carrots, and onions for 10-15 minutes. (since my skillet is small i had to do this in two parts).
6.) add veggies to soup along with lemon juice, tomato paste, bay leaves, beans, salt, and pepper.
7.) cook another 5 minutes until cabbage is soft and well cooked. serve as is or topped with a dollop of sour cream (super ukr).