Borsht

Being of Jewish-Ukrainian descent, Borsht (cold, hot, green and vegetarian variety) is a staple in my kitchen.  I do not subscribe to the notion that 'only I can make it right'. I have my own recipe, honed by years of trial and error and that's how my family likes it - but I've tried dozens other recipes that were completely different and still amazingly good.  So here's the first Borsht recipe, the meat variety.

I cooked using 'eyeball method' for the most of my life but I realize now that if I want the recipe to be useful to anyone else but me I have to measure, so this step-by-step comes with measurement - but please use your judgement as well. Some like more salt, some like thicker soups or thinner, more brothy ones so feel free to adjust the recipe to your preference. 

For this particular recipe you will need: 

2 lbs veal (with bone, breast or chop, beef short ribs could work too but take longer to cook)

2 large beets

1 onion

1 parsley root

½ head of cabbage, shredded

1-2 sweet peppers, finely diced

3-4 large carrots

3-4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes

1 can (14 oz) of peeled crushed tomatoes

2-3 tbsp tomato paste

Bay leaf

Fresh parsley, finely chopped

White vinegar

Sugar

 

Preparation:

Cut veal into 3-inch chunks, breaking the bone with a cleaver if necessary (if using beef place meat and bones into cold water, bring to a boil and drain the water, rinse the meat then continue with the recipe).  Peel beets and carrots, place into large soup pot filled with water (min. 4 quarts) with the meat, bay leaf, parsley root and onion, bring to a boil skimming off scum, salt and let simmer until the beets are soft when tested with a fork.  Remove beets and carrots, set aside to cool, remove and discard the onion and the parsley root. 

 Put cabbage, pepper and potatoes into the pot with meat, bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.  Grate cooled beets and carrots, set aside.  In a bowl mix the crushed tomatoes with tomato paste, salt, pepper, a little vinegar and sugar (keep tasting so the sweet/sour balance is to your liking) When the cabbage and potatoes are soft, put grated beets and carrots and tomato mixture into the pot, bring to a boil and let simmer for half an hour, then turn off the heat.  

Serve piping hot with sour cream, sprinkle of fresh parsley and pumpernickel bread. Make sure to place a chunk of veal into every bowl. 

Gnocchi Soup

Gnocchi soup

1 lb ground beef
½ lb bacon, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1-2 sweet peppers, diced
1 28-oz can peeled diced tomatoes in juice
1 lb frozen corn
½ lb frozen peas
1 lb potato gnocchi
1 ½ quart boiling water
1 pint milk or cream
1 tbsp Sriracha
1 bay leaf
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
Salt, pepper to taste

Heat up large pot. Render bacon until crisp. Add carrot, sauté until soft. Drop in the beef, brown. Add garlic and sauté until soft. Add peppers and corn, stir in and cook on high until peppers are soft. Drop in tomatoes, cook another 5-10 minutes. At this point pour in the boiling water, stir well and bring to a boil again. Drop in peas and gnocchi, bring to a boil, add cream, bay leaf, lower the heat, stir and simmer for another 20-30 min. Done. Enjoy!

Matzo Ball Soup

Holidays are coming and no holiday table is complete without a steaming bowl of Matzo Ball soup.  Every cook has their recipe, so here is mine.  This recipe is about the matzo balls, so I am assuming we are working with chicken stock or broth already made.  

Julia’s Chicken Matzo Ball Soup               

For the soup:

2 cups diced roasted chicken

2 cups cooked vermicelli or other small type noodles, preferably egg.

1 carrot, shredded

1 small onion finely diced

2 quarts of chicken broth/stock

2-3 tbsp olive oil

Fresh parsley for garnish

For matzo balls:

1 cup matzo meal

4 eggs

4 tbsp chicken broth

4 tbsp olive oil

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Salt & pepper

 

Prepare the matzo balls:

Beat eggs with broth and oil, add matzo meal, baking powder, salt, and pepper, mix well, cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. 

Prepare the soup:

In a large stockpot (at least 4 qt sized) heat up olive oil and sauté onion until golden brown.  Add carrot and chicken; continue sautéing until carrots are soft. Pour in chicken broth, stir and bring to a boil.  Form 1-inch matzo balls from the prepared mixture (this quantity should make about 16) and drop them into the boiling soup, cook for at least 40 minutes.  Add noodles, bring to a boil again and turn off the heat. Check for seasoning and add salt if necessary.  Sprinkle with finely chopped fresh parsley. Enjoy!  

 

Mushroom Barley Soup

This is an excellent cold weather soup and it can be made completely vegetarian if you go with vegetable broth or even water. 

 

Ingredients:

2 onions, diced

2 carrots, shredded

1 lb mushrooms, sliced - any variety, fresh or

1 cup dried porcini mushrooms soaked in hot water for at least 2 hours or until soft

1 cup pearl barley, rinsed well

2 potatoes, peeled and diced

2.5 quarts of hot water or broth

Salt, pepper to taste

Finely chopped dill for serving

 

In a large heavy bottomed pot sauté onions in a couple of tablespoons of butter (can use oil but butter gets the nutrients out of carrots better).  Once soft add carrots and cook until both are tender. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook for another 10-15 min. If using dry mushrooms strain and save the soaking liquid, just make sure there's no sand or other debris in it.  Add it to the water/broth and pour into the pot, deglazing the bottom.  Bring to a boil and add barley, bring to a boil again and cook for about an hour or until the barley is soft. Add potatoes and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Serve with dill.

 

If you don't have the broth and want to add extra flavor you can use the bullion cubes (2 cubes per quart of water) to season the soup.  

Ukrainian Wedding Soup

This is my take on the traditional Italian Wedding soup with Ukrainian twist

For the meatballs:

1 lb ground beef (can use turkey)

1 lb ground pork

1 cup cooked rice

Finely chopped dill

1 large or 2 small eggs

Salt, pepper to taste

 

For the soup:

2 quarts good chicken stock

1 quart water

1 small/half large head of white or Napa cabbage

1-2 cups fresh or frozen peas

4-6 medium potatoes

Finely chopped dill

2 tbsp Vegeta

 

Preparation:

Mix the meatball ingredients together.  Roll the meatballs in your hands – make them as small as possible, no more than 1”. 

Pour stock and water into a large (at least 5 quart) pot. Add Vegeta and bring to a boil. Drop in the meatballs, bring to a boil again and lower the heat. Simmer for 25-30 minutes.  In the meantime shred the cabbage, peel and quarter the potatoes.  Add all vegetables to the soup and cook for another 30 minutes on very low heat.  Once done turn off the heat, add the dill and freshly ground pepper and let sit for another 10-15 minutes.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and toasted pumpernickel bread. 

Green Borsht

Another summertime staple - although since most of the greens are no longer seasonal you could make it any time in the year, but to me it'll always be the taste of summer. 

Green Borsht

Ingredients:

  1. Bunch of scallions, finely chopped
  2. Bunch of spinach, chopped
  3. Bunch of sorrel, chopped (if can’t be found just double the quantity of spinach)
  4. 2 tablespoons of rice
  5. 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  6. 1 table spoon of butter
  7. Sour cream or crème fraiche, hard boiled eggs and chopped parsley for serving

Bring two quarts of chicken broth (or water if making this soup vegetarian) to a boil.  Salt the water and add all ingredients at the same time, bring to a boil again then reduce heat and let simmer until rice is fully cooked.  Taste for seasoning and add butter.  Serve with chopped hardboiled egg and finely chopped parsley.  

Vegetarian version can be served cold; in this case you can add minced cucumber along with the sour cream and egg.

Sourdough bread crostini are a great addition to both hot and cold versions of this soup. 

Pea Soup

This is one of the wintertime favorites.  Very simple to make, filling and delicious. 

 

1 onion

½ lb of any smoked meat or sausage, chopped in ½ inch cubes

1 lb dried green split peas or combination of green and yellow peas

2 quarts of chicken broth (or water)

1 carrot if desired

Salt and pepper to taste

 

In a thick-bottomed soup pot, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until sizzling and sauté finely chopped onion until golden brown.  Add chopped smoked meat or sausage (or combination), season and sauté until lightly browned and the fats melt.   Deglaze with the broth; make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom, pour the entire quart in and bring to a boil.  Add the peas, bring to a boil again and simmer on the low heat until peas are tender and almost disintegrated.  As peas soften and the soup thickens add more broth and stir often so the peas don’t stick to the bottom and burn.  Soup should be the consistency of heavy cream or a little thicker.  For completely smooth texture remove the meat, blend the soup with an immersion blender, then put meat back in.

 

Serve hot with croutons or crackers

 

Homemade croutons:

 

Slice sourdough or rye bread into ½ inch thick slices, then cut into cubes and place on a cookie sheet or shallow oven pan lined with foil or parchment paper.  Drizzle the bread cubes with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and any desired seasoning like garlic, dried herbs or hot peppers like cayenne or chipotle. Place in preheated to 400F oven and toast until golden brown.  

Potato Leek Soup

This soup is the ultimate comfort food, at least to me. Super-simple to make, creamy and delicious - a meal in a bowl. 

 

Potato Leek Soup           

 

2 large leeks (white and green parts, washed thoroughly and chopped)

3-4 tablespoons of Osem mushroom flavoring (instead of flour for thickening) or one packet of any dry mushroom soup

6-8 potatoes, peeled and diced (1/2 inch dice)

2 cups half and half

1 quart chicken or beef broth 

 

Melt half a stick of butter in a large pot, chop up the leeks and sauté until soft, about 10-15 minutes. Add mushroom flavoring, salt and pepper to taste, stir together for a few minutes longer to form a roux. Add broth, potatoes and bring to a boil.  Add half and half, reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Serve. Enjoy.

If you want you could add some bacon crumbles when served.

 

Meatball Soup

Meatball soup

Ingredients:

                Meatballs

1 lb of ground meat (chicken, turkey, veal, even meatloaf mix)

¾ to 1 cup of rice

2 eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

                Soup

                2 quarts chicken stock

                1 quart water

                 2 large carrots

                4 medium potatoes

                ¼ head of white cabbage (should make about 3 cups when shredded) or chopped     cauliflower 

                2 tablespoons farina or cream of wheat cereal

½ cup finely chopped dill

Mix ground meat, eggs, salt and pepper and rice together. Form small (no larger than 1”) balls, refrigerate.

In a large soup pot combine chicken stock and water.  Slice and add carrots.  Bring to a boil and drop prepared meatballs in the boiling water. Cook for about 15 minutes on low heat, skimming periodically.

Cube the potatoes into 1” cubes, shred the cabbage as if for slaw.  Add to the soup, bring to a boil and reduce heat.  Cook until potatoes are done, about 15 minutes.  Add the farina, stir well to prevent lumps from forming.  Add dill, stir once, taste to adjust the seasoning if needed, cover and turn off the heat. Let sit for another 15 minutes and serve.  Goes well with a dollop of sour cream and sourdough bread.