Unconventional Borscht

Yield: 12 cups

This likely can’t be considered borscht by an Eastern-European or Russian standard of any kind because far too many liberties have been taken with the traditional recipe to use the name… What we do have here is a warming fall or winter bowl inspired by borscht, cabbage soup, and Indian fried cabbage dishes.  The unlikely combination makes for an uplifting golden-hued broth that’s both sweet and savory and uniquely suited to brightening up an overcast day.  There are a few steps since the carrots and beets are roasted prior to inclusion, but it’s well worth the effort for the added flavour and depth the roasting imparts to the finished food.

What you need:

  • 1 lb yellow beets, about 4 or 5 smaller ones, peeled and cut into wedges a 1/2” thick around the exterior
  • 1 lb carrots, about 3 medium ones, roll-cut into 1/2” pieces
  • 6 packed cups of shredded cabbage
  • 3 onions, halved and sliced into 1/2” thick half-moons
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 6 cups unsalted vegetable broth
  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes (home-canned if available)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground salt and pepper

What you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet (11×17) with parchment paper.  Lay out the beets and carrots in a single layer and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and few twists of salt and pepper from the mill (go easy on the salt).
  3. Roast in the oven for about 35 minutes, tossing at the 20 minute mark, until the vegetables are cooked and have a nice golden hue.
  4. While the vegetables are roasting, heat the remaining oil over medium flame in a dutch oven or soup pot. When hot, add the onions, cabbage and garlic.  Stir and fry until the cabbage is cooked and it’s water evaporated – starting to get crispy, everything is golden/reddish throughout, and lots of roasted bits are sticking to the bottom of the pot.  This will take 20-30 minutes and a watchful eye, stirring frequently; you may also need to raise the heat a bit.
  5. When the cabbage is fried to your taste, add the paprika, dill and anise seed and mix to distribute evenly throughout.
  6. Deglaze the roasted bits from the bottom using the crushed tomatoes and follow that up with the vegetable broth.
  7. Bring the soup to a simmer, and then add the salt, roasted carrot and beet. Lower heat and simmer, covered, 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and let sit another 10 minutes, so the flavour of the roasted vegetables really infuses the broth.
  8. Serve.

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