The Remix: Borscht | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine
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The Remix: Borscht

Not your Bubbe’s borscht, yo.

Borscht, reconsidered. Amy Kritzer/JW

4 servings

active: 
30 min

total: 
1 hr 30 min

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This is the next installment in our series The Remix, in which we seek to gently rework the more challenging dishes in the Jewish culinary canon. With a little bit of love, we’re convinced we can make any dish delicious, even ones that seem a bit bizarre to the modern palate

Every time I remix a dish for this series, I think the dish I’m working on is the one most in need of an update. But borscht really is.

Beet soup just sounds so unappealing, and many people think the purple-pink vegetable tastes like dirt. But I’ve always been a fan of it and its neon color. Surely there’s a way to bring everyone over to the bright side.

It originated in Ukraine. Beets were inexpensive and easy to grow, so they got cooked down with onions, carrots and vinegar and made into a deep red soup. In the vegetarian version, they were topped with sour cream. Jews of different regions added potatoes, cabbage, sugar and brisket (yum), in accordance with local flavor preferences.

According to Gil Marks, the late Jewish food expert, beets were one of the few produce items that could survive the eastern European winters, so borscht became a staple for the early spring holiday of Passover. Today you can purchase borscht in a jar; Manischewitz and Gold’s both make more versions. There is even low sodium for those watching their salt intake, but the result is way better when you make your own. Many order the jarred stuff by the case for the winter months and Passover – no more!

But how to craft the most appealing update? There are about as many ways to make borscht as there are consonants in the word. You can go hot or cold with your borscht. You can add meat, or not. You can push the soup’s sweet side hard, or balance it out.

Since it’s January, this version is hot. But as I discovered as the soup cooled during its photography session, it even tastes good cold. Score!

I went vegan, with coconut milk as a thickener. That way you can pair it with a pastrami sandwich for the ultimate warming lunch. And I like to let the beets shine, along with mild leeks and a hint of honey for sweetness.

This certainly isn’t your Bubbe’s borscht. It’s even brighter than the traditional version, puréed with a sweet swirl of coconut milk and topped with pickled red onions.

Amy Kritzer is a food writer and recipe developer in Austin, Texas. She blogs at What Jews Wanna Eat. 

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Ingredients

For borscht:

3 large beets, washed, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

Extra virgin olive oil

1 medium sweet potato (I used a purple sweet potato), washed, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 medium carrots, washed, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices

2 medium leeks, washed week and cut into slices

3 cups water

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 lemon, juiced

½ cup coconut milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Dill for garnish

For quick-pickled red onions:

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

½ cup apple cider vinegar

1 medium red onion, cut into slices

Steps
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Put beets on a piece of foil, drizzle with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast for about 30 minutes. Then add sweet potatoes and carrots and roast for 30 more minutes or until vegetables are fork tender.
  3. Meanwhile, make pickled onions by whisking together salt, sugar and vinegar in a medium bowl. Then add onion slices and mix together. Let onions sit for 1 hour.
  4. When vegetables are cooked, take a few pieces of cooked beets and small dice. Set aside for garnish.
  5. In a large stockpot, heat 1-tablespoon extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add leek slices and sauté until soft and slightly browned, about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Then add beets, sweet potato, carrots, water, apple cider vinegar, honey and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer, and puree with a an immersion blender or in a food processor. Return to the stockpot if you used a food processor. Temper hot borscht with coconut milk by adding a 1/4 cup of the borscht into the coconut milk a little at a time to bring it to temperature. Then whisk in the coconut milk and season borscht with salt and pepper to taste. Top portions of borscht with beets, pickled onions and dill.