Thursday, February 25, 2010

Not Even a Bronze Borscht

So there's no medal for Evgeni Malkin or Sergei Gonchar this year. After last night's beatdown of Team Russia at the hands of the Canadians in Vancouver, Russians worldwide are going to want comfort food, like the borscht that Malkin's mother famously makes him when she's in Pittsburgh. I knew I was going to post a borscht recipe here; this gives me an excuse!

I can't claim that this is anything like Mama Malkin's magic borscht. For one thing, traditional Russian borscht has some kind of meat in it. Also, parsnips and cider vinegar are not traditionally Russian--they're just tasty. But my L'Ailee is Russian, and she'll happily eat this. I found this online years ago, adapted it a few times, and it's become a favorite way to use up root vegetables from the farmers' co-op box ever since. I can also get hockey-loving children to eat a big bowl of it by saying I made it in honor of Geno. It tastes gold medal on a bad, sad, not-even-a-bronze night.

Serve it with good dark bread, and if there's a Russian at your table, they'll want the *large* tub of sour cream to top it this week.

Not Even a Bronze Borscht

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 pound white mushrooms, trimmed, wiped clean, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large onion, cut into 3/4 inch dice
10 small or 7 to 8 medium beets (about 1-1/2 pounds), with greens, peeled, quartered, and cut across into 1/4-inch slices
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut across into 1/4 inch rounds
1 medium parsnip, peeled and cut across into 1/4 inch rounds
1 small celery root (about 3/4 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 pound white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 small green cabbage (about 3/4 pound), cored and shredded
2 large cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, and very finely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium bunch dill, fronds only, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For Serving:
Coarsely chopped dill
Sour cream

Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 cup hot water for 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid, and squeeze out the excess liquid. Strain all the soaking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve. Reserve the liquid and the mushrooms separately.

In a tall narrow stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes.

Add the beets, carrots, parsnip, celery root, 8 cups water, and the mushroom soaking liquid. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the potatoes, cabbage, garlic, and the beet greens. Dissolve the tomato paste in 1/2 cup of the liquid and stir it back into the soup. Return to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the reconstituted dried mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the dill, sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Pass bowls of chopped dill and sour cream at the table. Makes about 8 servings.

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