I had a head of cabbage in my fridge that needed to be used, and two bunches of beets. What better time to make beet soup? Although it’s been warm and sunny for the past few days, it’s still autumnal enough for soup to be good. And I cherish beets at any time of year.
I don’t call it “borscht” because I think that true borscht contains beef broth… or something.* In any case, it simplifies things and obviates any arguments about authenticity to simply call it beet soup. I do, however, have fairly strong feelings about my beet soup. It must contain onions, cabbage, caraway seeds and dill. The beets must be cubed, not sliced. There are no potatoes in my beet soup.
As I was cutting beets, I listened to a very moving interview with an elderly Maurice Sendak on NPR. He reflected on the death of those close to him, his own mortality, his struggle with his sexual orientation, the beauty and pleasure he finds in the world, his atheism, his imaginary daughter, and the significance of his new book, among other things. He choked up a couple of times during the interview, and I was floored by his level of candor. Everything he said was so genuine, heartfelt and guileless, that even the interviewer, Terry Gross, sounded taken aback (at one point he told her that she was the only interviewer he ever talked to in that way). I’ve always loved Sendak’s work, and hearing him speak was like listening to a beloved relative.
I diced and sauteed a white onion and a red onion with a few cloves of chopped garlic, a couple teaspoons of caraway seed, salt, pepper and about a tablespoon of dried basil.
Next I added a few roll-cut carrots (my favorite carrot cut, achieved by rolling the carrot away from you as you slice it, making for asymmetrical pieces that are chunkier and more satisfying than diced or disked carrots) and the beets. Meanwhile, I had a stock going comprising a bunch of old dill, a few carrots, celery, and some leek tops.
I always like to finish my beet soup with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt (in this case, Brown Cow cream top, the best yogurt there is, IMO) and a sprig of fresh dill. This batch was goooooood.
*After checking out the Wikipedia entry on borscht (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borscht) it turns out that the definition of this soup is as amorphous and ever-changing as the many cultures in which it’s found. So, I suppose I could call my version borscht if I wanted to bolster my Ukranian-heritage street-cred…