My partner, Ben, has a saying: “They can’t all be gems.” I know I’m a good cook, but sometimes my cooking is off just a little bit. This was one of those times. Fortunately cooking is a creative process, and lackluster results can often be rescued and turned into something more appealing.
I was craving this borscht because it’s a wintery soup that is simultaneously hearty and light. Borscht can come in many forms and from many places, but in my mind I always think of Russia. Ben spent three summers in Russia, so for him eating borscht evokes memories. Traditional Russian borscht is full of meat—usually beef. Although adding beef may be delicious, it would defeat my idea of preparing something light and healthy. This version is vegan unless you add yogurt at the end, which of course I do!
I’ve made this recipe before and I typically use my Better than Bouillon vegetable stock. This time I went with Saffron Road Classic Culinary Vegetable Broth and I think it was too light to add any depth of flavor to the beets. I also tend to up the amount of vegetables I use—half of a small head of cabbage and a full can of drained, chopped tomatoes. Sadly, I didn’t increase the number of beets and potatoes this time around and I think my soup suffered for it. The recipe calls for beets that are two-inches in diameter, which is fairly small. I typically use six beets that are almost twice that size, but this time all I could find were small beets, so I used nine and still could have used more. Ultimately the soup came out too thin and without a ton of flavor, even after adding the juice from one lemon and an entire bunch of chopped dill (which is far preferable to the parsley called for in the recipe.)
The good news is, adding a spoonful of plain yogurt thickened it up and added some flavor (I use full fat yogurt for this recipe.) I improved the leftovers even more by boiling a potato in vegetable broth, then whipping up the potatoes with a little of the broth until I had what looked like a potato paste. A texture like really wet mashed potatoes is what I was going for. At that consistency it was easy to add the potato to the finished soup and blend it in. It thickened the borscht to a perfect consistency and somehow made the other flavors stand out.
So in this case, it turns out leftovers were better than the original! I do recommend this recipe, but consider this a fair warning to use a really high quality broth and load up on the vegetables. Plus, it’s so pretty!
Beet and Cabbage Borscht via Epicurious
Bon Appetit March 1988