Borscht

I recently spent two weeks on a mission trip in Vienna, Austria working with students who are studying in a theologian degree program with TCMI International Institute. These students come from mostly Eastern European countries to spend some much needed rest time in the Vienna Woods while attending classes towards their degree. We, as short-term workers, are there to take care of their everyday needs such as meals, housekeeping and maintenance of the campus so they may concentrate on their studies.

This year we had 57 students from 11 different countries. One of my greatest joys is to meet these students and learn about their family and their ministries. They are always willing to share traditions and especially food dishes from their native homeland. As I sat at meals with the students, I made a point to ask them which of their country’s traditional dishes they would like me to spotlight on my food blog. It’s a blessing to see their faces light up when they talk about their favorite dish and reminisce about a family member who makes the best one.

So, for the next 11 days I will be spotlighting each of these countries and a traditional dish in honor of these students and their love for their homeland. I encourage you to try some of these dishes and if you like them, do further research on that particular country’s cuisine. You may find a new favorite recipe or two for your family!

Spotlight: Ukraine
Dish: Borscht

Borscht is a sour soup commonly consumed in Eastern Europe. The variety most commonly associated with the name in English is of Ukrainian origin, and includes beetroots as one of the main ingredients, which gives the dish its distinctive red color.

This dish is loved by Ukrainians and Russians alike. Every time I meet a student from one of these countries and they find out I cook for a living, they always ask if I know how to make borscht. My younger self would have turned up her nose to beet soup but as my age and palate have developed, I’m game for just about anything and this is tastier than most people would initially believe. I encourage you to be brave and try it out!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth, or vegetable broth
  • 1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1½ cups steamed cubed beets, ½-inch cubes (see Tip)
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

Preparation:

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add broth, potato, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the potato is just tender, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add beets and vinegar; return to a boil. Cover and continue cooking until the broth is deep red and the potato is very soft, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  5. Combine sour cream and horseradish in a small bowl. Serve the soup with a dollop of the horseradish sour cream and a sprinkle of parsley.

Tip:

  • How to Prep & Steam Beets: Trim greens (if any) and root end; peel the skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut beets into ½- to 1-inch-thick cubes, wedges or slices.
  • To steam on the stovetop: Place in a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water in a large pot. Cover and steam over high heat until tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • To steam in the microwave: Place in a glass baking dish, add 2 tablespoons water, cover tightly and microwave on High until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

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