Winter Borscht Recipe

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Eating from the Ground Up Recipes for Simple, Perfect VegetablesPanfried BrusselsI have always been a summer borscht person. Cold, bright pink, herby, and full of buttermilk I could eat that soup every day. But this simple hot borscht brought me to the other side, and now I embrace both seasons of borscht. I imagined this soup as much more complicated I wrote recipes that included everything from cabbage to tomato to caraway. But my friend Hedley steered me on the right course, describing a bowl of soup she’d had years ago when she needed it most. She’d never forgotten it: “Just beets and carrots, all boiled in the simplest broth. Then there was lemon, and crème fraîche, and so much parsley right at the end, as if parsley was a leafy green.”

I would have never had the courage to simplify it so much, but I made the soup just as she’d described it. There’s not even a sauté here everything just boils, and the result is so good. The vegetables go tender and sweet, bathing in a deep red broth that is simply beet elixir. Crème fraîche or sour cream adds richness, and if you want them, the hard-boiled eggs make it even more of a meal. But one addition I insist upon no matter what is buttered rye toast. It’s essential.

  • Yield: 2 Quarts


  • 1½ pounds beets (3 to 5 medium beets), peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks
  • ½ pound carrots (2 large carrots), halved lengthwise, and cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 2 cups halved and sliced leeks (from 1 to 2 leeks, using the white and tender green parts)
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • Crème fraîche or sour cream; 2 cups roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley (about 1 bunch); hard-boiled eggs (optional), sliced; buttered rye toasts
How to Make It
  1. Combine the beets, carrots, leeks, stock, and the bay leaf in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Cover the pot, bring the mixture to a low boil, and reduce the heat to medium-low to keep it at a lively simmer. Cook, covered, until the vegetables are quite tender when pierced with a fork, 30 to 35 minutes. Taste the broth. If there’s no salt in your stock, add 1½ teaspoons salt. If it’s salted at all, add ¼ teaspoon, taste, and add more until it tastes good to you. Remove the pot from the heat, and add lots of fresh pepper. Remove the bay leaf.
  2. Ladle the soup into bowls. Give each bowl a generous squeeze of lemon, a scoop of crème fraîche, and a handful of parsley. Serve with sliced hard-boiled eggs, if desired, and buttered rye toasts on the side.

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