Recently, another Sister and I shared our borscht recipes and memories! Like any well-loved food, memories play a part in its enjoyment. Our experiences of eating borscht are different but surprisingly parallel. Sr. Monica spent two months living at a Convent in Estonia when it was still part of the USSR. She has vivid memories of being there as the coup occurred when Gorbachev was still in power. I remember it too, because I was in Poland at the time, singing with our choir, Gloriae Dei Cantores. We had no way to communicate with our Sisters in Estonia since cell phones and e-mail were unavailable to us in 1991. We relied on prayer for their safety. Often, a particular recipe is a vehicle for comfort, even solace. We have had difficult times in the past, but we know God’s love is available to us. We offer this heartwarming recipe to you, along with our prayers for a healthy spring.
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CHANGE SERVING SIZE
2poundsbeefchuck roast or stew meat (if using bone-in meat, increase poundage to 3#)
Put the meat in a crockpot with 8 cups cold water, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and 1 Tbsp salt. Set on high for 4 hours. Cook until fork tender. Remove meat and strain and reserve the broth. Set aside
While the Beef is cooking, wrap beets in foil and place in a 400 degree oven—roast for 1hr. until fork tender. Cool slightly, but while they are still warm, remove the top, bottom and skin with a pairing knife (skins should come off easily if properly cooked) and either grate or julienne the beets. Set aside.
Heat a large stockpot and add 4 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp. butter and sauté onion for 2 min. Add diced potato and sauté another 5 min or until beginning to soften. Add the grated carrot, cabbage and garlic and 2 Tbsp vinegar and sauté for 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to med/low and add the beets, 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 Tbsp tomato paste. Mix thoroughly and add the reserved strained broth and extra 2-3 cups beef broth. (I used' Better than Bouillon' Roasted Beef Base)
Simmer and cover until vegetables are tender. Add the diced, cooked Beef and 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill. Remove from heat and leave covered until flavors meld. Add 1/4 tsp pepper (If desired), and salt to taste. Adjust flavors to taste (you may want to add a bit more vinegar or sugar)
Serve warm or cold with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill.
Salad bars are a real favorite at the Convent. They always bring a happy response from the sisters. With a variety of so many healthy wholesome food to choose from, everyone is sure to find something they like. Recently we roasted fresh beets intending to use them in a familiar salad. While they were being cut up my eyes fell on some beautiful oranges nearby- loving the colors of both I could not resist the urge to combine them. The result was a very different dish from what it started out to be! Not only did the rich colors complement each other, so did their flavors. Baking beets brings out their flavor as no other way of cooking them can. Combining them with fresh orange zest and fruit, red onions and red wine vinegar gives them a surprising zip and mouthwatering brightness.
Sometimes the plain pure flavor of a food is so enjoyable in itself, I am reluctant to do anything to alter it. This summer some of the beets we grew in our garden as well as some we purchased were so sweet and delicious on their own, we simply brushed them with a little olive oil, roasted them in the oven till tender and “watched them disappear.”
However this is not always the case. When they are not so naturally perfect there are a variety of ways to enhance them, and one of the ways which many people find enjoyable is to turn them into what I call my Buttery Orange Balsamic Beets.
Simply add to your cooked beets these ingredients to the degree you wish.