When I was younger and a dedicated vegetarian, my mother picked up a paperback copy of the seminal vegetarian guide Laurel’s Kitchen. There was something kind of mystical and wholesome about that book and the lifestyle it espoused, the way the women sat about in their prairie dresses around a wood table, long hair pinned back, kneading bread, having significant moments, discussing the finer points of, say, mung beans. It seemed quiet and peaceful and idyllic to me back then – glorified, simple. No longer vegetarian, I kind of forgot about the book, having relegated it to the dusty annals of my hippie years.
So it was a pleasant surprise, then, when I got in touch with an old roommate about her borscht recipe, the first I’d tried and also my favorite, and she told me that it was adapted from Laurel’s Kitchen. We lived in Santa Cruz then. Of course.
Every winter I get a strong hankering for the stuff, for its knockout color and intense contrast of sweet and tart and salty. I am convinced that its shocking magenta is capable of warding off winter doldrums. The strong flavors of the beet are tempered by the stock, the dill and the vinegar, making it more palatable for those who may not enjoy beets alone. It’s easy and quick enough to make on a weeknight, and would serve a family well or be a great workaday lunch throughout the week.
Yield: about 6 servings
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water
4 medium red beets, peeled and diced
1 large potato, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 cups shredded cabbage
1/4 cup fresh dill, minced, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
salt + pepper to taste
yogurt or sour cream for garnish
In a large pot, warm 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and saute until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the broth, water, beets, potato, carrots and bay leaf and cover. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked. Add the cabbage and the fresh dill and simmer for another 5 minutes or so. Turn off heat and add the vinegar. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Ladle into bowls and finish with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, and a sprinkling of dill.