KITCHEN WIT AND WISDOM: Borscht is better with summer veggies

Today’s recipes include a vegetarian and a chicken borscht because I wanted the taste of newly grown veggies

I love this time of year when the local fruit is coming on full steam.

We’ve had company for the last 10 days and it’s always the perfect excuse to head out to local fruit stands, orchards and farmers’ markets. We’ve enjoyed the early berries, cherries, peaches, nectarines and many delicious fresh veggies.

Transparent apples are plentiful but have a short season so now’s the time for making sauce and pie fillings for the winter.

On a normal year the first two weeks of July can be counted on for continuous sunshine and hot temperatures. Not so this year, and I’m most disappointed and frustrated about it.

Today’s recipes include a vegetarian and a chicken borscht because I wanted the taste of newly grown veggies. The warmth of a soup during this weird cool weather is an even better use of the newest and freshest vegetables available right now. You’ll be shocked at the difference in taste from making it later in the year.

Vibrant Vegetarian Purple Borscht

2 red beets, trimmed and washed

1-1/2 pounds tomatoes, chopped

4 ounces tomato puree

2 tablespoons butter

2 red onions, chopped

2 cups chopped mushrooms

2 carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, divided

1 cube vegetable bouillon

2 large yellow potatoes, cubed

1 (15.25 ounce) can kidney beans

6 cups water

1/2 head green cabbage, chopped

1 lemon, juiced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup sour cream, for topping

Place the beets into a large pot and cover with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, 20 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes and tomato puree in a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the carrots, celery, tomato mixture, half of the dill, and the vegetable bouillon. Continue cooking and stirring until the carrots are tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove the beets from the cooking liquid and place them in the freezer in a bowl. Stir the mushroom mixture, potatoes, kidney beans, including the liquid, and 6 cups of water into the beet water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Peel, then grate the chilled beets. Stir the beets, cabbage, and remaining dill into the soup. Cover and simmer until the cabbage is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and allow soup to rest for at least 2 hours. Bring soup to a boil, and serve hot with a dollop of sour cream.

Chicken Borscht

2 pounds skinless chicken thighs

8 cups chicken stock

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

1 (16 ounce) can diced tomatoes (not drained)

3 large beets,cooked, peeled and shredded

1 large carrot, grated

2 cups shredded cabbage

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

5 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 bay leaf

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Place chicken thighs in the chicken stock in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, and simmer until the chicken thighs are no longer pink at the bone, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken, and set aside to cool. Stir in the potatoes, tomatoes, beets, carrot, cabbage, onion, garlic, red wine vinegar, tomato paste, and bay leaf. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, chunk the chicken, and discard the bones. Return the chicken thighs to the soup, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

 

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.