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It warmed Dr. Zhivago

Posted by Sheryl Julian  January 17, 2011 04:32 PM

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In my never ending quest for a hearty bowl to chase away the frigid weather, I asked a Russian acquaintance I see at the gym for her recipe for hot meaty borscht. "We make it without meat," said Natasha Raevich, an artist born in Moscow, who now lives in Newton. "Just plenty of vegetables and lots of cabbage." Simmer carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes, she instructed, cook beets sepatately, then shred them. Finally, combine everything and simmer together. Sprinkle with chopped fresh garlic, or -- this came as a surprise -- chopped olives or dates, and sour cream. "Whatever you like," said Natasha. I garnished bowls with chopped cornichon pickles and unflavored yogurt (in the interests of my waistline). Borscht warms you to your toes.

Vegetarian borscht

Serves 10

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped

1/2 Savoy cabbage, cored and chopped

1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 quarts water, or more if necessary

6 medium (2 bunches) beets, trimmed at both ends

2 cloves garlic, chopped (for garnish)

1 1/2 cups sour cream (for serving)

1. In a soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil until hot. Add the onion, carrots, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes.

2. Add the potatoes and cabbage. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

3. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, set on the cover askew, and simmer for 45 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, scrub the beets. In a saucepan, combine the beets with water to cover. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 40 minutes or until they are tender when you pierce them with a skewer. Drain the beets and rinse with very cold water. When they are cool enough to handle, working over a plate, pull off the skins with your fingers (they'll stain red, but the stain will rinse off).

5. Working over a shallow bowl, on the coarse side of a box grater, grate the beets. Add the beets to the soup. Simmer for 15 minutes more. (Total soup simmering time is 1 hour.) 

6. Garnish the soup with garlic and serve with sour cream. Adapted from Natasha Raevich

About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.


Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.

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If you want to contribute a recipe to The Recipe Box Project, please write it below. Also tell us where you got it (package box, cookbook, mom, friend -- include the name). We're looking for the kinds of dishes that people grew up on, that were served at family suppers, that tell a story, that are typically New England, or that you brought with you from a far away place to New England. We will print one of the recipes in the Food section once a month. To ask any questions, write to Debra Samuels, who is overseeing this project, at To discuss your recipes, click here.