I have a laundry list of foods I don’t really like anymore because of Peace Corps. At the top of the list we have potatoes (in most situations), raw apples, cucumbers, and fresh dill. I’ve already explained why I don’t like potatoes. I don’t like raw apples because it was the only readily available fruit in the winter, and I would eat meals that consisted entirely of apples because I wanted fresh produce. I don’t like cucumbers because they were present at every meal all summer long. Plus they’re kind of blah. And as far as fresh dill goes, I can’t even handle the smell. My host mom put it in everything and it ruined otherwise tasty foods, including most soups.
However, there was one soup that I loved and would eat for two meals a day if given the chance. That soup was borscht. There were huge chunks of potatoes and beets with whole boiled sweet onions in a bright red broth teeming with cabbage and grated carrots. Top it with a spoonful of smantana (sour cream) and I was one happy camper.
We had quite a bit of cabbage left over from making coleslaw last week, so the boyf suggested that we make borscht. My first reaction was “Ugh no” (my go-to reaction for a lot of Moldovan food, unfortunately) but then I remembered how much I like borscht.
I looked for a recipe in my trusty Peace Corps cook book (made by other volunteers, with a section for Moldovan food in the back) and away we went. The most time consuming part is chopping all the veggies and peeling the onions. Once everything was cut up, I pretty much dumped it in the pot and walked away.
There were some flavor issues at first taste, but after consulting my friend from Peace Corps, Robin, who had her host mom’s recipe for borscht, I added some bullion and it tasted way better. The one problem with this soup is that it is, obviously, bright red in color. Hence, the white walls near the stove top are now stained with bright red splotches, as are a number of my cookbooks, and it made a huge mess of the stove.
It turned out well and we have enough to eat for probably the next couple of weeks. In fact, the boyf said that the borscht we/I made was better than the stuff at the one Russian restaurant in DC. Victorious again!
Borscht (Moldovan Style)
(I call this “Moldovan Borscht” because I really don’t know how they make it in other Eastern European countries. They might grate all their veggies or what have you. But this is how they, or at least my host mom, did it in Moldova.)
1 head of cabbage, sliced thinly
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 large beets, peeled and cut into large chunks
5 carrots, peeled and grated
2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 bag of pearl onions (about 30), trimmed and peeled, but not cut up
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 or 5 bullion cubes
Fill up a large stock pot with water and get it boiling. Add in the all the ingredients, except the onions and tomato paste. In a pan get some oil heated up and add the onions, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste to the pan and stir to distribute evenly amongst the onions. Add to stock pot. Boil until veggies are cooked and the soup has reduced a little (about 45 minutes). Top with sour cream (a must) and parsley (if you want).