I will never forget my first bowl of Borscht.
I was living in New York City and had met some friends on Coney Island to hang out on the beach and eat supper in Brighton Beach (also Coney Island). This is a distinctly Russian area of Brooklyn.
Borscht (also borsch, bortsch, borstch, borsh, borshch, or barszcz, Ukrainian: борщ) is a soup of Ukrainian origin (that’s where my ancestors came from), can be served cold or hot. The versions I have eaten were tomato-based-but some chefs use beetroot as the main base.
Photo of my first bowl of Borscht at the Tatiana Grill in Brighton Beach
For some reason I gravitate toward Russian culture. My brother does too, and even moved to Moscow four years ago. We both date Russians. Neither of us can explain this coincidence. But we are both happy nonetheless.
I am the only non-speaking “Russian” at the table of my friends at Tatiana’s Grill on Coney Island
Russians are fun to dine with. Dinners last hours and hours. While vodka is a staple at important meals, no one goes home drunk because each sip is coupled with a bite of something fresh and healthy.
My second bowl of Borscht was eaten in Moscow. One of my favorite parts of visiting Russia was eating the freshest food I’ve had in my life. Moscow is like Paris in that you eat decadent a lot of carbs (potatoes, breads etc), but no one is fat.
My third bowl of Borscht was eaten in my kitchen with Jacob, my Georgian Russian speaking boyfriend. Here’s a photo below.
Jacob my boyfriend is Russian–well he’s Georgian but he speaks Russian. My great-grandparents are Russian as well. That being said we happily indulge in pickled food, pelmeni and blintzes–yum! (ok very rarely do we actually eat this–but when we do it’s always with a smile and a story).
There are many interpretations of Borscht. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. I like mine very purpley from the beets. I did not use any butter….but you can if you want that really rich creamy flavor–I find the spices do the trick.
This recipe is from the Moosewood Cookbook, something passed down to me from my mom–it’s a vegetarian cookbook…that does not skimp on flavor.
- 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced potatoes
- 1 cup thinly sliced beets
- 4 cups vegetable stock or water
- 2 tablespoons butter (I did not use butter)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
- 1 teaspoon caraway seed (optional)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 large carrot, sliced
- 3 cups coarsely chopped red cabbage
- black pepper to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh dill weed
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup tomato puree
- sour cream, for topping (or 0% Fage Yogurt)
- chopped tomatoes, for garnish
- Place sliced potatoes and beets in a medium saucepan over high heat; cover with stock, and boil until vegetables are tender. Remove potatoes and beets with a slotted spoon, and reserve stock.
- Melt butter (I used olive oil) in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onions, caraway seeds, and salt; cook until onions become soft and translucent. Then stir in celery, carrots, and cabbage. Mix in reserved stock; cook, covered, until all vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
- Add potatoes and beets to the skillet. Season with black pepper and dill weed. Stir in cider vinegar, honey, and tomato puree. Cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer at least 30 minutes. Serve topped with sour cream (I use 0% Fage Yogurt), extra dill weed, and chopped fresh tomatoes. Top with a sprig of Cilantro or Dill if you like for aesthetic appeal.
I love a good baguette with my soup. If you can go to your local bakery to pick up sourdough or another dense but healthy loaf.
As the Russians say:
На здоровье (Na zdarov’e)
“In Good Health”
Russian History and Culture
Below are more photos from my trip to Moscow + St. Petersburg two years ago. My brother was kind enough to give me the grand tour. You are lucky to travel with someone who speaks Russian–but it’s possible to go without it. If you ever have the opportunity to go–please do-it’s a magical city.
Me in front of the famous Kremlin in Red Square….
According to Wikipedia (and myself) there are hundreds of smaller bridges in Saint Petersburg spanning across numerous canals. Peter the Great wanted the city to resemble the beauty of Amsterdam and the surrounding countries. Many of the themes of Dostoyevsky’s novels took place on the streets of Saint Petersburg. It was eerie to walk on these streets having read Crime and Punishment so many years ago–still one of my favorite books to this day. The Russians really kick everyone else’s a** when it comes to writing a good novel
Due to the intricate web of canals, Saint Petersburg is often called Venice of the North.
My brother on one of the many bridges in St. Pete!
Red Square in Moscow (across the Brick Court Yard from the Kremlin)
My brother and I took a lunch break while shopping in the main downtown mall at the Kremlin
If you ever ask for your dressing on the side at a Russian restaurant–they will laugh at you. Their lunches are wonderful–and if you can try an Odessa Salad. I’m eating Caesar [salad] who apparently made his way east. People take breaks for meals…Like in Paris, where meals are a special occasion. Meals are a ritual, and often accompanied with intense conversation. We need more of that here in the U.S. Less desktop lunches….
I had the opportunity to go to Saint Petersburg, known as the “Western City” of Russia. This building photographed is the Winter Palace also known as the Hermitage (now a museum). It’s the most stunning building that I have ever seen in my life.
That is my brother in a food coma after eating at the restaurant terrassa in Saint Petersburg. It was wonderful!
This is a photo of my brother and I at Terassa–it was October–notice all the goodies behind us!
My digs on the Nevsky Train that runs from Moscow to Saint Petersburg–very sad that this train was blown up only a few weeks after I arrived back in the U.S. Scary…
The entrance to the garden at the Hermitage.
My dear friend Liza who had me over for some authentic tea (I think she got this tea set in Moscow where she is from). Notice Klimt?
When you explore other cultures, whether it’s food, music, art, film or anything else, it brings you into another world. So go explore…you will find yourself surprised and delighted.
Whether it’s a cup of Borscht, or a cup of another delicious adventure !