I have always loved the earthy flavor and deep red color of beets. Roasted, simply boiled, tucked into salads, pickled or plain, beets are delicious. But of all beet preparations, I like borscht best of all. Borscht originated in the Ukraine, but the popularity of this hearty, beet soup spread across central and eastern Europe before making its way here, resulting in dozens of delicious variations, some vegetarian—others not.
Borscht is also versatile—good hot or cold. Chilled with yogurt and chopped radishes mixed in, it blooms a pretty shade of pink. And hot, with lots of cooked vegetables and cubes of beef or smoked sausage, it’s a nourishing feast. Our version is made with oven-prepared, wine-enriched beef stock and meat, plus beets, carrot, onion, dill, and a little wine vinegar—with a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream on top. We like to serve it with crusty bread and a little smoked sausage..
• 4 lbs. meaty beef neck bones
• 2 tsp salt
• 2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
• 32 ounces unsalted beef broth or unsalted beef stock
• 1 cup red wine
• 1 tsp vegetable oil
• 2 onions
• 8 medium-sized beets
• 1 small bunch carrots to make 4 cups shredded
• Salt and finely-ground pepper to taste
• Fresh dill, 3 to 4 sprigs to make 3 Tbsp minced for soup–plus more to garnish)
• 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
• 1/2 cup sour cream, labneh, or yogurt to garnish
• Crusty bread and sausage to serve with the soup
MAKE BEEF BASE: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub neck bones with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for about 15 minutes, turning so that all sides are browned. Cover browned bones with beef broth. Add wine. Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees. Simmer for three to four hours until meat is falling off the bones.
PREP VEGETABLES: While beef base is simmering, peel and finely dice onions. In a heavy skillet over low heat, cook onions with 1 tsp oil for about 15 minutes until soft, but not browned. Peel beets and carrots. Using a food processor or hand grater, grate carrots. Wearing plastic gloves, grate all the beets. Add carrot to onion with 1/4 cup water. Cover skillet and continue to cook until carrots are al dente. Remove from heat.
COOK SOUP: In large soup kettle, just cover grated beets with water. Simmer until beets are cooked through. Stir in carrot and onion mixture. Simmer for 10 more minutes to combine. Remove from heat. Remove beef and bones from oven, strain broth from meat. Cool beef and bones until you can handle them; remove meat from bones and cut into small pieces, discarding any gristle or fat. Discard bones. If you have time, chill stock overnight and remove any visible fat that solidifies on top. Combine beef stock with cooked beet/carrot/onion mixture. Add beef pieces. Heat soup until gently simmering and all flavors are combined well. Stir in vinegar; add salt and pepper to taste. Add dill just before serving. Serve hot with sour cream, more snipped dill, crusty bread, and sliced smoked sausage.