One benefit of fall is the glut of beets and potatoes. And in my part of the country this means one thing: Borscht. Borscht is an Eastern European soup made (coincidently) predominately of beets, potatoes, and cabbage. Like cabbage rolls (holubtsi) there great variations of borscht between the Ukrainians, Russians, Poles … kind of like the war of pizza between the US and Italy! I am not claiming that this soup is authentic, but I do know it’s delicious. Upon discussion with my Ukrainian friend, this soup closely resembles the Ukrainian version, which is usually vegetarian, served with a dollop of sour cream.
This version is based on the “Beet, Barley, and Black Soybean Soup” recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Form there I got the ingenious idea of the secret ingredient: tamarind pulp! Traditional borscht tastes very earthy and is minimally seasoned. The tamarind adds a nice tang to the soup that is unexpected, unique, and makes you crave more. To me, it turned blah borscht into two+ bowl borscht. The addition of beans adds some protein to the soup, making it a complete Eastern European meal.
My version of the recipe is below. I have not served it to my Ukrainian friend, for fear that it strays so far from the family recipe that it is pronounced “not borscht”. In which case, think of it as beet, potato, cabbage, and tamarind soup!
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped (~2 cups)
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp. dried tarragon
A few dashes of fresh pepper
8 cups water
4 medium beets, peeled, cut in half, sliced 1/4″ thick (~4 cups)
~4 cups potatoes, cut in quarters (roughly same size as beets)
¼ cup tamarind
1 (19oz.) can black eyed peas, rinsed (1½ cups cooked)
~4 cups cabbage, shredded
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1) In a stockpot, sauté onions in oil for ~5min.
2) Add garlic, tarragon, and pepper; sauté until smells very nice (~1min)
3) Add water, beets, potatoes, and tamarind. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Simmer ~30min.
4) Add black eyed peas and cabbage. Simmer ~10-15min.
5) Add vinegar, stir, and serve!