Sunday, December 26, 2010

Whipxack Christmas Borscht

Why do I love borscht? Is it the deep happy pinky-red color? Or because it is so fun to say? “Borscht.” The knowledge that if I go for seconds, I have eaten all of the veggies I need for the year to come? Or because for the past three years, our friends Tricia and TJ have invited us to share in their budding borscht tradition, adding instant family and tradition to our sometimes lonely overseas holiday. Yep, all of the above!

Eating borscht with friends will be a holiday traditions we weave into our own Christmas celebration. Hopefully, more often than not, it will be spent with TJ and Tricia. I asked Tricia to share her recipe, and here it is in her own words:

Last Tuesday, my husband TJ and I hosted our 5th annual Christmas Borscht dinner. The tradition started when we were living in Honduras and celebrating our first Christmas away from home. We were having Christmas Eve dinner with friends who were vegetarian, and we were looking for some Christmasy-yet-meat-free foods. Somehow (we cannot reconstruct the actual mental leap involved) we came up with the idea of vegetarian borscht -- mainly because when served with sour cream and parsley it is the perfect combo of red, white, and green. That first borscht was so dang tasty that we have continued to make it every Christmas season since. We have been lucky to share the last three years of meals with Ashley, Carter and Oscar. In the past we have basically made up the recipe as we go, but I was bragging to Ashley that this year I finally wrote up a recipe for our soup, and she kindly suggested I send it along for a guest -starring role on Smash n' Sniff. Grab your spoons folks, and ignore your families' protests that they don't like beets, or that borscht isn't a Christmas food. You know better!

Whipxach Christmas Borscht

Serves 16(ish)

*You don't have to chop anything too well, since it will all be blended in the end!
**Every time we make this it's slightly different, so feel free to not follow this recipe exactly. (I'm just making it up anyway.)

1 - 1.5 oz. dried porcine mushrooms
olive oil
1/2 lb. white mushrooms, trimmed, wiped clean and sliced
1 large onion, diced
about 6 medium-largish beets, peeled and sliced
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium parsnip, peeled and sliced (we have never used this, but its in a lot of recipes, and if we could get one here in Mexico I'm sure it would be delicious)
6 stalks of celery, cleaned and sliced (some recipes call for 1 small celery root -- go ahead and use this instead of celery if you can find one.  We can't, so celery works fine!)
4 medium sized potatoes, cut into chunks (don't bother to peel it!)
1 small white cabbage, cut into small chunks (we have also used red cabbage, depends on what's available)
1/4 cup of tomato paste (we usually use about 1 cup of tomato puree since we can't get the paste)
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1 bay leaf
6 - 8 cups vegetable or chicken broth (we use turkey broth, leftover from Thanksgiving)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (we usually only have balsamic on hand, but I bet apple cider or red wine vinegar would be good)
salt, pepper
sour cream
1 bunch fresh dill or parsley for garnish (we usually can't get dill, I imagine it would taste good) 

BASIC RECIPE: Throw everything in a pot, cook, blend, serve

1. Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 - 2 cups warm water for 15 minutes. Then drain, squeeze out excess liquid, and save all liquid

2. Heat oil in a LARGE soup pot

3. Stir in the white mushrooms, onion, beets, carrots, parsnip, and celery or celery root. Cook for a few minutes

4. Add porcini mushrooms, cabbage, potatoes, tomato puree and salt/pepper. Cook for a few more minutes.

5. Add garlic and sugar.

6. Add broth and mushroom liquid. It should cover the veggies. If not, add more broth, or some water. Add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender (usually 45 minutes to an hour).

7. Remove from heat and remove the bay leaf!

8. Puree everything in a blender (will have to be done in batches).

9. When everything is blended, stir in vinegar, then taste. You may need to adjust and add more vinegar, salt, or sugar. Before you add more vinegar or sugar, follow Ashley's advice and add lots more salt!

10. Serve hot, with a blob of sour cream and dill or parsley (red, white and green!)

11. Makes a lot, you can theoretically eat it hot or cold, but we always eat it hot! This gets better as the days pass! Also freezes well.

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