vegetable borscht


I was introduced to this soup by my Russian-born husband and it has become one of our staple, deeply comforting foods. There are probably thousands of variations on the ingredients and techniques of making borscht, and having looked through a number of recipes, it seems as though the only thing they have in common with each other is the use of beets.

This version of borscht is more akin to a vegetable soup, unlike the classic Ukrainian borscht which uses beef stock, ham and other meats. There’s a fair bit of prep work required, as each vegetable will need to be peeled, diced, shredded, grated, and added to the pot in a particular order, but it’s well worth it to ensure proper cooking of the vegetables.

Note that this recipe calls for the beet to be grated, and I have since learned that raw beets spatter a lot when they are being shredded. I’d wear an apron, as your workspace will look like a crime scene from Dexter when you’re done.


Vegetable borscht

from Please to the Table by Anya von Bremzen

This soup tastes best if it’s allowed to stand for a few hours before serving. The flavours only continue to deepen and improve overnight.

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4 in ch dice
  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage (about half a small head)
  • 1 large beet, peeled and grated
  • 1 rib celery, cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/2 tart apple, cored and cut into 1 inch dice
  • 2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
  • bouquet garni – 1 bay leaf and 8 peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • finely chopped parsley and dill
  • sour cream

Melt the butter in a large soup pot (at least 6 quarts) over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and bell pepper. Saute until the onion is slightly softened, 5 minutes.

Stir in the cabbage, beet and celery and continue to saute, stirring and tossing occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes until the cabbage has wilted and softened.

Stir in the apple, potatoes, tomato paste and garlic. Add the stock and bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add the paprika, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Taste the soup – it should be savoury and slightly tangy. Add more lemon juice and salt as needed.

If you can, let the soup stand for at least 2-3 hours or overnight. Serve the soup garnished with lots of dill, parsley and a dollop of sour cream.

endive, fennel and avocado salad with grapefruit dressing


Over at one of my favourite haunts, Serious Eats, there’s been a month-long column about the experience of going vegan for a month. In his retrospective, Kenji wrote something that really resonated with me: “Meat is safe, it’s pretty easy, even when it’s not at it’s best, it’s still edible… Vegetables on the other hand, take some planning. A bad salad is just sad”. I couldn’t agree more. The limp messes that pass for airplane salads? *shudder*. I’m not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I do love my greens and they should be prepared such that you want to eat them, not that you feel obligated to.

Growing up in Malaysia, we rarely ate salads – most of our greens were stir-fried, steamed, or boiled in soups. I used to think that raw lettuce was a barbaric concept. Who would have chosen that over a plate of oil slicked, garlic scented fried lettuce? Certainly not me, at the time.

Fast forward some years later and I’ve come to truly appreciate the craft that goes into making a salad. Good salads have a range of textures and flavours that play off of each other – sweet to balance tart, crunch to balance softness, salt and pepper to bring it all together. I’m always on the hunt for interesting ways to put salads together to pull myself out of my standard spring mix/balsamic vinaigrette rut, and I found a great one to riff of on in Stephanie Izard’s Girl in the Kitchen.

This is a bright, acidic and crunchy salad, a perfect respite from the hearty, rich dishes that we tend to eat a lot of in the winter. It’s also flexible – I substituted fennel for apples, and cranberries for pomegranate seeds called for in the original recipe – feel free to experiment with different proportions of ingredients. I imagine that other crisp vegetables like shaved radishes and celery would work well here too. Salads are infinitely adaptable, so go forth and play!


Endive, fennel and avocado salad with grapefruit vinaigrette

adapted liberally from Girl in the Kitchen
Make this vegan by using agave nectar in place of the honey in the dressing.

  • 1 ruby red grapefruit
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Belgian endives
  • 1 medium head of fennel
  • 1 large avocado
  • Handful of dried cranberries
  • Flaky sea salt (like Maldon)
To make the vinaigrette:

Supreme the grapefruit over a bowl to catch the juices. Reserve the juices and segments.

In another small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey and grapefruit juice. Stir in a pinch of salt and fresh black pepper to taste.

To make the salad:

Cut off the fronds from the fennel and save for another use. Cut the bulb into quarters, remove the core and then cut each quarter into very thin slices.

Remove any wilted outer leaves from the endives and cut into very thin slices.

In a large bowl, gently toss the endive, fennel, grapefruit segments and dried cranberries with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Halve the avocado and remove the pit. Scoop out the halves with a large spoon and cut each side in half again, creating quarters. Slice each quarter thinly lengthwise.

Divide the salad evenly among 4 plates. Lay the avocado slices on top, sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and serve.