February is the most difficult culinary month of the year. All winter festivities have long since passed but still spring feels so far away. It's the time of year when we're desperate for warmer weather flavors and some bright colors on our plates, and when a gnawing craving for ramps, asparagus, and fiddle-head ferns becomes an everyday occurrence.
The other night we tried to think of some meals that might trick us into thinking spring was more within our reach, or at least bridge the long gap between now and then. After much deliberation we ended on borscht - and we knew it would deliver on the color front. We've been plating so much brown, red, and yellow lately, but borscht promises a shock of magenta, complemented by a dollop of bright white creme fraiche and a sprig of fresh, green parsley.
Borscht is often thought of as a heavy and thick soup. But it doesn’t have to be - and that wasn't at all what we were looking for. Inspired by an incredibly simple- and light-sounding borscht recipe on Food52, we left the large vegetable chunks swimming in the bright broth. We also threw in some Sun Fed cubed beef chunks for a more grassy and irony umami. Na zdorov'ya!
Note: The meat in this dish is totally optional. This would be a perfectly flavorful vegetarian soup as well!
+ 1 lb cubed beef
+ 8 cups of chicken stock or water
+ 2 tablespoons of olive oil or lard
+ 1 large onion, finely chopped
+ 1 bay leaf
+ 3 medium sized beets, cubed 1”
+ 3 medium sized carrots, cubed 1”
+ 3 medium potato (like Yukon gold), cubed 1”
+ 1 tablespoon creme fraiche or sour cream (per bowl)
+ 1 sprig of parsley or dill
1. Pat the cubed beef dry, and salt heavily.
2. Place a large heavy pot or dutch oven on high heat. With the lard or oil, brown the beef in batches. Set aside.
3. Lower heat to medium-high and cook the onions. When they begin to soften and become translucent, add the beef back along with the stock or water and bay leaf.
4. Bring to boil, then turn down to a simmer and cover for 45 minutes.
5. After 45 minutes add beets. Bring to a boil again, and turn down to a simmer.
6. After another 15 minutes, add the carrots and potatoes. Let cook for another half hour, or until a fork goes through the potatoes.
7. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprig of parsley or dill in each bowl.