In my 20s I had an amazing opportunity to meet and befriend a Russian grand dame of purported Royal descent. She was in her 80s and still working; translating French and Russian poetry for the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. Our friendship inspired her to begin throwing small, intimate parties for her artist friends. Together we created many a glorious fête! In between parties she would share her childhood recipes with me. This is my interpretation of her excellent recipe for Borscht.
4 small to medium beets
2 yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
2 quarts meaty beef broth (link to separate recipe here) or 2 quarts vegetable broth
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
1 turnip, peeled and shredded
1 celery root, peeled and shredded
3-4 red potatoes, cut into small dice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream for garnish
Wrap the beets in foil and bake them at 400 degrees F. for one hour or until fork tender. (Or you may cook them in boiling water.) Cool and slip off the skins. Coarsely grate them with a grater blade in a food processor or on a box grater.
In a heavy pot, heat the oil and sauté the onion and carrot for 5 minutes or until the onions are tender. Stir in the tomato paste and sugar and cook for 1 minute more. Pour in the stock and blend well with the onion mixture. Add the cabbage, turnip, celery root and potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the beets and cook for 5 minutes more. Stir in the dill and vinegar or lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve garnished with sour cream and chopped dill and pass the pepper mill.
Recipe developed by Elizabeth Tatarinoff and Lynne Vea