Wednesday, January 11, 2012

When life hands you beets... make borshch!

It had been an embarassingly long time since I'd gone to the dentist.   So when I finally hauled myself in a few months ago, I was bracing myself for the response.  Turns out, I hadn't quite braced enough.  And the shockingly high resolution color photos took over where any denial may have tried to hide.  Se la vie.

I went in today to take care of phase one.   It was intense.  I left the office without any control of the left side of my face; talking was really hard and I kind of felt like I'd had a stroke.  At first, I thought it was just in my head  - but after looking at my reflection once I got to the car - turns out no.

      {smiling as hard as I could}                                                  {oooh face}

I don't look too crazy, but jeesh.  The smiling picture just kind of looks smirky - which isn't anything to cry about.  But when I tried to put my lips together in an 'ooh' shape - I was so surprised!  The left side of my face just stayed put.  I couldn't believe it!  
I drove home, feeling even more solidified that taking the day off work was a good choice.  My mouth and face felt crappy crappy, and go figure, it's lunchtime.

Comfort food to the rescue!  

One of my favorite things to make is борщ (borshch).  This simple, nutricious, and oh so tasty Ukrainian treat is just what I crave when I'm feeling under the weather.  Loads of people get nervous and uncomfortable at even the teensiest mention of beets and cabbage, but it's soooo worth it. 
I ate TONS and TONS of this stuff when I was overseas.  Every family has its own recipe, and I finally feel like I've accomplished the impossible.  Today, for perhaps the first time in recorded history, my борщ was better than the originating recipe.   And that is no small feat.  ...nor is finding Americanized ingredients that compare to their Ukrainian counterparts.. but that is another story. 

I feel like it's important to share amazing eats and great recipes.   My борщ comes from my dear friend Geri's Ukrainian mother-in-law.  And while I've adjusted a few ingredients to ensure the Ukrainskiy taste rings true in my Americanska  kitchen (without the all important "meat" seasoning called for in the original recipe), I do feel like it's a recipe that would satisfy many a demanding Slav.   

 Українский Борщ
(Ukrainian Borshch)

2-3 small potatoes, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
2-3 small carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 small cabbage, sliced thinly
1 green pepper, chopped
1 large or 2-3 small beets, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
"Vegeta" vegetable seasoning
2 c. low sodium organic chicken broth
water (amount variable to amount of borshch you want to make)
olive or (ideally) sunflower oil
1-2 bay leaves
2-3 T. tomato paste
2-3 oz. beef roast, optional

Start boiling broth and water in a soup pot.   Add beets and allow to boil.  Add potatoes and cabbage.  Boil until soft (~20 mins.).  In the meantime, put some oil into a frying pan.  Add carrot, onion, and green pepper.  Saute with bay leaves until carrots are bright orange and onions begin to soften.  Stir in tomato paste.  Once mixed and bright, stir into broth.  If you feel like adding meat, and usually I don't, this is the time.  (I had some leftover roast in the fridge that I added - delish!!)  Continue cooking until potatoes are soft.  Add plenty of dill and Vegeta, to your taste.  

Serve in a big bowl with a dollop of sour cream, if desired.  Great with fresh bread and cheese and a steamy hot mug of tea!  


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