Thursday, January 12, 2012

Barszcz Symphony in B Major, Variation 34

Witamy!  The humble beet root is a key player in Polish cuisine.  And Barszcz is an uncontested favorite soup and comfort food of Poles everywhere.  It is also popular in all Slavic nations - whether it is known as Borsch in Russian, Bors in Romanian, Borstch in Lithuania or some other spelling variation in some other nation.  There’s even a Chinese version that uses tomatoes as the primary ingredient.  And each region’s cuisine puts its own spin on the ingredients, including items such as: tomato, cabbage, potatoes, barley, garlic, sour cream, beet leaves, chopped beef or pork, meats, etc.  So that’s how I came up with the title of this blog -- Beets being the B Major ingredient in this symphony of flavors, that can be experienced throughout Eastern Europe in a great many varieties. 

Beet Soup began its existence on the farms of Eastern Europe, from trimmings and scraps of root vegetables, stored in barns or cellars, to be consumed through the winter when there was nothing fresh in the pantry.  A bucket or cooking pot was kept outside to store those trimmings.  Beets were always one of the most plentiful vegetables of the region, because it kept well through the winter.  When the pot got full enough, water was added, along with left over beef bones for flavoring.  Then the pot was placed on the fire and cooked into the original version of a one-pot meal.  Regional variations were created because of regional variations in crops being farmed, regionalized dried herbs and other flavorings, and the types of food being stored over the winter.  Over time and generations of cooks, their recipes evolved but the delicious and healthy beet was always a mainstay in what is traditionally known in Poland as Barszcz. 

Here is an easy recipe for Variation # 34.  This one is a bit more rustic than other varieties and has more “stick-to-your-ribs” ingredients, and so it’s great for lunch on a cold or damp day.  We serve it with chunks of fresh, crusty multi-grain bread. 

Only 15 minutes to prepare!

Barszcz Variation #34     Serves 6

4 cups beef broth
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 cup new potatoes, skin on, quartered
2 14.5 ounce cans red beets (not pickled)  (reserve liquid)
1 14-ounce can of brown baked beans
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

Bring broth to a low boil in a large pot.  Add the reserved beet juice drained from the two cans of beets, to total about 6 total cups of liquid.  Rough-chop 1 cup of beets and add to the pot; save the rest of the beets for another day.   Rinse the beans well, add to the pot and bring back to a low boil. Add the lemon juice and seasonings to taste.  The salt and lemon juice will enhance the beet flavors. Also, you should definitely taste the pepper.   Remove from heat.  Serve hot, garnished on top with dollops of sour cream and sprinkled dill.  Smacznego!

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