Growing up in a mostly-Italian family with a kick-ass cook for a mama, many delicious dishes graced our table over the years, and yet (perhaps not surprisingly) despite our unanimous fondness for beets, borscht was never one of them. My first encounter with this dark and delicious concoction was only a few short years ago during culinary school, when I was assigned the job of borscht-maker during one of our soup and stew classes. An hour (and a hot-pink-splotched-and-stained recipe) later, I had fallen in love with this earthy, sweet, pleasantly tangy and comforting dish. Perhaps I was Eastern European in a past life? Anything is possible. But I do know this: beet borscht is one of the most under-appreciated dishes of all time.
When brainstorming recipes to share for Fabulous Fermentation Week, created by two of my favorite healthy bloggers, the lovely Elenore of Earthsprout and Sarah of My New Roots, I landed on the idea of a lighter and brighter take on the classic borscht: a golden beet soup with sauerkraut. And, lucky me, I happened to have a batch of homemade kraut in the fridge, just waiting for such an occasion…
A mason jar of tangy, fermented goodness is always a good thing to have around: this one is chock full of green cabbage, carrot, and ginger.
This soup is definitely of the let-the-sunshine-in variety. Perfect for these cold, dark January days; its yellow and orange hues make me feel like I am being filled with the gorgeous glow of late afternoon. Root vegetables, warming and grounding for this time of year, plus the potent medicinal triad of onions, garlic, and ginger, make this a pot of ultra-winter-appropriate goodness to nourish the body and spirit. Caraway seeds and dried dill are must-haves in my book – classic borscht seasonings that pair so beautifully with beets – and a pinch of turmeric enhances the broth’s golden color to an even richer hue.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
pinch of ground turmeric (about 1/8 teaspoon)
3 medium-sized golden beets, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shredded in a food processor (about 4 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shredded (about 2 cups)
1 small fennel bulb, finely diced (about 1-1/2 cups) (reserve green fronds for garnish)
6 cups vegetable stock or water
1 bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon dried dillweed
1/2 cup to 1 cup raw sauerkraut (depending on sourness of the kraut and your personal taste), drained, liquid reserved*
1 tablespoon sauerkraut liquid (or to taste)
for ginger cream:
1/2 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt, and cook until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, caraway seeds, and turmeric, and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in beets, carrot, and diced fennel.
Add water, bay leaf, dill, and a generous pinch of salt. Bring soup to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover. Cook until vegetables are tender and broth is flavorful, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.
To make the ginger cream, whisk together yogurt and ginger in a small bowl. Reserve until ready to serve (can be made up to 24 hours in advance and kept chilled).
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