Monday, November 23, 2009

Pacific Rim Beet Borscht

This spicy colorful borscht is my Pacific Rim interpretation of the Eastern European dish which sustained my ancestors through long cold winters when fresh vegetables were scarce and root vegetables were an important source of nutrients. Thick with beets and cabbage, this borscht is more stew than soup; on chilly days it makes a warming meal in a bowl. The recipe calls for beets which have been cooked ahead of time. I usually cook some extra beets to use in salads and other recipes; they keep well in the fridge and make borscht preparation a simple task.

2/3 cup leek or onion, chopped
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, chopped
2 medium beets, cooked and sliced
2 - 3 cups purple cabbage, thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, thinly sliced
1 - 2 dried red chile peppers, whole
1 bay leaf
4 cups fresh water

1 tablespoon white miso paste
1 tablespoon almond or peanut butter (smooth)
2 tablespoons mirin rice wine
1 tablespoon maple syrup
juice of 1 or 2 lemons
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Place vegetables, garlic, ginger root, chile pepper, bay leaf and water in a soup pot. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, covered, on low heat for about 20 minutes until vegetables are tender but not mushy. You may add a little water if needed during cooking. In a small bowl, combine miso, nut butter, and remaining ingredients, mixing well. Add to pot, heat for another minute or two and remove from flame. Taste and correct seasoning; the sweet sour balance should be to your liking. Serve in warm soup bowls, garnished with a little parsley or cilantro and a slice of lemon. Store remaining borscht in a glass jar in the fridge; it will improve in flavor and may be reheated or eaten chilled or at room temperature.