On Love and Borscht

Yes, I realize that it’s Valentine’s Day, and while everyone else is posting every possible combination of chocolate, peanut butter, caramel, and red velvet, it may seem a little odd (re-)posting borscht. Borscht may not seem romantic to you, but maybe by the end of this post I may convince you otherwise. Or at least explain why it’s a little romantic to me.

If you aren’t familiar with borscht, it’s a soup typical of Russia that’s packed with vegetables. I’ve seen hot and cold versions, ones with and without meat, but I prefer mine hot with some good quality beef stew meat. It tastes like a really flavorful beef vegetable soup, only fuchsia.

Russia Palace's Borscht

And that brings me to how it gets it’s gorgeous fuchsia color. (Pretty festive if you ask me.) Yep, beets. I’m not a fan of beets (not even roasted — shocking, I know) except in this soup. It amazes me every time how a few beets can take a big pot of soup and thoroughly dye everything bright pink. We were pretty brave feeding this to our kids in a rental home with beige carpet underneath our kitchen table. After throwing a (very dark colored) blanket on the floor, taking their shirts off, and putting bibs on both of them, we were good to go. “Pink” or “Anastasia” soup gets pretty good reviews from them.

So yes, the color may be reminiscent of Valentine’s Day, but its Russian origin is the real reason for its meaning in our family. My husband and I met in Russia (long story…), and since we happened upon this recipe five years ago, we’ve made it every winter since. We’d like to go back to Russia together one day, but for now, we can sit across the table and slurp this brightly colored soup while we remember “Mother Russia” and our first few encounters together.

Happy Valentine’s Day :)

Russia Palace's Borscht

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Russian Palace’s Borscht


1 T oil
1 ½ c. chopped onion
3/4 lb. beef stew meat
5 med beets
½ c. chopped carrots
5 T. tomato paste
3 quarts beef stock
2 lg potatoes
1 med head cabbage
1 c chopped green bell pepper
3 T sugar
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 T salt
½ T pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T fresh dill weed, chopped


Peel and julienne raw beets to yield 4 cups. Peel and cube potatoes to yield 2 ½ c. Finely chop cabbage to yield 6 cups.

Heat oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Add stew meat and sauté until outside is browned, about 2-3 min. (Do not cook until done.) Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add onion to the skillet and saute 5-7 minutes. Add beets and carrots to the skillet, sauté for 10 min; add more oil if necessary. Stir in tomato paste; remove from heat and set aside.

In a large stockpot, bring 2 1/2 quarts beef broth to boil over high heat. Add potato and cook for 3 min. Add reserved beef, beet-tomato paste mixture, cabbage, green pepper, sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 min. Add remaining beef broth to reach desired consistency.

Remove from heat. Stir in garlic and dill. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream. Serves 12.

Nat's Notes:
1. The only thing I changed about this recipe was adding stew meat and substituting beef stock for chicken stock. The original recipe did not contain meat.
2. It's better if you make it, stick it in the fridge, then reheat it the following day. Steve swears it's the best on day three. I have to agree. :)
3. Steve likes to shred the carrots, potatoes, and beets to get a more unified texture. I like chunks.

This recipe is (supposedly) from Roza Gorenuk, chef at Chicago's Russian Palace Restaurant, and was originally from Roza's grandfather, who cooked for Czar Nicholas II. I prepared this for a Russian native a couple of years ago and not only did he go back for seconds, he told me that it tastes just like his mother's.

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13 Responses to “On Love and Borscht”

  1. #
    Marisa Hopkins — February 14, 2011 @ 1:43 pm

    I just love your story!! :)

    And wow, that is some seriously bright pink soup!! But does make a lovely Valentines day soup!


  2. #
    Nick and/or Lauren — February 14, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

    It is amazing how red this dish is. I think it is a great addition to typical Valentine's Day fare. Have a happy Valentine's Day, and thank you so much for sharing your amazing recipes and pictures!


  3. #
    MindySue — February 14, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

    This sounds delicious! I do want to hear your long story though! Perhaps you'll decide to share it (and message me on FB).

    I'm nosy like that.


  4. #
    Joanne — February 14, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

    I don't like beets other but my brother is constantly trying to convince me to try borscht. And for him to try to get me to try a VEGETABLE…means it must be good. Maybe this is the recipe I need to go with!


  5. #
    Lauren's Latest — February 14, 2011 @ 9:06 pm

    My brother-in-law is a borscht lover. I'm forwarding this recipe to him!


  6. #
    Peggy — February 14, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

    You definitely convinced me that borscht is totally Valentine's Day appropriate! This looks absolutely delicious and I love the story behind it!


  7. #
    Jolene - EverydayFoodie — February 15, 2011 @ 2:32 am

    I absolutely LOVE borscht. My Ukrainian grandma makes it, and it really reminds me of my childhood.


  8. #
    Michaela — February 15, 2011 @ 5:11 am

    It's especially romantic if you make Borscht cupcakes! I recently made beet (and chocolate) flavored cupcakes with a sour cream frosting as a V-Day take on borscht. Chocolate makes anything better, including beets.


  9. #
    Kathryn — February 15, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

    so you got a cast iron pot!! yay! I'm going to try this soup :) I don't like beets either, but I trust you Nat.


  10. #
    Natalie @ Perrys' Plate — February 15, 2011 @ 10:14 pm

    @Kathryn – Yes! I got one a little over a year ago and I love it. :)


  11. #
    Cara — February 16, 2011 @ 5:57 pm

    I agree, this is such a gorgeous color. I only started liking beets in the past year or two and still have yet to try any kind of beet soup – definitely on my list!


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