The theme this week is warming, fall-winter soups. Yesterday's soup was inspired by the French potato and leek classic, Vichyssoise.
Monday's soup, Carrot, Coconut and lime, was inspired by my favorite Thai dish. Today, Russian Borscht influenced the soup I created (pics to left and recipe below).
"Inspired and influenced," I use these terms because despite my classical training, I improvise in the kitchen, using whatever ingredients I have on hand to create something unique and seasonal.
Improvising in the kitchen is the basis of recipe-independence, I term I use often in this blog. I encourage experimentation and improvisation because so long as your cooking is bound by recipes, staying on-budget grocery shopping is a challenge.
All the produce, vegetables and fruit, I've used in my soups are in-season -- in other words, they're abundant and thus priced well. Shopping and cooking seasonally is nature's way of keeping us healthy and on-budget at the grocery store.
The challenge once home is to prepare seasonal produce purchased so that interesting and appetizing meals result. One rule of thumb that anyone can implement: make your meals colorful by including lots of colorful produce.
For example, the beauty of Borscht is its magnificent reddish-purple color, due, of course, to the beets and the purple cabbage. I added a big blob of tinned tomato paste toward the end of the cooking to enrich the flavor; the red paste naturally enriched the color too.
Halfway into the cooking, I also tossed one whole orange into the pot (pic above). Though not in season, the sweet-orange citrus flavor added zing in the same way lime added zing to Monday's soup. Orange and beets are great flavor pals and well, they're great color pals too!
Traditionally, Borscht might include carrots, so though I've not included them in my variation, if you have them on hand try adding them. Carrots and orange and beets and purple cabbage all compliment one another in color and flavor.
I've added beef to my soup. I had ground beef in my freezer and some Borscht recipes call for a beef-stock base. Because I intended eating the Borscht as a main dish, the addition of red meat created a substantial, highly nutritive, iron-rich bowl of soup so thick, it's almost a stew.
Borscht with Beef & Orange
Into a soup pot toss the following:
1) 2 medium-sized washed and scrubbed beets.
2) One quarter of a large purple cabbage, washed and chopped.
3) 1/2 lb ground beef, you could use pork or chicken, if you wish. (The addition of meat is optional.)
4) One large onion (optional).
5) Several washed, scrapped, & chopped carrots (optional).
6) If you have any dill or caraway seeds on hand, add a couple teaspoons.
7) Cover ingredients with water, put lid on pot and simmer for about 45 mins or until beets are tender.
8) At around the half-way mark, add one washed, scrubbed and chopped whole orange (skin included).
9) Once the soup is cooked, remove the pieces of orange, and add a heaped tablespoon of tomato paste. Stir well, and then season with salt and pepper.
To Serve: Ladle soup into a bowl. Top with a blob of sour cream or yogurt or sliced avocado or a mix of all three. Adhere several corn chips to the sour cream mix and sprinkle the lot with chopped chives and or the grated rind of an orange.