Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Curried Coconut Borscht

I have previously professed my hatred for broccoli.  However, there is something that I hate much more than broccoli ... beets.  Writing that last sentence, especially those five letters, b-e-e-t-s, just gave me the shivers.  My extreme dislike for beets is principally because of the taste.  I have just never been able to bring myself around to even accepting the flavor of beets.

It is not like I haven't tried.  Back in college, I studied abroad for a semester in Prague.  During our break, the class went to Moscow for the week.  We stayed at a college dormitory that had a cafeteria, where we had breakfast, lunch and dinner. Despite the passage of time, there is one thing that I clearly remember.  Every dinner began with with a bowl of borscht.  A bowl of thin, Communist-red broth.  That broth had the strong taste of beets.  It did not have any actual beets in it.  The absence of visible beets was a relief for me, as I grabbed the shaker filled with generic black pepper.  I would add a thin layer of the black and white pepper on the top of the red sheen of a soup.  It was the only way that I could eat borscht.

While it is not on my list of favorite dishes, borscht is a popular dish in Eastern European countries, including Poland, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia.  The dish originated with a sour soup made with pickled stems, leaves and umbels of the hogweed plant.  Over time, the recipe evolved from the hogweed to beet roots.  Other ingredients, such as cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes and tomatoes were added to the dish.  The various ingredients could be chopped and added to the dish for presentation.  Alternatively, they could be pureed into the relatively thin soup that I ate day after day during my stay in Moscow.

By now, you may be asking yourself, why I am droning on about beets and borscht.  As it turns out, it is the Community Supported Agriculture or CSA time of year.  One of our weekly CSA shipments included a couple red beets.  Given my beet repertoire is as thin as the soup I know, I decided that I would try my hand at making the soup that I can barely eat.  I found a recipe for a curried coconut borscht, which made the beet soup seem more palatable.  I thought that the coconut milk could round out the tartness of the beets, while the curry powder could help to offset that taste that is so off-putting to me. The recipe also allowed me to use some other ingredients from my CSA, such as a sweet potato (in place of the potatoes called for in the recipe) and a few carrots.

I will be honest, I ate the broth.  It was good.  I also ate the carrots and the sweet potatoes.  But, I could not bring myself to eat the diced beets.  I tried, but I could not eat the beets.  Don't let my distaste for beets stop you from making this recipe, because, if you like beets, this soup is definitely worth a try. 

Recipe adapted from Fresh and Natural Foods
Serves 2

1 tablespoon of coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
1 bunch of scallions
1 shallot or 1/2 onion, sliced
1 cup of red beets, cut into large dice
1 cup of carrots, sliced on the diagonal
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4  jalapeno pepper, minced
3/4 tablespoon of mild curry powder or garam masala
1 tablespoon of dried ginger or 1 teaspon of fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
1 cup of potatoes, diced
1/2 can of light coconut milk
1 cup of vegetable stock or water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 lime juiced
1 tablespoon of arrowroot (dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water)

1. Saute the vegetables.  Add the oil to a large saucepan over medium heat  Add scallions, beets shallot (or onion), carrots and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, jalapeno, ginger, curry powder (or garam masalam), turmeric, and saute until the spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the potatoes, coconut milk, stock (or water) and brnig to a boil

2.  Boil the borscht.  Lower to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.  Add lime juice, cilantro and arrowroot and cook until soup thickens slightly.  Serve hot.


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