I am always surprised at how many people don't enjoy winter vegetables and the glorious things you can make with them, like this simple deconstructed Borscht Bowl. Here is my theory why.
Not all that long ago, people ate whatever the seasons offered. Storage vegetables sustained us into the cold winter. Parsnips, potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, turnips, cabbages, and beets were familiar and welcome.
Then the frozen food explosion of the early 1950s came. Supermarkets full of freezer cases exploded into cities and suburbs. We now have over three generations of people who have had the luxury of eating sweet peas in January as though it is natural. Consequently, we have lost our taste for hearty winter vegetables.
Frozen food technology is great, really. But to allow it to shake us lose from the joys of seasonal eating? To let go of a whole swath of foods designed to provide what we need in cold weather? What a shame. Let's fix that with some borscht-y goodness.
Rustic, Warming, Healing, and Delicious
Our deconstructed Borscht Bowl is inspired by Eastern European borscht made of beet, potato, cabbage, sour cream and dill. Here, we just arrange the components a little differently. It is the perfect thing to eat on a dark winter's evening, a chunk of caraway rye black bread and perhaps some browned sausages alongside.
I love the short-day season at the dinner table. Nearly every night we light candles and dim the overhead lights. The glow of candlelight on the face of my beloved dinner companion casts him in his one-and-only kind of charm. Dinner topics move from what happened outdoors today to what it happening in our souls today. These dinners help our roots sink deeper.
In the same way, one of my favorite things is to wrap my hands around a warm bowl of wintery food. Try filling your bowl with a fluffy, crusty baked potato. Ladle over rosy beets and broth. Pile on store-bought or homemade sauerkraut, full of beneficial immunity-boosting bacteria. Dollop on horseradish-laced sour cream. Embrace eating with the season.
Making the Deconstructed Borscht Bowl
The crackly-skinned, fluff-filled baked potato in the bottom of the bowl adds heft and makes a good excuse to warm your space with the oven. Best of all, it mops up the delicious bright pink broth.
The beets and their broth are made quickly on the stovetop or in a pressure-cooker while the potatoes are baking.
The cabbage in this bowl comes in the form of sauerkraut-- either homemade or store-bought. Fermented foods are so good for us! Pile it on and toast to your health!
Finally, we stir some horseradish, freshly grated or prepared, into some sour cream along with a lot of fresh dill to dollop over the Borscht Bowl, and give it a snowy dusting of dill over the top. Yes, please.
How the Deconstructed Borscht Bowl comes together: Bake potatoes until crisp outside, fluffy inside; Mince cooked beets to add to simmering broth; House divided! Add horseradish and chopped dill to both dairy and cashew sour creams here!; Pop open potato, put it in bowl, top with ladles of hot beets and broth, top with herbed sour cream and sauerkraut; Viola!
Deconstructed Borscht Bowl is inspired by Eastern European borscht made of beet, potato, cabbage, sour cream and dill. Here, we just arrange the winter vegetable components into a bowl for a hearty warming winter meal.
5cupsvegetable, beef, or chicken stockhomemade, purchased, or made from bouillon
1 ½poundsbeets, cooked and peeled
2cupssauerkraut, homemade or purchased
8ouncessour cream or cashew sour cream (recipe below)for dairy-free/vegan option
2-3teaspoonshorseradish, freshly grated or prepared
1/2 cupchopped fresh dill, packed
salt + pepper to taste
Cashew Sour Cream
1cupraw cashew pieces (no need for the more expensive whole nuts here)Where available, Trader Joe's is a good source for most nuts, including cashews.
2½Tbsp.lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, or a mix of both
Deconstructed Borscht Bowl
Preheat oven to 400°. Rub the potatoes with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle them with coarse salt, and with a sharp knife, cut a 2"-3" slit in the top of each potato. Roast until a knife inserted into the center offers no resistance and they give in to a little squeeze. Depending on your oven, this may take 40 minutes to an hour.
Bring the stock to a simmer in a large saucepan. Cut the beets into chunks and pulse them 12-15 times in a food processor to a fine irregular mince. Stir the minced beets into the simmering stock. Taste for salt and add more to the broth if needed, along with some freshly cracked black pepper. Squeeze most of the brine from the sauerkraut and gently warm it in a microwave oven or small saucepan. Stir together the sour cream or cashew sour cream, horseradish to taste, and most of the dill, reserving some dill for garnish.
Place each potato into its own wide bowl, and crack it open along its slit by pinching the potato together and toward the center like a Chinese fortune teller (cootie catcher.) Ladle the hot beets and broth over each potato. Place a big dollop of herbed sour cream on the potato. Pile on the sauerkraut, and garnish with the remaining dill. Serve piping hot.
Cashew Sour Cream
Cover cashews in boiling water and soak at least one hour up to overnight, and drain, OR (my favorite method) place the cashews and cover with water in an electric pressure cooker and cook on high for 8 minutes. Allow to cool, and drain.
Place the drained cashews the lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar, and salt in a blender. Blend on high until it is completely smooth, scraping down the sides often. Taste for sourness, and add more lemon juice/apple cider vinegar to taste. Store in the refrigerator. Cashew sour cream will thicken as it chills. It will keep in your fridge about one week, and it can also be frozen. Stir well between uses. Makes about 14 ounces.
You’re in the right place to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar. I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how.
Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.
Inspiration: Ingredients! Fresh, colorful, fragrant, local, seasonal ingredients as an artistic medium.
Heroes: Food and wine producers– the people who keep me, my family, and our community nourished and happy.