The word “borscht” strikes fear and dread into the hearts of many. It conjures up images of cold, cheerless Pepto-pink liquid. But it need not be any of those things. It can be warm, complex, bright and delicious.
We knew we wanted a soup that was festively red, using seasonal ingredients. Pomegranates sprung immediately to mind, and so I researched a famous Persian soup, Ash-e anar. Delicious though it is, it involves meatballs, and we wanted to keep the soup light so folks wouldn’t fill up too early in the evening.
DPaul and I are both big beet eaters (well, we like the small ones, too), so we decided to take this more in the borscht direction. We found one recipe that became our springboard, and adapted from there. It, too, called for meat, but again we were looking for something less substantial. I subbed in celery and anise seeds for caraway, looking for a somewhat more exotic flavor profile. But the real star here is the pomegranate syrup, which subtly holds up the entire dish with a wine-like complexity.
The end result is an intensely colored soup with a balanced, flavorful broth and just enough substance. This will become part of our repertoire for sure.
Adapted from FabulousFoods.com
4 medium red beets, peeled & diced
5 c. water or stock
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp anise seed
1 Tbsp pomegranate syrup (recipe below)
1 c. chopped beet greens
Saute onion, add beets and stock. Pressure cook on high for 5 min, quick release. Strain liquid; reserve beet chunks separately. Put liquid back over medium heat. Add spices and salt and pepper to taste. Add the pom syrup and beet greens and heat until greens wilt. Season to taste, adding salt, pepper and pomegranate syrup to adjust. Place chunks of beets in a soup bowl and pour soup over.
This gives many dishes an amazingly bright, acidic zing. If you have a good market that stocks Middle Eastern ingredients, you can simply purchase pomegranate molasses, which is basically the same thing, but it’s simple enough to make. Pour unsweetened pomegranate juice into a small stock pot and simmer until reduced by half. Cool, and refrigerate.
Alanna cooks up a Finnish Karelian borscht.
Karina’s beef in pomegranate sauce sounds just perfect and delicious.
Ginger Lemon Girl makes up some sweet-tart pomegranate molasses.