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The end of summer and journey into fall is a bittersweet
time in Northwest Washington.

It’s easy to yearn nostalgic for long summer days,
but through the falling leaves and impending dampness,
there is a certain beauty in the air. And, it’s one of my
favorite times of year for food, namely late summer veggies.
Local jewels like beets, carrots, onions, potatoes are in
their prime, and tasty favorites like tomatoes and peppers can
still be seen bountifully displayed at farmers market stalls. On
cool fall nights I can oft be found in the kitchen, pining over
wafts of caramelized roasting veggies, and happily peering
over a simmering pot of soup on the stove.

When I first moved to Washington nine years ago, I
jumped into a world of veggies I had never experienced
before. Interestingly delicious kohlrabi, celeriac, turnips,
beets, beets—beets quickly became a love of mine. Beets
often get a bad rep, and growing up in Texas, I had literally
had never tasted a beet that wasn’t pickled. I too was a little
hesitant, but a recipe I found for a Russian beet borscht
changed everything.

The earthy sweetness of the beets, the starchy heartiness
of the potatoes, delightful crunch of peppers, the vibrant
explosion of tomato flavors, paired with the savory aromas
of dill, and a dollop of smooth sour cream—it was love at
first spoonful.

The soup was like a revelation for me. After making it
many times that first fall and perfecting the recipe to my liking,
I began to share it with family and friends. I was a beet
advocate and started making all things beet: beet hummus, a
brilliantly pink and delicious new mainstay, beet chocolate
muffins, and added roasted beets to every dish I could think of.

This borscht has turned beet-haters into beet lovers, and
has had everyone from ex boyfriends to roommates sweetly
asking, “When are you going to make that borscht again?”
with hopeful gleams in their eyes.

And so, I share this with you.

I encourage you to head down to the Bellingham Farmers
Market next weekend to gather the ingredients (it runs every
Saturday 10–3 until late December at Depot Market Square).
There’s nothing quite like freshly harvested produce; it’s more
flavorful, nutritious, and all the better that it’s grown in a way
that’s good for the planet, while supporting the folks right
here in our community.

I like to make a big batch of this soup and freeze it in
old yogurt containers—it freezes well and is a great soup to
pull out for a quick and satisfying dinner on a chilly autumn
night. Can’t beet that!

The Best Borscht
INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium beets, peeled and chopped into 1″ cubes
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (green or purple), chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, chopped into large chunks
  • 2 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups cabbage, chopped
  • 10–12 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
  • 6 cups water, veggie stock or chicken stock
  • Salt & pepper to taste (a liberal amount of sea salt makes this soup shine)
  • 2 Tbsp butter, or vegan Earth Balance
  • Optional but delicious garnish: yogurt or sour cream dollop

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Place water and couple pinches of salt in soup pot over
    high heat. Add carrots, pepper, celery, beets, and
    potatoes and bring to a boil. Lower to medium-low heat.
  • Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions
    under tender, approximately 5 minutes. Squish tomatoes
    with hands and stir into onion mixture, add 4 sprigs
    chopped dill, and reduce heat to medium low and simmer
    for 15 min. Stir cabbage into skillet with remaining
    sauce and continue simmering until tender.
  • Add onion-tomato mixture to soup pot. Reduce heat and
    simmer about 10–15 minutes more. Season with salt and
    fresh ground pepper to taste. Top with a dollop of sour
    cream and more fresh dill for garnish.

"The soup was like a revelation for me. After making it many times that first fall and perfecting the recipe to my liking, I began to share it with family and friends."