Ukrainian Winter Borscht with Vushka

We missed celebrating Christmas with our extended family this year. 😦

Traditionally, my Mother-in-Law makes all of us the meatless 12-dish Ukrainian Christmas Eve feast as part of our celebration. It is a beautiful dinner, but a major undertaking. I didn’t attempt to make the complete meal, but I did make a couple of the courses for our celebration at home. 🙂

Our meal began with a (mini) shot of vodka and a bite-sized piece of challah with honey. We ate this Winter Borscht with Vushka (mushroom-onion dumplings) followed by sauerkraut and potato-cheese pierogies, which my husband purchased from a local Polish store, as our main courses. I made my Mother-in-Law’s apple strudel for dessert, post to follow.

This recipe was adapted from Tom Birchard and Natalie Danford of NYC’s East Village restaurant Veselka, via The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. (I gave my husband the Veselka cookbook for Christmas!) I incorporated some of the beets, puréed, into the finished soup. I used dumplings wrappers instead of making the dough for the dumplings. I also modified the Vushka proportions and technique.

I used beets from my CSA share for the soup, made it in advance and stored it in the freezer. I made the Vushka a day in advance and stored them in the refrigerator. The recipe states that the dumplings are optional; in my house they are essential! The soup had a spicy kick which may have been from the fresh garlic, which is incorporated at the end. I enjoyed it but may consider omitting the garlic next time.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

For the Borscht:

  • 2 pounds beets, trimmed and scrubbed (do not peel)
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 whole allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, more to taste
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • coarse salt
  • mushroom and onion dumplings (Vushka)
  • chopped dill, for garnish, optional
  1. Coarsely chop beets, preferably in a food processor.
  2. In a medium pot, combine beets, 4 cups water and vinegar; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until beets are soft, about 45 minutes. Strain and set juice aside. (Beets can be used for another purpose, like salad.)(I puréed half of the strained beets in a Vitamix and incorporated them in the finished soup.)
  3. Meanwhile, in a deep pot, combine carrot, celery, onion, stock, bay leaves and allspice; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes. Strain and discard aromatics and vegetables.
  4. Combine strained stock and beet juice and simmer 5 minutes.
  5. Add sugar, garlic (if using), and black pepper. Season to taste with sugar and salt.
  6. Add half of the reserved beets, puréed, into the finished soup, as desired.
  7. Serve with dumplings and sprinkle with dill, as desired.

For the Vushka (Ukrainian Mushroom & Onion Dumplings):

Yield: 80 to 100 dumplings

For the Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cups chopped button mushrooms
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the Dough: (I used Shanghai-style dumpling wrappers instead)

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, more as needed

To Make the Filling:

  1. Place dried mushrooms in a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Let soften, about 10 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid and mushrooms separately.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until golden but not brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add button mushrooms and cook, stirring, until mushrooms have released their liquid, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drain liquid.
  4. In a food processor, combine both kinds of mushrooms.
  5. Spoon in porcini liquid, leaving behind any silt in bottom of bowl.
  6. Pulse together until finely ground but not pasty: about 3 or 4 pulses. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

To Make the Dough: (I used dumpling wrappers and continued at Step 8)

  1. In a small bowl, combine egg yolk, oil and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water and whisk 1 minute.
  2. Place flour in a large bowl and make a well in center. Add a third of the egg mixture and lightly mix in with fingers or a fork. Repeat 2 more times.
  3. Using hands, fold dough together until soft: if crumbly, gently work in more water; if sticky, add flour.
  4. Transfer to a lightly floured board and knead 3 minutes.
  5. Form into a ball, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate 45 minutes.
  6. Lightly flour a work surface and a pan or board for the finished dumplings. Divide dough into 3 sections.
  7. Using a well-floured rolling pin, roll each section out until very thin and in a rough rectangle.
  8. Use tip of a sharp knife to cut dough into 1 1/2-inch squares. (I used a 1 1/2-inch square cookie cutter as a guide. Each dumpling wrapper yielded 2 squares. If using square dumpling wrappers, each one may be able to make 4 squares. Next time!)
  9. Cover the cut dough with plastic wrap so that it doesn’t dry out.
  10. Drain any excess liquid from filling. Place 1/4 teaspoon filling in center of each square. (I found it helpful to pre-scoop the filling and place it on a cutting board because it dried it out slightly.)
  11. Wet the edges of the dough and fold squares in half to form triangles, sealing filling inside.
  12. Pinch the 2 opposing corners together to seal tightly, use water if necessary.
  13. Place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with plastic wrap or a floured surface: do not stack.
  14. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
  15. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook dumplings until they float, 2 to 4 minutes. (If cooking frozen dumplings, cook until they rise to the surface and add 2 minutes.)
  16. Drain and serve in hot borscht, about 10 per serving, or just with sour cream.

Escarole, Beet, & Tomato Salad with Warm Shallot Vinaigrette

I love finding recipes using escarole that are outside of the “Italian soup” box- especially in the summer. This incredible, layered salad was elevated by the warm shallot vinaigrette and the creamy blue cheese topping. It was slightly- and wonderfully- wilted from the warm beets and dressing.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I roasted the beets instead of steaming them, and modified the proportions. I loved the color variation from the mixed-color tomatoes and combination of golden and red beets. It was a true celebration of my CSA share. 🙂

  • 2 bunches beets, bulbs peeled, trimmed, and cubed, greens reserved for another use (I used golden & red beets)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (I used 1 large shallot with 2 bulbs)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting shallots
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar
  • 1 cup halved cherry or mixed-color tomatoes (5 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 to 1/2 large head escarole, core and dark outer leaves removed; inner, light-green leaves washed, well dried, and torn into 2-inch pieces (4 packed cups)
  • 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh dill
  • 4 ounces blue cheese, preferably Danish, thinly sliced or broken into chunks (I used Castello Creamy Blue Danish Cheese)
  1. Set oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Place cubed beets on a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Place beets in pre-heated oven, and roast for approximately 30 minutes, or until caramelized and tender.
  4. Meanwhile, combine shallot, oil, and a pinch of salt in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then whisk in vinegar. Season with pepper and more salt, if desired.
  5. When beets are cool enough to handle, toss with tomatoes, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons warm dressing.
  6. In a large bowl, combine escarole leaves, beet mixture, and dill. Toss with additional vinaigrette as desired; season with salt and pepper.
  7. Top with cheese and serve with remaining vinaigrette alongside.

Beet & Dill Roasted Salmon with Potatoes

I was initially drawn to this recipe because of the “jewel-like” color of the salmon in the finished dish. The beet and dill marinade gives it the lovely color as well as a wonderful layer of flavor. My husband was completely sold when I told him that the salmon is roasted over a bed of sliced potatoes. 🙂

I served this dish on Easter weekend, on Easter Eve, along with zucchini baba ghanoush as an appetizer and carrot cake for dessert. I would serve this menu again next year and serve it on Easter Eve- it was nice to have our larger and more labor-intensive meal the night before all of the Easter festivities. We had a spring pasta dish for lunch on Easter after having challah and Easter eggs (and Easter candy!) for breakfast. Perfect.

This lovely recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I decreased the horseradish and left the skin on the potatoes. I also used a mandoline to slice the potatoes. I served it with steamed beet greens, roasted beets, and roasted asparagus on the side. Healthy and delicious.

 Yield: Serves 6
  • 1 small red beet, peeled and coarsely grated (1/2 cup)(wear gloves!)
  • 1 cup dill fronds, chopped, plus more for serving
  • 3 to 4 T freshly grated horseradish (from a 2-inch piece), or 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • grated zest of 1 lemon, plus lemon half for serving
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 side salmon, preferably wild, (1 3/4 to 2 pounds; about 1 inch thick at thickest part), skin removed
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices (preferably with a mandoline)
  1. Combine beet, dill, horseradish, zest, and 2 tablespoons oil in a bowl.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Season both sides of salmon generously with salt and pepper; transfer to sheet. Spread beet mixture on top. Let stand 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss potatoes with remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Shingle potatoes in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, in a single layer. Bake until tender, about 35 minutes; remove from oven.
  5. Remove beet mixture from top of salmon with a spoon; spread over center of potatoes.
  6. Top beet mixture with fish (you may need to tuck part of tail end under fish to fit in pan), drizzle with oil (I omitted the additional oil), and bake until salmon is medium-rare, 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Squeeze with lemon, garnish with dill fronds, and serve.

Note: Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish. For salmon that is 1/2 inch thick, start checking at 8 minutes. For 1 1/2 inches, start checking around 14 minutes.

One Year Ago: Swedish Meatloaf with Caramelized Cabbage (Kalpudding)

Two Years Ago: Chicken Paprikash

Three Years Ago: Pork & Ricotta Meatballs in Parmesan Broth

Four Years Ago: Pork Chops with Shiitake Mushrooms & Mustard Vinaigrette

Five Years Ago: Italian Braised Pork

French Green Lentil & Beet Salad with Orange-Mustard Vinaigrette

IMG_4978

My husband was on vacation last week and really wanted to grill a steak (for himself!) for dinner. When he made his special (out of the ordinary – for us) dinner, I made this special lentil salad for my dinner. 🙂 He ate it as a side dish too. I had orange beets from my CSA share to include in the salad, although red beets may have added more contrast in the finished dish. We ate the beet greens sautéed with CSA Swiss chard and leeks on the side. This recipe was adapted from Saveur. The dressing has a bright, wonderful flavor; I substituted Herbs de Provence for lavender.

  • 3/4 to 1 pound beets, scrubbed clean
  • 7 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups French green lentils
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 cups fresh orange juice (about 6 Valencia oranges)
  • 1 tsp Herbs de Provence
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced (1/8″ mandolin)
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Rub beets with 2 T olive oil, salt, and pepper in a 8″-square baking dish and cover with foil; cook until tender, about 1 hour on convection roast. Let cool, then peel beets and chop; set aside.
  2. Bring lentils, bay leaves, and 4 cups of water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until tender but not mushy, about 25 to 30 minutes. Drain, discarding liquid and bay leaves.
  3. Toast mustard seeds in a 10″ or 12″ skillet over medium-high heat until they begin to pop, 1-2 minutes. Add juice; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and add Herbs de Provence.; cook until juice is reduced to about 1/2 cup, 20-30  minutes. Whisk in honey and remaining 5 T oil.
  4. Add beets, lentils, red onion, salt and pepper; toss to combine. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold.

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