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      RECIPE TITLE "Russian Steppe Beef Borscht with Meatballs Recipe"
    Source: Beef for All Seasons
    courtesy of Cooking.com

    yieldsServes 8 time--- difficultymoderate

    Borscht is a beet soup originating in Eastern Europe. Although it always contains beets, the meat, stock, and vegetables vary from region to region. This version, with meatballs rather than diced meat, is a favorite in the Russian Steppe region, the vast treeless grassland prairie. Borscht may be served hot (as it is here) or chilled, and is traditionally garnished with a dollop of sour cream. If serving this recipe chilled, you can puree it, but since the meatballs go best with warm borscht, you might want to omit them from the chilled version. Serve with a good crusty bread.

      RECIPE INGREDIENTS

    For Meatballs:
    1 tablespoon butter
    1/2 onion, minced
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme
    12 ounces lean high-quality ground beef
    1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
    1 egg, beaten
    4 cups beef stock

    For Borscht:
    6 beets, well scrubbed
    3 tablespoons butter
    1 onion, diced
    2 carrots, diced
    1 leek, diced
    2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    6 cups beef stock
    1 Idaho potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and diced
    1/2 head small cabbage (about 1 pound), diced
    2 bay leaves
    1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme
    1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish
    1 teaspoon minced parsley, for garnish

      RECIPE METHOD

    TO PREPARE MEATBALLS: Melt the butter in a stockpot or large saucepan, add the onion, and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and thyme and sauté for 2 minutes longer; transfer to a large mixing bowl and let cool. Add the beef, bread crumbs, and egg to the bowl and gently mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Form into 16 meatballs and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. In a saucepan, bring the stock to a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer, and add the meatballs (in batches, if necessary) and cook for about 15 minutes, or until no longer pink, occasionally skimming the surface of the stock to remove any impurities. Remove the meatballs from the broth with a slotted spoon and keep warm, or refrigerate until ready to serve. Discard the broth. If refrigerating, reheat the meatballs in a low oven or in cup of fresh broth.

    TO PREPARE BORSCHT: Cut the greens off the beets, leaving about 1 inch of stem. Place the beets in a saucepan with just enough cold water to cover, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender. Remove the beets, and reserve 1 of them. Peel and dice the remaining 5 beets; there should be about 4 cups. Reserve the cooking liquid. Heat the butter in a stockpot or large saucepan, add the onion, and sauté over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, or until softened. Add the carrots, leek, garlic, and diced beets and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes longer. Stir in the vinegar and cook for 1 minute, while stirring the bottom of the pan.

    Pour in 6 cups of the beef stock and the cooking liquid from the beets, and add the potato, cabbage, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, skim the surface to remove any impurities, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer for about 45 minutes, skimming the surface occasionally. Remove the bay leaves and transfer 1 cup of the soup and vegetables to a blender. Dice the reserved beet and add to the blender. Puree and add the mixture back to the soup. Add up to 2 cups more stock or water if the soup gets too thick. Add the thyme a few minutes before you are ready to serve. Season with additional salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar as necessary.

    TO SERVE: Ladle the warm soup into serving bowls and add 2 meatballs to each serving. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and the parsley.

    WINE RECOMMENDATION: Merlot is the choice here as a tasty complement to the flavorful mixture of ingredients. St. Emilion, from Bordeaux (the original progenitor of California Merlots), would be equally appropriate.

    HELPFUL TIPS: We used the paysanne cut for the beets, carrots, and potatoes; this is a 1/2-inch square about 1/4-inch thick. This takes a bit more time, but gives an attractive appearance to the soup. Whether you dice the vegetables, or cut them in a paysanne, try to keep them a uniform size. Although this recipe calls for 6 beets, the amount of beets you need will vary depending on size. You may need as few as 4 large or as many as 8 small. Don't be dismayed if you don't have exactly 4 cups of diced beets. A little more or less won't affect the flavor of the soup, and by adding the cooking broth to the soup, you will achieve the intense purple color of borscht.

    Recipe reprinted by permission of Harper Collins. All rights reserved.

      Nutrition Facts
    Serves 8
    Facts per Serving
    Calories: 255 Fat: 11g Carbohydrates: 22g
    Cholesterol: 58mg Sodium: 230mg Protein: 19g
    Fiber: 5g % Cal. from Fat: 39% % Cal. from Carbs: 35%

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