We eat soup all year round, but what’s in the pot definitely changes with the seasons.  In the winter it is most likely a big pot of hearty cheeseburger soup from the Simple Food for Winter cookbook.  And right now, mid-summer with all that garden bounty, we’re often enjoying an old family favorite: borscht.  As my two minutes of research into the subject shows, varieties of borscht are numerous, but what makes it borscht is (almost always) the beets.  But beet-haters, take note: even people who don’t like beets have been known to polish off a bowl or two of this delicious vegetable soup.

The measurements are just haphazard guesstimates; I usually use what we have on hand and just eyeball it, which I know is extremely  annoying when you are trying to replicate a recipe — sorry!  I promise that you can’t really mess it up; the ratio of vegetables isn’t that important, just use what you like and what you have.  The vegetable prep is a little intense, so this doesn’t work well as a last minute meal.  The rice can be made ahead of time.  This borscht is great leftover and it freezes well (just don’t add the cream before freezing), and makes an excellent gift for new parents or anyone else in need of a meal.

Best Summer Borscht

bone broth (chicken or beef work equally well, and it’s super easy and cheap to make your own), about 2 quarts
1 cup rice, precooked (it’s ok to undercook it a little, as it will absorb some of the soup liquid)
beets (about 6 small, 3 or 4 large), diced small
potatoes (I like to have about the same amount of potatoes as beets), diced
carrots (about 3-5 medium ones, or whatever you like), diced
green beans (I have no idea how many; use your discretion), ends snapped and cut to bite-size pieces
peas (we use frozen), 1-2 cups
fresh dill (imperative! the fresher the better)
salt & pepper to taste
cream and/or white vinegar for serving

Add broth, beets, potatoes, and carrots to the pot.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.  Add the green beans and peas; cook 10 minutes more.  Add rice & dill.  Serve!  We stir in cream and a tiny bit of white vinegar at the table.



summer kitchen

Things I’ve learned:

~It’s hard to get excited about meal planning with summer produce when you know your kids aren’t going to eat anything you make.

~Bitter cucumbers make decent pickles.

~Accidentally putting in five times more garlic than the recipe calls for will not necessarily ruin your batch of salsa.  It will just make really, really garlicky salsa.

~Watermelon makes yummy popsicles.

~Even non-beet-lovers love borscht.

~Blogging about great seasonal recipes is no guarantee that I’ll remember to make them next year.


batch #3

This summer we have done something I’ve been waiting to do for a very, very long time:  we canned our own salsa!  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I’ve been dreaming of doing this since I was a little girl (well “dreaming of” is probably not exactly right; “expecting that my grown-up self would do this” is more accurate).  I grew up watching my parents make salsa summer after summer, occasionally helping by peeling the skin off the tomatoes and then smooshing them by hand, as my daughters are doing in the above photos (so yes, to those of you with whom we’ve shared a jar or two, my girls literally had their hands in your salsa — don’t worry, I made them wash first!).  I just assumed that most grown-ups did this, and that I would someday use the tomatoes from my own garden to do the same.

I’ve planted tomatoes in pots before, but this is the first summer we’ve had a bona fide garden plot (in our community garden) and the first year we’ve been swimming in so many tomatoes that we (almost) literally had no other choice but to jump in a make some salsa.  So we did.  Four batches and 40 quarts (or 80 pints, which sounds more impressive) later, we feel like we’ve crossed over the divide.  We are no longer people who talk about someday canning but who are actually quite intimidated by the whole process and reluctant to begin; no, now I think it’s safe to say we are canners.  Yes, we can!