With the weather taking a decidedly colder, windier turn this week, it's a good time to pull out your soup recipes.
|Doris Beck with her Borscht soup. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
And maybe time to add one to the pile that's a little more unusual. Have you ever made borscht?
Bowling Green's Doris Beck has a version of borscht - also known as beet soup - that will warm the tummy, while making frugal use of seasonal root vegetables.
Beck, a retired microbiologist at Bowling Green State University, acquired the recipe way back in graduate school.
"It can be served hot or cold. I prefer hot soup, other than gazpacho," said Beck.
The borscht recipe came courtesy of a young Quaker woman named Prudence Hall, who was a graduate student at Michigan State University in the early 1970s.
"We worked in the same lab together for about three years. She's a microbiologist also," currently teaching in the biology department at Hiram College.
Working in such close proximity for long hours, the two got to know each other well.
"We would pass recipes, go back and forth" and when Beck mentioned that she liked cabbage, Hall suggested her borscht soup.
"We were pretty poor in grad school" and the no-meat soup, with its purple-red fall color and flavor, sounded appealing.
"I liked the vegetables and I like the garnishes," she said of such options as sour cream, cheddar or mozzarella cheese with which the soup can be topped. "I just think they're fun."
Beck has made a few modifications and additions over the decades.
"I put a little ranch dip seasoning in the sour cream.
"Another ingredient I add is Chef Paul Prudhomme's Poultry Magic seasoning blend, since the borscht doesn't have salt in it."
During a visit to New Orleans she brought back a huge container of the seasoning, but is pretty sure that local supermarkets carry it as well.
"I like to use it in gravies, turkey dressing, and anything that needs a little pizzazz," Beck added.
The recipe offers quite a few "either-or" choices. First, there is the option of using beef or other broth, or a bouillon cube. "I always use beef broth," she said, but specified no particular brand name.
As for the choice of pureed tomatoes or strained stewed tomatoes, "either works."
The recipe lists the butter as optional and Beck doesn't include any. "I like it low-calorie." But others may find this a too-Spartan choice.
However it is assembled - and this, like many soup recipes, allows for plenty of individual variation - one of the soup's best attributes is that "it freezes well," according to Beck.
The entire concept of Borscht hints that it is a fine way to warm up a frigid Russian winter. The soup is actually of Ukrainian origin, but popular in many other central and eastern European countries.
"Maybe I like the beet soup because I'm Czech, originally," said Beck.
A Michigan native who grew up in Archbold, Beck came to Bowling Green in 1974 to take a teaching job at the university, retiring in 2003.
"I make it when beets are in season. Usually I make it for my husband and I, or some of our friends."
She and her spouse, Larry Harris, have five children and 11 grandchildren between them.
"The kids - they like fast food. The grandkids like rich food." So she reserves borscht for the older generation.
"Maybe I'll make it for Bridge Club next time. You can just make it and freeze it, and then just concentrate on cleaning" for the coming guests.
Beck and Harris are regulars at the Bowling Green Duplicate Bridge Club that meets Thursdays at the county senior center. "And sometimes we go to the Perrysburg club as well."
Harris, who is well-known locally as pastor at the former University Lutheran Chapel for 14 years, currently has a private counseling business.
The couple enjoys ethnic foods of many kinds, especially Indian, Greek, Afghan and Mexican.
"I make an Afghan soup, too," said Beck, "but it's spicy and most people don't like it. So I just make that one for my husband and I."
Borscht (Ukrainian beet soup)
Makes 6 cups or servings.
1 cup chopped beets
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onions
2 cups beef or other broth (bouillon cube may be used)
1 cup tomato pulp (pureed tomatoes or strained stewed tomatoes)
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
Paul Prudhomme's Poultry Magic (amount to taste)
Wash the beets, leaving about 2 inches of stem and the tap root. Cover with water and boil (about 35 minutes) until skins can be slipped off when beets are plunged into cold water.
Peel and chop beets, carrots and onions into fine pieces. Combine and barely cover with boiling water. Boil gently, covered, for about 20 minutes.
Add broth, cabbage, tomatoes and butter. If tomatoes are omitted, use more beets, carrots and onions, and add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Boil for 15 minutes.
Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve and then reheat.
Garnish each serving with sour cream, ranch dip, or shredded cheddar cheese.