When a customer asked Domku chef/owner Kera Carpenter to make a Ukrainian-style borscht, she didn’t consult a cookbook: “I saw a picture of what it’s supposed to look like and went from that.” The result is a hearty soup that Carpenter says “allows the sweetness of the vegetables to be the dominant flavor.”
The reader who asked us to find out Carpenter’s method isn’t the only one who wants to make it at home: “I get requests for this recipe all the time from customers,” she says. It’s one of the most popular soups at the Petworth restaurant.
Serves 4 to 6.
2 large carrots, peeled and julienned (cut into small strips)
1 large celery root, peeled and julienned
2 turnips, peeled and julienned
2 parsnips, peeled and julienned
4 medium beets, peeled and julienned
1 medium onion, peeled and julienned
½ head cabbage, shredded
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 to 2 bay leaves
1 small bunch parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
3 to 4 vegetable-bouillon cubes (you can also use vegetable broth, but Carpenter couldn’t give an exact amount; she uses enough to cover the vegetables by 2 inches)
Sour cream for serving
In a stockpot, pour in about 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the onions and cook until browned. Add the remaining vegetables, a bay leaf or two, one bunch parsley uncut and tied into a bunch for easy removal, 3 to 4 cubes of organic vegetable bouillon (you could make your own vegetable stock, but this rapid method works just as well). Cover the vegetables with cold water to about 2 inches above the ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook until the vegetables are all well cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the parsley and bay leaves before serving. Ladle the soup into bowls, adding a dollop of sour cream to each serving.
For the non-vegetarian version, you can add pieces of cubed pork stew meat and thick-cut bacon into the pot before cooking the onions. Brown the meat, then add the onions.
Leaving the soup on heat for long periods will dull the vibrant color of the beets to a brownish hue. It’s best to heat the amount you need just before serving.