Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fixing Traditional Ukrainian Food For Christmas


For Christmas Day lunch, which we were having at my sister's, I asked Cava what Ukrainian dishes he would like to have as part of it. The Christmas Eve dinner in Ukraine is a large, twelve course affair. While ours was not going to be so grand, we did want to include Ukrainian dishes in our first Christmas together. Cava chose borscht, cabbage rolls in sour cream sauce, and a lemon, poppy-seed cake. I knew this would be something new, not only because we've never fixed these dishes, but it would be something to introduce all of our family to.

Now, I find that with beets, people either love them or they hate them. There's really no middle ground for beets, so I knew it would be a challenge to prepare a borscht for any of my family members (myself included) who are not beet lovers.

Here are some of the ingredients I used for our Christmas Borscht:


They include: beets (of course), one red onion, celery, carrots, red potatoes, dill, beef broth, lemon juice and sour cream.

First I cut up all of the vegetables, in doing so with the beets, I wore rubber gloves so my hands didn't turn beet red. I cut three beats into small chunks.

Then I cut the red potatoes (I used about half a dozen) into small slices. I cooked those together first in 4 cups water and half the beef broth (It was 32 ounce container. You can substitute chicken or vegetable broth if you prefer). I added a teaspoon of lemon juice to the mixture. 

This is how it looks when its cooking: a beautiful Christmas red.


I let that cook to a boil, then covered the pot and lowered the heat to a simmer.

As I prepared the beets, I had to take the opportunity and sing beet related songs like "Beet It" or "Block Rockin' Beets," much to my family's chagrin.

For the base or Mirepoix of the Borscht, I cut up one red onion (it's best to have the onion in the freezer for about a half hour before cutting it, that way it won't bother your eyes when you cut it). 

Then I cut up three stalks of celery, four carrots, and a quarter of a red cabbage. I also minced two cloves of garlic.

In another pot, I poured a tablespoon of olive oil (in place of Ukrainian gold - butter) and let it heat up before pouring the onion in. I cooked those until they were translucent. Then I added the cabbage, the celery, and the carrots. To this, I added the rest of the beef broth. I cooked these around 20 minutes on low heat.

I cooked the beets and potatoes around 30 minutes before adding the base and some chopped dill. This is how it will look:


Add salt and pepper to taste.

But the real test, for me anyway, was Cava. He was the one who wanted me to fix Borscht, so I'll admit, I was nervous about whether or not he would like what I fixed. When we went over to my sister's house for Christmas Day, I took the Borscht with me.  After reheating the Borscht, we put some in a bowl with a dollop of sour cream and gave the first bowl to Cava.


As soon as he'd finished his first taste, I asked, "Well? How is it?"

"Yummy," he replied. I was happy and relieved. This was a dish that he had been wanting me to fix for some time and, when I bought the ingredients for Borscht, he kept asking me when I was going to fix it for him. I was glad that he liked it, but the same could not be said for the oyster that he tried.


Once Cava had his Borscht, others began to try it. Danelle, who loved Borscht when we were in Kiev, my sister, and my Dad's wife Evette.


Everyone who tried the Borscht loved it and even commented that it didn't taste like beets. My Dad, who hates beets because he says they "taste like dirt," tried a spoonful. He declared it, "Not bad," so I can count that as a minor triumph.

Along with the Borscht, we fixed stuffed cabbage rolls and a Ukrainian poppy-seed cake. Our family wants to incorporate Ukrainian traditions into our family's, including food. And it is obvious that this means a lot to Cava and that he truly appreciates and wants us to fix dishes from his native land. 






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