Wednesday, August 29, 2007

0 Recipe #18: Shchav (Spinach Borscht)

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Shchav (i.e., a type of borscht) is a Russian/Eastern European soup made of greens like spinach, beet greens, swiss chard, sorrel, watercress, &/or cabbage. It can be served hot or cold, and typically has a tangy taste, which comes from the greens themselves and a souring agent like lemon juice or vinegar.

Although this soup is sometimes made with a meat base, this particular version is vegetarian. Hope you enjoy my own original take on this classic recipe!

Shchav (Spinach Borscht)

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. yellow onion, finely diced (about 1 small onion)
1 c. celery (including leafy greens), finely diced (about 1 stalk)
2 lbs. fresh spinach (or 20 oz. frozen)
1 tsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 qts. (8 c.) water (or vegetable broth)
1 1/2 c. red-skinned potato, scrubbed, peeled, & shredded (about 1 large potato)
2 c. green cabbage, shredded
1/2 c. fresh (curly leaf) parsley, finely minced
2 large, fresh dill sprigs, finely minced
juice and zest of 1 1/2 lemons
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 sprigs fresh dill, finely minced
lowfat sour cream or nonfat plain yoghurt
cucumbers, diced or shredded

Directions: In a large soup pot, sauté onion & celery in olive oil on low heat until soft. Next, add spinach, butter, sprinkle with flour, nutmeg, & a small pinch of salt, and stir until reduced. As spinach cooks, slowly incorporate broth/water, a cup at a time, stirring with each addition. Add diced potato, cabbage, parsley, & dill, & simmer for 35-45 minutes, & then remove from heat. Add the lemon juice & zest, & season with salt & pepper. Let cool & transfer soup to a nonmetal container. If serving cold (instead of hot), refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Immediately before serving, garnish each bowl with diced/shredded cucumber and a dollop of lowfat sour cream (or nonfat plain yoghurt). Enjoy!

Yield: 6-8 servings.

Chef's Notes: If you're aiming for a truly authentic-style preparation, then you should know that puréeing shchav is considered to be sacrilege. :-D Shchav is a rustic dish from the old country. Translation: This isn't some smooth & velvety, I'm-too-sexy-for-you, foo-foo-shi-shi soup. :) This is an in-your-face, chunky-as-heck, proud-of-its-peasant-roots kind of soup. :)

Also, other traditional topping include hard-boiled eggs and scallions, but I personally prefer it prepared in the above fashion (with cucumbers & sour cream), which is yet another traditional preparation.

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