Officials at the Sochi Winter Olympics say they are preparing to serve 70,000 gallons of borscht over the next couple of weeks. That amounts to several bowls per visitor.
Olga Lisovskaya, an expert in the ways of the new beet generation, says that this time of year, Russians serve a hot version of borscht. The opera coloratura soprano and executive director of the Commonwealth Lyric Theater knows the soup well from her native Ukraine (where, she says, borscht originated). Her version is typically made with beef. Olympic visitors should expect a more veggie-loaded borscht in Sochi. The differences point to the fact that the beet-based bowls can be made in myriad ways, belonging as much to the caviar-and-vodka set as to the cabbage-and-meat crowd.
Known for singing classical repertoire, and Russian and Ukrainian songs, and as a soloist with the Jewish Musical Theater group Firelech, Lisovskaya has lived in this area for 12 years.
She says there are many kinds of borscht. She divides them into two categories: with meat and meatless. Her recipe has about four ounces of meat per serving. Like most hot borschts, it is based on a meaty stock, in this case, made with boneless beef chuck. She simmers it overnight in the oven at 300 degrees. Then she strains it and lets it chill before skimming off the fat. She simmers it again with carrots, beets, potatoes, cabbage, and a small amount of canned tomatoes. Besides the long cooking time for the broth, prep time is reasonable.
Inevitably, the beets stain fabrics and cutting boards, so work with them over a plate. Beet juice tends to lower blood pressure, according to an article in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, which is why many elite endurance athletes quaff it before competing.
Are beets, borscht, and beet juice in everyone’s future?