Roasting Makes Things Taste Better

Please excuse my Lady Macbeth hands, there has been no regicide here. I’ve just been making borscht, which gives a spectacular “Out damned spot” effect. Does anybody have any tips on getting beet stains off of your fingers?

Anyway, what makes this borscht special is that the beets, prior to being added to the soup pot, are roasted. Why would you take the time to roast beets that are going into a soup? I’m glad you asked. Roasting makes things taste better, or as Michael Ruhlman writes more eloquently in his book, The Elements of Cooking, roasting is “a ‘dry-heat’ method of cooking, usually done in a hot to very hot oven and usually uncovered (to avoid steaming the item), resulting in so-called ‘brown’ flavors, the deep rich flavors of browned meats and caramelized vegetables.” Though a borscht with beets that have not been roasted is good, there is an extra depth of flavor you get from roasting. And luckily, roasting is a pretty low intensity extra step to take, all you do is pop the beets into an oven for a spell before you get to the real business of making soup.

Peeling a roasted beet is also a good deal easier than peeling a raw one!

This recipe came to me highly recommended from one of Mister’s Uncles, and he certainly did not lead us astray. I know that borscht is traditionally a winter soup, but it is quite tasty cold during the summer months, and also a really good way for Mister and I to find a reason to add even more sour cream to our diet. Something about soup making is so soothing for me, so if you have some beets kicking around, don’t wait until winter to make this soup!

Roasted Beet Borscht

(recipe adapted from Roasted Beet Soup with Creme Fraiche)


1/2 pound red beets (3 medium)

1 1/2 Tbsp butter

1 leek (pale parts only), chopped

1 small onion, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground allspice

1/8 tsp cracked black pepper

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp kosher salt

3 Cups water

1 bay leaf

1 Tbsp thyme

1 Tbsp parsley

1/4 Cup whipping cream

2 Tbsp (or more) sour cream or creme fraiche, for garnish

  • Place the beets in a roasting tray and roast until tender in a 350° oven (~1 hour).
  • Allow the beets to cool enough that you can handle them, so that you can peel and dice them.
  • Get your soup pot hot and melt the butter.
  • Add the leek, onion and celery, stirring frequently until they go translucent and begin to brown.
  • Sprinkle in the ginger, allspice, pepper, nutmeg and salt, stirring so that they do not stick to the hot pan.
  • When a burst of fragrance emanates from the pot from the previous addition, tumble in the beet pieces. Continue stirring until the vegetables start to stick to the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the water and additional herbs and bring everything to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook slowly until the vegetables are very tender.
  • Remove from heat and fish out the bay leaf.
  • Puree the soup with the cream using an immersion blender, or wait for it to cool enough to puree in a standard blender.
  • Gently rewarm the soup, ladle it into bowls and garnish with sour cream or creme fraiche.

The borscht I am used to eating tends not to be pureed, and where this borscht was spot on for flavor, I think next time I’ll skip the puree step. It certainly is pretty though.

Mister says: It certainly isn’t his Babcia’s borscht, and agrees that next time pureeing isn’t the way to go. He suggests grating the roasted beets, so that you would get little ribbons of them through the soup. Also, he believes that the recipe should call for much more sour cream.

5 thoughts on “Roasting Makes Things Taste Better

  1. How do i love borcht! I was just thinking about how much i’m looking forward to local markets and healthy local beets with tops (which i usually put in the borcht too, but then again, i’m a big fan of greens). This is just the happy summery kind of recipe that you can eat cold or hot too by the looks of it. i look forward to eating it!!

    Oh yes! And my best recommendation for getting it off your hands is lemon and coarse salt! Put a table spoon of salt in your palm with a little dish soap, and squeeze some fresh lemon juice into the mixture. Scrub your hands really well with the salt soap and lemon mixture and it should exfoliate/acidulate it right off. It also works fantastically for smells! Nothing gets the smell of squid off your hands like it!

  2. Isn’t borscht wonderful! You can make it so many ways: with cabbage, without cabbage, with meat, without meat, with one kind of stock or two kinds–chicken stock and beef stock are nice together–with dill or without dill–even with canned beets if you are in a pinch. I’ve even had some that had carrots in it. I never use cabbage myself, but my Mom made a borscht that was all cabbage an it was great.

    The idea of roasting beets first for a beet borscht (in my heart Beets are the way to make “real” borscht) is terrific.

    Don’t worry if the soup isn’t like Mister’s Babcia’s. Peer into the future and think about some kid in 2061 who knows his Baba Dana’s borscht is the gold standard.

  3. I love roasted fresh beets (anybody that hasn’t had them is really missing out). This soups sounds wonderful what a great mix of spices.

  4. regicide is a rocking word, and i can’t think of an occasion which allowed me to use it–good for you! this is a lovely creation, especially in color and regardless of those pesky stains!

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