Borscht with Meat
Borscht with Meat

Dinnertime and the Olympics were the two main events I looked forward to as a kid.  The time between Olympics seemed interminable.  Four years?!  I’d hardly even lived that long.  When the winter Olympics came on TV, my siblings and I skated around our living room in our sneakers and did pirouettes, arabesques and flying leaps.  One year, we were so inspired we took a boom box down to a small marshy pond, choreographed routines and gave ourselves Olympic aliases–Kristi Yamaguchi, Elvis Stojko and Nancy Kerrigan.

Is there a way, I wonder, to celebrate the Olympics with just as much enthusiasm but a little more maturity?  I found my answer when a recent news item caught my attention.  Apparently, the Sochi Olympics organizers estimate that 70,000 gallons of borscht will be ladled out this February. To celebrate the Olympics in a respectable, grown-up way, I’ve decided to try my hand at some Russian fare.  It’s the perfect time of year for it!  Not only does it feel like Siberia outside, but Russian cuisine puts winter vegetables, like beets, carrots, mushrooms, cabbage and potatoes to wise use.

Russian Vegetable Pie

My first stop on the culinary tour was Russian Vegetable Pie, a wacky but delicious combination of mushrooms, cabbage, dill, cream cheese and–brace yourself– hard boiled eggs.  The cream cheese, which is in the crust as well as the filling, enriches the veggies, which blend together with the eggs to taste a bit like a dressed-up sauerkraut.  So far, I haven’t met a savory pie I didn’t like, and this one was unexpectedly magical.

Russian Vegetable Pie
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Russian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Savory pie with mushroom and cabbage (http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Russian-Vegetable-Pie/Detail.aspx)
Ingredients
  • For the pie crust, you will need:
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • For the filling, you will need:
  • 4 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 small head cabbage, shredded
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram
  • ¼ teaspoon dried tarragon
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill weed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt.
  3. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Stir in cream cheese until mixture forms a ball. (You may have to use some water, but use sparingly; too much will make the crust hard.)
  5. Roll out ⅔ of the pastry and line a 9 inch pie dish.
  6. Roll out the remaining pastry and make a circle large enough to cover the dish.
  7. Put it away to chill.
  8. In a large skillet, melt about 2 tablespoons butter.
  9. Add the onion and cabbage and saute for several minutes, stirring constantly. Season with marjoram, tarragon, and basil, salt and pepper.
  10. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is wilted and the onions are soft.
  11. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  12. Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan.
  13. Saute the mushrooms lightly for about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly.
  14. Spread the softened cream cheese in the bottom of the pie shell.
  15. Arrange the egg slices in a layer over the cheese.
  16. Sprinkle them with dried dill weed, then cover them with the cabbage.
  17. Make a final layer of the sauteed mushrooms and cover with the circle of pastry.
  18. Seal and flute the edges of the crust.
  19. With a sharp knife, cut a few short slashes through the top crust.
  20. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  21. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F.
  22. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Borscht with Meat

Next, I had to try borscht, since Sochi will feature such volumes of it.  I’ve never had it before, so I worried that its flavor would be too earthy for my tastes.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The Joy of Cooking‘s Borscht with Meat recipe makes a rich, tomato-flavored stew that’s chock full of vegetables and has a fun purple tint.  Since most of the vegetables (the carrots, onion, and celery anyway) get plopped into the soup at the same time, it works well to slice them in the food processor if you have a slicing disc.  The recipe was simple but took some tending every half hour or so.  In between those times, it simmered away contentedly.

What are the health benefits of this soup?  Let’s add them up a few benefits of the main players:

Beets are an excellent source of folate, potassium and fiber, have anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties and help your body detox.

Cabbage offers lots of vitamin E and vitamin C, dietary fiber and vitamin K.

Carrots give you not just beta carotene but also a healthy dose of calcium and vitamins K and C.

As the athletes prepare, try some Olympic Food.  I liked it so much I wanted to do a pirouette right in the kitchen.