Fall has fallen. Today it was chilly outside, and we closed the windows. I'm also feeling under the weather. The combination of these two things made me think of soup.
Fortunately, I have chicken soup in the fridge. My brother came over this weekend, and we cooked. I got to keep most of the leftovers.
It wasn't chicken soup, though, that my mind turned to this morning as I closed the drafty window. Instead it was borscht.
Borscht has a bad rap. This might be due to the fact that it was traditionally a food eaten by those living in poverty who couldn't afford much besides beets and cabbage. I, however, make superb borscht... and I love the stuff. While I have been known to make vegetarian borscht, I usually use a beef base with beets, cabbage, onions, parsnips, and meltingly-tender stewed beef. Vinegar and sugars are added to create a perfect balance of sour and sweet to the already savory soup.
As I was thinking about borscht this morning, it occurred to me that it is, in some ways, much like one of my other favorite soups, pho. The two both have strong, unusual flavors with an unexpected note of sweetness.
I love the way pho is served. First, you choose what sorts of meats you want in it: sliced steak, brisket, flank, tendon, meatballs, and tripe are all commonly available. Then it is brought out with a lovely plate of garnishes: bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, jalepeños, and limes. It is also usually served with hoisin and sriracha sauces. You can customize your pho to your own taste.
Could borscht be served in a similar way? What if you chose, when ordering borscht, what combination of beef, beets, cabbage, potatoes, etc. you wanted in the broth? (Would tendon work in borscht? Maybe...) Borscht is already often served with sour cream. What if, in addition to that, you were given a garnish plate of, say, green onions, dill, shredded cabbage, and chopped garlic? (bean sprouts?)
Maybe I'm weird (OK. I'm definitely weird.), but I could see custom borscht becoming an odd food trend. Do you have any ideas on what could be served as a borscht garnish? If so, go ahead and leave them in the comments.