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Red Shchi

Saturday, September 11, 2010

This variation of cabbage soup was my aunt's favourite. Remember my aunt Shura who taught me all cooking basics? She cooked with her own special attitude, appreciating good quality products and enjoying the process of cooking with them. She just loved to cook this red shchi in summer when there were plenty of ripe fresh tomatoes. Actually, at that time in Siberia this soup was possible only in summer because fresh tomatoes were available only then. It sounds ridiculous now, but that's how it was. In winter we  had to be satisfied with pickled or frozen vegetables.
Now that I indulge in fresh farm grown tomatoes and eat a succulent salad every day, the idea of this almost forgotten soup suddenly settled in my mind. I made a very summery version of the soup and used different vegetables.

What you need:
B r o t h:
About 2 lb beef bones
3 qt filtered water
1 whole peeled yellow onion
1 bay leaf
2 celery stalks, coarsely cut
Whole black pepper, about 10-15

S o u p:
2 cups shredded white cabbage
1 cup cauliflower, cut in small florets
1 carrot, grated
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 small zucchini or yellow squash, diced
1 sweet pepper any color, diced
5 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
1 Idaho potato, cubed (optional)
1 tsp sugar
Ground black pepper
Greens, chopped
Sour cream

Prepare beef bones broth, it will take you 2 to 3 hours, so it's better to do it in advance. Skim some fat form the broth surface and put it on a skillet - you will need it to saute carrot and onion..
Bring broth to boil, add potatoes and boil on medium when almost done. Then add cabbage, cauliflower florets, sweet  pepper, and zucchini, redice heat to low. 
Saute carrot and onion on the skillet with beef fat until slightly caramelized. Put about 4/5 of all diced tomatoes, sugar, simmer one minute, then dump all mass to the soup, mix, add boiling water if the soup is too thick, taste for salt and add some of desired. Simmer on very low until vegetables are done, but  still have some bite to them (not falling apart) - about 5-7 minutes. Add remaining tomatoes and part of greens, warm through, remove from heat, and let the soup stand for about 10 minutes.
Serve hot with sour cream and more greens, and put black pepper on the table.

The shchi aunt Shura cooked  included  just beef broth, cabbage, carrot, onion, potato, and lots of ripe tomatoes. It was traditional to Russian cuisine and rather simple, but very satisfying. 
This soup has a vegetarian version, just use good water instead of broth. Also, if you don't want the hassle of making your own broth,  commercial canned broth will do (to me it's better to use water than this broth :).
You can use as many vegetables as you wish. For example, peas and diced pumpkin would make a nice touch. In my today's soup I used 1/2  white squash and one small patisson instead of zucchini.
Taste your tomatoes. If they are on the sweet side, sugar is not necessary. I almost always use sugar when I cook with tomatoes to balance sourness and bring up other flavors, but sweet summer tomatoes sometimes are as good as they are.

Multi colored and multi flavored, this soup is  the joy for your eyes and stomach, and  a quintessential summer on your table. Enjoy....

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