Desperation Soup

In a twilight sleep on the couch this afternoon, after throwing my back out trying to run after my four year-old as he ran away from me to avoid going in a timeout, I thought some thoughts.  I thought: I am crap at this mother thing.  And: my head really isn’t in a good place.  When did I last daydream?  When did I last have a random sexual fantasy about a person I saw on the street?  Is there anything I’ve done this week that got my mind out of the soup of rage and self-pity that I mostly live in?  Then I remembered: Borscht.

I bought beef bones– just buying beef bones makes me feel like a person who DOES things! and made a homemade stock for my mother’s borscht recipe.  You throw a bunch of stuff in a pot– stuff you usually have lying around looking a little sad and flaccid-penis-y in your crisper drawer– and some BONES you do have to remember to buy somewhere, preferably a farm where they didn’t have to travel a long sad way in a freezer truck before they got to you– and throw it in a pot.  This amazing thing happens as the warmth and the meaty aroma starts to pervade the kitchen.  I start to CALM THE FUCK DOWN.

And even if DCFS gets called later in the day, my kids don’t have too much to go on because I MADE HOMEMADE STOCK FOR THEIR DINNER.

I like to serve this with a homemade sour yogurt rye bread.


STOCK: 2-3 lbs beef rib bones, 2 lbs veal knuckle bones, 2 carrots, 2 stalks celery, 2 leeks (well washed), 1 parsnip, 2-4 large parsley sprigs, 12-14 cups water

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer stock, partially covered, for 1 1/2-2 hours.  If there is meat on the bones then cook until tender, and set meat aside.  Skim stock carefully throughout.  Strain stock through a fine sieve, degrease (I cool it and then skim the fat off), and set aside.

SOUP: 4 Tbsp. butter, 2 cups finely minced onions, 1 tsp. garlic, 3 large tomatoes (peeled, seeded, and chopped), 1 tsp. tomato paste, 1 tsp. sugar, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, pepper, 4 cups peeled, coarsely grated beets, 1 small head savoy cabbage, coarsely sliced, 1/2-1 lb. beef chunks (optional), 1 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup minced fresh dill

Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Add the onions and cook, partially covered, over low heat for 10 minutes, or until soft but not browned.  Add the garlic, tomatoes, and tomato paste, and cook the mixture for 5 minutes, stirring several times.  Add the sugar, vinegar, a good dash of salt and a heavy grinding of pepper, and then the beets, cabbage, and stock.  Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat and cook, partially covered for 40-50 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning, then add meat (fresh beef chunks or meat reserved from bones) and return to pot.  Simmer soup until the meat is well heated through.

Spoon the soup into individual bowls and serve with sour cream mixed with chopped dill.

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