recipe + photography by LESIA SOCHOR

My Ukrainian mother, Maria, made borscht frequently and in many forms. From a hearty meaty soup with beef bones, to a fresh summer version with plenty of vegetables and dill, which could be served warm or cold, to a special Christmas Eve version, with a clear beet broth—made by straining—served with porcini mushroom Ushka (meaning little ears) dumplings, which looked a bit like tortellini. It was comfort food at its best. Don't ever forget the sour cream!

Serves 6-8

1 large onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter
5 medium beets, peeled (2 cups grated, the rest chopped)
4 carrots peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped or sliced
2 cups fresh tomato pulp or canned plum tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock
7 cups water
6 or 7 peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
3 bay leaves
Several sprigs parsley, tied
4 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons ketchup
Dill, chopped
Sour cream

Sauté onions and celery in oil and butter until just wilted. Add beets, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, stock, water, peppercorn, salt, bay leaves and parsley. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer on medium, partially covered for one hour. Then uncover and cook for another half hour, or until the veggies are soft.

Remove parsley. Add vinegar and ketchup. Serve hot with sour cream and chopped dill.

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