Hot cereals (kasha), soups and stews are the fundamental dishes in Russian cuisine. It’s no wonder since Russia is a northern country with long, cold winters. The food should provide warmth to the body and comfort to the mind to survive the harsh climate. The essential ingredients in Russian cuisine are those traditionally cultivated in Russia: grains such as buckwheat and millet, potatoes, cabbage, beets, and carrots which are stored better during the winter and remain fresh longer. Such seasonal produce as cucumbers, tomatoes, and apples are pickled to be preserved for use in winter. Therefore Russian cuisine is centered on grains, potatoes, cabbage, beets and carrots. Bread and potato are the staples. They are eaten with soups and stews.
Cabbage soup (shchi and borscht) is a traditional and very popular soup in Russian cuisine. There are various recipes for making this soup but the main ingredients always remain the same. Vegetarian options include green cabbage, potato, carrots, and onions. Borscht also includes beets and tomato paste, and this is its principal difference from shchi. When it is as cold and snowy (like in NYC right now), it’s wonderfully cozy to have a bowl of hot shchi or borscht.
I make different versions of shchi with a variety of vegetables but always use green cabbage.
Traditional Shchi (Russian Cabbage Soup)
Green cabbage – shredded
Green beans – cut in small pieces
Butternut squash – cubed
Organic tofu – cubed
After the ingredients are cleaned and prepped, the cooking time will be about 15 minutes. It’s important to cook the vegetables in the proper sequence. First, I place butternut squash cubes in a middle-sized pot and fill half of it with water. When butternut squash is soft, I add green beans, tofu and cabbage and let it come to a boil. When it starts to boil, I turn off the heat and add sea salt, black pepper, a couple bay leaves and some garlic powder to taste. I cover the soup with a lid and leave it on the stove for 10 min. Now it’s ready. It can be served with a little tomato paste or vegan sour cream (traditionally, sour cream is added for a better taste).
Also by Larisa: Traditional Russian Mannaya Kasha (Farina Porridge)
When Was the Best Time in Your Life?
Photo: Larisa Tazmin