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A Borscht for Vegetarians That’s Light and Comforting

Nose around for borscht recipes, and you’ll find that most classic hot borschts call for beef stock or a beef or veal shank to simmer along with the vegetables.
I wanted to make a lighter, vegetarian version of hot borscht. But I also wanted my soup to have the kind of depth of flavor that a meaty backdrop provides, without overpowering the winelike, heady flavor of the beets.
So, as I often do when faced with this kind of challenge, I turned to mushrooms.
I made a strong broth by soaking dried mushrooms, and combined that with a red-beet-and-garlic broth that was the result of simmering beets with sliced garlic for 30 minutes. I used shiitakes for my broth one time, and porcinis another. The shiitake broth is a bit lighter, with more of a mineral edge to it; I like them both.
There are lots of fresh mushrooms in this soup as well. You can use regular white buttons or creminis. They’re sliced and cooked in olive oil with onion, carrots, celery and garlic, then simmered with the beets in the combined beet-and-mushroom broth.
Make sure to buy your beets with the greens attached, the more generous the bunch the better, as you’ll be adding the leaves to the soup toward the end of its simmer, making it all the more heady, healthy and satisfying.

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