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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Countdown to Dinner: Tangy borscht soup recipe can't be beat

Thursday, August 17, 2000

Tested by Nancy Anderson

Two years ago, Betty Boyle of Monroeville entered today's Countdown recipe in the Pillsbury Bake-Off 's "Easy Weeknight Meals" category, which included soups.

"I was so sure it was a winner," she said of her Southwestern Borscht. "I thought they would love it."

But they didn't, and she wasn't a finalist. It's puzzled her ever since, but she finally feels she's found the answer.

"The ingredients have to be Pillsbury products," she said, "and Green Giant doesn't make canned beets."

That must be the explanation because this soup is creamy, tangy and full of eye appeal.

The dollop of white sour cream floating in the red soup was lovely, and the sprinkling of dill was the perfect topper.

We served it with baked ham sandwiches on pumpernickel the first night and chicken off the grill the second.

Boyle did make the finals in the Pillsbury Bake-Off last February with her Sweet & Salsy Meatloaf recipe.

Although she didn't win first prize, she and husband, Tom, had four great days in San Francisco.

But she's not giving up on her Southwestern Borscht.

"If Green Giant ever decides to can beets or merges with a company that does," she said, "I'll re-enter it. I have that much faith in it."

Atta girl, Betty. You have a winner here.

Southwestern Borscht

2 15-ounce cans sliced beets, undrained
2 14 1/2-ounce cans chicken broth, flavored with 1 tablespoon bouillon
1 1/4 cups mild Old El Paso salsa
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half, optional
1/2 cup sour cream
Garnish: Additional sour cream and fresh dill

In a blender or food processor, puree the beets, undrained, one can at a time until smooth.

Combine the pureed beets, chicken broth and bouillon in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Puree the salsa and add to the broth. Add the sugar and heat to the boiling point, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Remove from heat. Do not put sour cream into hot soup. It may curdle. Instead pour some of the borscht into a large cup and whisk in the sour cream (we used fat-free) gradually. Then add the cream and stir until well blended. Return this mixture to the pot and stir well again.

Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle generously with chopped fresh dill and a dollop of sour cream. Makes six 11/3 cup servings.

Do you have an entree, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com. Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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