Summer Borscht

It’s not even June yet and already it feels as if we’re in summer’s sway.  The city is HOT today, people – and it was hot yesterday and the day before that, too, and it will be hot again tomorrow.  Perhaps this is the weather gods’ way of showing remorse after our unseasonably cold Memorial Day (a day on which I went sailing IN TWO LAYERS OF FLEECE AND WEARING FULL FOULIES, GRR).  Or perhaps climate change is a reality that we ought to be paying more attention to.

I’ll leave you to guess which I think is the likeliest scenario.

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Either way, the current forecast begs for cold soups.  I had my old standby yesterday for lunch – a lovely carrot-ginger-avocado soup from Orangette that my husband Alex would prefer not to eat, but which I can devour in one sitting even though it’s written to serve…. well, let’s say more than just me and leave it at that.  That’s not the recipe I’m going to give you today. There wasn’t any left by the time it occurred to me to blog it. Oops.

To make it up to you, I’m going to talk about one of my other favorite cold soups: borscht.  I hadn’t had cold borscht until a few summers ago when my parents came to visit during a sweltering July week and we ended up pairing a visit to The Strand (one of my favorite bookstores) with an outdoor lunch at Veselka (a delicious Ukranian restaurant a few blocks away).  I usually only visit Veselka for their winter borscht and their pierogi sampler, but on this hot summer day my borscht bowl arrived dripping with condensation, garnished with dill and a sliced hard-boiled egg, and with its contents a downright shocking shade of pink.  The flavor was fucking amazing. I spent days dreaming about it. I made repeat treks to Veselka for it. And then I came to my senses and began searching for tips on how to make it.

The following recipe – adapted from Gourmantine – comes pretty close, even though it’s Lithuanian.  It was the first recipe I tried and I haven’t been tempted to try another.  In part this is because other recipes call for picky things like grating the beets and I’m really just too lazy for that, but it’s primarily because this recipe was delicious as-is.

COLD SUMMER BORSCHT
adapted from Gourmantine’s Lithuanian Cold Beet Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 – 2.5 cups buttermilk_MG_5783
  • 3 medium beets, roasted and peeled*
  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 4 eggs, hardboiled
  • a bunch of fresh dill, chopped
  • salt (to taste)

Directions:

Chuck the roasted beets in a blender and pour 2 cups of buttermilk over them.  Toss in a pinch of salt and blend the shit out of it.  When the mixture has liquified, taste it.  I like my borscht pretty tart and so I usually add a glug more buttermilk and tiny bit more salt at this point.  With that said, the soup’s flavors will change as it cools and so be careful not to go overboard making alterations just yet!

After you’re satisfied that the soup is liquid enough and tastes ok, pop the blender container in the fridge for a few hours until completely cooled. You CAN serve it as soon as you finish blending, but that pretty much nullifies its potential to refresh you on a hot summer day.

When you’re ready to eat dinner, fill your bowls with a sliced hardboiled egg, a handful of chopped cucumber, and a healthy sprinkling of dill.  Next, taste the soup again and finish making your adjustments. You might like more salt, or more buttermilk, or – like me  – a squeeze of lemon juice.  Blend again to really stir it up and then pour it into your prepared bowls. Voila! You have cold borscht.

*Red beets will get you a beautiful shade of pink (see Gourmantine’s blog), but other beets work just as well. I couldn’t find red beets for this go-round and so used golden beets instead. Tasted the same, looked just as pretty, if differently so. Regardless of the kind of beets you use, the prep is the same: first, preheat your oven to 450*F.  Then cut your beets in half and wrap them in tinfoil.  Place the tinfoil package on a pan in the center of your oven and let them cook until you can easily stick a fork in them (I do this through the tin foil instead of unwrapping the beets each time I want to check on them).  Once the beets are cool enough to handle, use a paper towel to rub off the peels.  I prefer to do this whole process in the morning so it doesn’t heat my apartment up too much. If you also live in a tiny city apartment with limited capacity for A/C, you may wish to do the same.

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