Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In the pink

Warning: if you do not want me to feed you chilled beet soup, do not stop by my apartment for the next week.

About this time last week, I found myself with a bunch of rather large beets (following my first trip of the season to the small but nice Foggy Bottom farmers' market). When we stopped to chat on my way home from the market, I happened to mention to my friend Robin that I was looking to do something other than pickling or grating or roasting beets for a change. "Oh, I have the best recipe for a chilled pink borscht," she assured me.

If you know Robin, as I do, you know to trust her recipes. This one did not disappoint. Here, with some modifications, is one adapted from a cookbook written by the former chef at Chez Panisse. (I shouldn't be surprised: the food there is AMAZING.) I've almost polished off the large pot of soup I made the other night. And, oh, look, my friend Robert gave me another two bunches of beets from his farm. Round two gave me a chance to actually write down what I did to make this divine summery soup:

Chilled Pink Borscht

  • Olive oil
  • ½ tsp coriander seed
  • small pinch of ground cloves
  • a few pinches of red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch of beets, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 4-6 cups vegetable broth*
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 large shallot or onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk yogurt (I used some from Keswick Creamery – a little lumpy but delicious!)
*Note: Traditionally, the borscht is made with beef. Not this one. It's pure veggies and spices. Simple. Inexpensive. Tasty. And nice and cool during this heatwave. If you plan ahead, you can make veggie broth with the beet tops and peels + the scraps from the garlic and shallot.


Grind the coriander seed, pepper flakes, and pinch of cloves together with a mortar and pestle (or a coffee grinder that you use for spices). Dump ground spices into a large pot, then add a splash of olive oil, beets, garlic, shallot, bay leaf, sugar, vinegar.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat until the beets are coated with spices, and the kitchen gets ridiculously fragrant. Add broth. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer 20-30 minutes or until the beets are tender when pierced with a fork.

Remove soup from the heat and cool slightly.  Puree in batches, using a blender or food processor, until very smooth.  Refrigerate until cold, 2-3 hours. Just before serving, whisk in yoghurt. Top with any garnish you like: a dollop of yoghurt, freshly snipped chives, basil, etc. Good alongside a simple green salad and a slab of fresh sourdough bread. You can simply scale up the ingredients for a double or triple batch if you find yourself with a bevy of beets.

Yes, my crusade to turn the country into a nation of beet lovers continues....

1 comment:

  1. Oho! Just made another batch of borscht for a barbecue at my neighbor Henry's place -- carrying on my theme of beet-based offerings from last year's barbecue (when I brought the chocolate beet brownies) -- and it seems to have been a hit! :p


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