Recipes: Tighten Your Barszcz Belt!

I love beets in all forms – soups, salads, sandwiches, or even just straight up, raw. “Barszcz” is the Polish spelling of the popular Eastern European soup more commonly spelled “borscht” in English. There are as many different types of borscht as there are regions where it is prepared, but it all Eastern European cultures have a beet-based borsht (other varieties include the Polish “white borscht”, which has a fermented rye base, and the Russian “green borscht”, a sorrel soup). For example, Polish “barszcz” is typically a beet broth with garlic and vegetables, which are strained before serving, producing a red broth. On Christmas, it is served with mushroom dumplings called “uszki”. A common Russian “borshch” preparation is much heartier – a beef broth with beets and tomatoes, chunks of potato, meat and other vegetables, like cabbage and carrots.

But for the summer, there is cold borscht, called “choĊ‚dnik” in Polish or, similarly, “kholodnik” in Russian. It is a fabulous magenta colour and is wonderfully refreshing on a hot day. Here is my recipe for it:

Cold Borscht
12 medium beets, peeled and diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
half a lemon’s worth of lemon juice
kefir (kefir is a cultured milk product, similar in taste to a liquid plain yoghurt. Most grocery stores carry it.)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place the chopped beets, garlic and lemon juice in a large pot (I used an 8 qt one) and fill with water. Bring pot to a boil and simmer for about an hour, until the beets are soft but still slightly crunchy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool. If you want your soup to be really cold (how I like it), then refrigerate it.

3. About 3o minutes before serving, hard boil the eggs (1/2 an egg per bowl). Just before serving, dice some radish and cucumber and throw them in. I usually use about 2 inches of cucumber and 2 radishes per bowl. Pour about 1/4-1/3 c of kefir in each bowl and stir to blend. Slice or chop the hard-boiled eggs and add some to each bowl. Finally, chop some dill and sprinkle on top, then serve.

Note: I usually make a big pot of broth and then add the radish, cucumber, kefir and hard-boiled egg to each bowl individually. However, if you’re planning to serve the whole pot at once, you can just mix it in there.

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