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Chilled Beet and Beet Green Soup

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Serves 8 to 10 as an appetizer

Yields 8 cups

  • by Shelley Wiseman from Fine Cooking
    Issue 123

In this modern take on borscht, beets, beet leaves, and beet stems create deep earthy flavor.

Read the article "Chill Out" for tips on giving your soup great flavor and smooth texture.

  • 1 bunch red beets (about 1-3/4 lb.)
  • 1 medium red onion, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. cider vinegar; more to taste
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 1/2-inch-thick slices rye bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill

Remove and reserve the beets’ stems and leaves. Wash the beets, stems, and leaves well.

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the beets, onion, sugar, vinegar, caraway, and 1 tsp. salt. Add 7 cups water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the beets are tender when pierced with a paring knife, 45 minutes to 1-1/4 hours.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop the stems and leaves. Remove the beets with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl to cool slightly. Add the stems, leaves, and the garlic to the saucepan and cook, covered, until the stems and garlic are tender, about 10 minutes.

Peel the beets, quarter them, and return them to the pot.

In a blender, purée about one-third of the beet mixture, including the liquid, until very smooth, about 2 minutes.

Set a medium-mesh strainer over a large bowl and force the purée through it with a silicone spatula. Repeat with the rest of the soup in 2 more batches. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and vinegar. Cover and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours.

Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering hot. Add the bread and cook, stirring and turning with a slotted spoon, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the croutons to paper towels to drain.

Just before serving, season the soup to taste with salt, pepper, and vinegar. Serve garnished with the croutons, sour cream, and dill.

Make Ahead Tips

The finished soup can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 2 days. Adjust the seasoning and garnish just before serving.

The croutons can be made 1 day ahead, cooled, and stored in a zip-top bag.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 100; Fat (g): 4; Fat Calories (kcal): 35; Saturated Fat (g): 1.5; Protein (g): 2; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 2; Carbohydrates (g): 14; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0; Sodium (mg): 220; Cholesterol (mg): 5; Fiber (g): 2;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This is a fine recipe for an authentically Russian cold borsch. The trick is the balance of the beet flavor and the brightness of the vinegar. Someone took my beet tops, so I used Swiss Chard from the garden (leaves and stems) with good results. Chard has some of the same phytonutrients as beets, and gave the soup the slightly earthier flavor the recipe promised. The rye croutons are a fun addition; the dill and sour cream are essential. Russians will often float halved hard-boiled eggs in the soup for an effect that Martha Stewart would call 'pretty.'

I liked the soup, but since I'm the only one who did, after a week I'm getting tired of it. If I could, I'd give it 3 1/2 stars. Maybe 4 if I hadn't eaten it every other day for the last week. :) I didn't use the rye croutons or dill. It was lovely with a dollop of sour cream though. Another night I added about 3 TB of buttermilk to my bowl. This evening I juiced an orange and added that. I liked it best with the orange in there. I probably had 1 1/2 cups of soup when I added the juiced orange. I do think I'll make it again. But it won't be in regular rotation and I'll definitely make less next time.

This soup is very flavorful and easy to make. We used salt and vinegar kettle style potato chips instead of the rye croutons. Beets are so beautiful.

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