Beet Season: Chilled Borscht

I recently modified this recipe from Ina Garten for cold "summer borscht". Most Barefoot Contessa recipes are too rich for me, so the first thing I do is reduce the cream and/or butter. In this case, it was sour cream. I used about 1 cup of light sour cream instead of two cups of regular. The other changes I made were to puree some of the beets so the soup would have more body (to make up for the lost cream) and a vibrant magenta rather than Pepto-pink color. I also had shallots instead of scallions, so I divided a diced shallot bulb in half, used half raw for a bite and then caramelized the other half with about 1/2 cup of diced carrot for depth and sweetness (I pureed these later with the beets). That sweetness, in turn, allowed me to cut Garten's 1/4 cup of white sugar down to 1/4 teaspoon. So much white sugar just seemed like a missed opportunity for more complex flavors.

The soup is absolutely gorgeous and delicious too. It's a great way to enjoy cold beets if you are tired of the same old beet salad over and over. It's also easy and tastes even better the next day.

Almost too gorgeous to eat...almost

3 large fresh beets (about 2 pounds without tops)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
8 ounces light sour cream, plus extra for serving
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons Champagne vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups medium-diced English cucumber, seeds removed
1 shallot bulb, diced (divided)
1/2 cup diced carrot
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus extra for serving
Kosher salt to taste
(Hint: always adjust your salt after adding the acid—you may need less salt than you thought.)
Place the beets in a large pot of boiling salted water and cook uncovered until the beets are tender, 40-50 minutes. Remove the beets to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve and also set aside to cool.

Sweat half the chopped shallot bulb along with the diced carrots in a little vegetable oil over medium heat. Cook the vegetables until they get some brown color on them, then remove pan from heat and allow mixture to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the beet cooking liquid, the stock, sour cream, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, and pepper. Peel the cooled beets by slipping the skins off with your fingers. Cut the beets in small to medium dice. Add about half the beets and the caramelized vegetables and puree.

Add the rest of the beets, cucumber, raw shallot, and dill to the soup. Add salt (I used about half a tablespoon). Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Correct the seasoning and serve cold with a dollop of sour cream and an extra sprig of fresh dill.

Garten uses scallions in her version, 1/2 cup chopped white and light green parts, added at the end. I will try that next time I have scallions.

More Beet Season: Chocolate beet cake; Caramelized Scallops With Red Beet and Caper Beurre Meunière

Watercolor of beets by Sally Jacobs

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