Barbara Kafka

Cold Beet Borscht


This may be one of the world's most glamorous-looking soups. It turns a brilliant magenta as the cream is added to the cooked beets and beet liquid. I like to serve it in a large white bowl surrounded by smaller bowls containing the toppings. I ladle out the soup and invite the eaters to serve themselves with the toppings.

I frequently double or triple the recipe and keep it in the refrigerator. A large bowl of soup plus bread and a salad is an ideal summer lunch.

1 pound (450 g) beets, scrubbed well and all but 1 inch (2.5 cm) of stems removed

2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar, or to taste

4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon citric acid powder (see page 371 of Soup: A Way of Life)

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (115 g) sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream

2/3 cup (165 ml) heavy cream

Ad-lib toppings: chopped onion, chopped cucumber, chopped dill, lemon wedges, sour cream, heavy cream, grated beet, cold boiled very small firm potatoes, chopped hard-boiled egg


In a small saucepan, bring the beets and 5 cups (1.25 l) water to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the beets are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 45 minutes.

Drain the beets in a damp-cloth-lined sieve and reserve the cooking liquid. Run the beets under cold water to cool, then peel. In a food processor, grate the beets with the grating disc (this can also be done on a box grater).

Return half of the grated beets to the cooking liquid. Reserve the rest for topping or another use. Season the soup with the vinegar, lemon juice, citric acid, sugar and salt. Chill.

Before serving, whisk in the sour cream and heavy cream. Pass small bowls of the suggested accompaniments.

Makes 7 cups (1.75 l); 6 first-course servings
(or more, depending on the amount of garnish used)

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