We call it pink soup, but its official name is cold beet borscht. A friend loves it so much, I make it every year for her birthday–and this year I turned an image of it into the simplest dinner party invitation ever. Really, it needed no explanation.
I fell for this soup, which is found in delis and in Jewish grandmas’ kitchens all over the country, at a wonderful Polish restaurant in Santa Monica called Warszawa. I spent a long time trying to re-create the luscious texture of that version and combine it with the ginger-inflected snap of Mel’s mom’s borscht and finally arrived at a version I was happy with. Last fall the Los Angeles Times printed a recipe for Warszawa’s cold beet borscht–which is when I realized just how much my cold beet borscht differed from Warszawa’s. It’s incredibly simple to make. Oh, um, it’s not really low-calorie, though you can mitigate the fat content a lot without materially affecting the flavor.
Laurie’s Cold Beet Borscht
3 one-pound cans of shoestring beets
3 16-ounce containers of sour cream
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
3 or 4 Persian cucumbers, peeled and diced
3 hard-boiled eggs, optional
My blender is not huge, so I make this in three batches; you can see that it breaks down into thirds pretty readily. Empty one can of beets and one container of sour cream into the blender and puree. Add a third of the ginger, sugar and lemon juice and puree again. Pour it into a bowl and make a second batch. For the third batch, drain the beet juices into the blender and put the shoestring beets into the bowl with the rest of the soup. Pour the buttermilk into the blender with the beet juices and half of the third container of sour cream, the rest of the sugar, ginger and lemon juice. Puree and add it to the bowl. Stir it and put in the fridge to chill and to let the flavors meld.
If you want a little heartier soup, hard boil the eggs, then peel and slice them and set them aside.
When you’re ready to serve, taste the soup and add more ginger, lemon or sugar if you think it needs a little something. Stir in the diced cucumbers, then top each serving with a couple of egg slices, a dollop of sour cream, a sprig of dill and a sprinkling of chives.
This makes about 12 first-course servings, plus extra to send home with the birthday girl for her lunch the next day.
Note: If the idea of using three containers of full-fat sour cream (yum!) makes you turn pale and tremble, you can substitute one container of nonfat sour cream and one container of reduced-fat or 2 percent Greek-style yogurt–but do use one container of the high-fat sour cream. After all, it’s for a party, right?