How To Make Cold Borscht
Credit: Ronnie Fein
(The Nosher via JTA) — I can’t eat borscht that comes from a jar that’s been sitting on a supermarket shelf for who knows how long. So sue me. Tell me I’m a snob. I just can’t. It’s the wrong color, it’s too thin and has these shimmering chopped-looking things on the bottom that I suppose are beets but remind me of pocket lint.
But I do love borscht, all kinds. Years ago I was surprised when a friend served me a version that wasn’t at all like the simple beet soup so familiar to Ashkenazi Jewish families. Hers was a thick, marrow bone-based dish laden with vegetables that included lots of cabbage, carrots, parsnips and potatoes, and beets of course.
She told me this was the “real thing” and, after doing a little research, I learned that borscht covers a lot of ground and can be vegetarian or made with meat and even poultry. It may or may not be chock full of vegetables, but it’s always a slightly tart or sour soup with beets as the common denominator – whether it’s Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Jewish or any other type.
My friend’s borscht is a hearty dish, fit for cold weather comfort. But now, with the arrival of spring and warm weather, I want a lighter, beets-only version – more like the kind sold in the jars, but thicker, richer and more flavorful. I’ve experimented with several recipes and I love this version with orange and mint. There’s enough orange peel and apple to give it that familiar borscht tang, which is balanced by sweet beets.
You can make it with or without dairy, and you can serve it hot or cold. You can add half-and-half cream or coconut milk as an enrichment. Make it more substantial by placing slices of hard cooked egg or boiled potato into each serving, or top the soup with fresh mint, an orange slice or a blob of dairy sour cream or plain, Greek-style yogurt.
You can make this soup two to three days ahead. It’s a good family dish and makes a lovely first course for Shabbat dinner.