I have a new group of lunch buddies. Virtual buddies, in fact. Organized by Cheryl at A Tiger In The Kitchen, we “meet” once a month on Twitter and on our blogs to share our interpretations of that theme for the month, which, for September, is about chilled soups. It couldn’t be more appropriate for the stifling, desert-dry heat we’ve been facing in California and there were so many recipes I wanted to try. There was Scallop with Lychee Gazpacho from Gerald Higoyen and Lisa Weiss’ Pintxo’s, and Almond Gazpacho from Moro: The Cookbook. And there was also the opportunity to recreate Laiola’s version from memory, which, despite its long list of ingredients, was seriously considered.
Ultimately, it was David Rosengarten‘s chilled borscht soup that caught my eye. Firstly, pairing “chilled” and “borscht” in the same sentence and in a dish was a new concept to me, and the addition of beets upped the ‘exotic’ factor a couple of notches. I mean, a beet soup? Although it didn’t make the cut for the Presidential Garden, I’ve had fairly uneventful encounters with this nutritious root and wanted to see how it would fare as a soup. And I would get to color my hands a deep, beet red. Who wouldn’t like that?
The variety of garnishes (eggs, potatoes, cucumbers, sour cream and dill) worked to create a dish that was alot more tasty than I expected. Simmering the beets for an extended period of time also helped to temper its characteristic earthy flavors, transforming it into a subtle canvas for the different garnishes to blend and meld. Definitely a dish to revisit!
5 small beets (about two pounds)
3 1/4 cups water
3 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock, preferably home-made
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
3 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 bay leaf
7 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
1/2 cup, peeled, seeded and diced cucumber
1/2 cup cooked, peeled and diced red potato (I used Yukon gold potatoes, diced and roasted in the oven at 400F for an hour)
1/4 cup chopped dill
1/2 cup sour cream
Begin with poaching the beets. In a large saucepan, combine beets, water, stock, onion, garlic and bay leaf. Simmer, covered until beets are very tender, about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove beets to cool, then peel and coarsely shred into a bowl.
Strain the broth and remove any remaining solids. Return to the saucepan, bring it back to a simmer, then add the lemon juice, brown sugar and salt. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve, about 6 minutes, then remove from heat. Immediately refrigerate until very cold.
To serve, add the grated beets to the broth, then ladle into chilled bowls and top with garnishes.
Here’s what the rest of the Let’s Lunch folks cooked up today: