Dish of the Week: Borscht

The sweet and sour soup can be served hot or cold.
The sweet and sour soup can be served hot or cold.
Photo by Liz West

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re cooling off with an Eastern European classic: borscht.

Borscht is a sour soup commonly made with beets, which give the soup a bright red color. It can be eaten cold or hot and is popular in the cuisines of Central and Eastern Europe, including Russian, Polish, Ukrainian and Ashkenazi Jewish cooking.

The soup is derived from an ancient soup made with the pickled stems, leaves and stalks of hogweed (also known as the cow parsnip), an herbaceous plant that grew in damp meadows. The fermented soup had a tart, mouth-puckering taste that played to the Eastern European palate.

Today, the beetroot soup lends itself to many flavors, often incorporating vegetable, meat or bone stock, cabbage and additional root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, in addition to one of the most common components, smetana, or sour cream. Other variations include the addition of meat and fish, hard-boiled eggs, dumplings and sauerkraut.

This recipe, from Ina Garten, incorporates fresh beets, chicken stock, sour cream and a dash of Champagne vinegar and sugar to make a refreshing, sweet and sour soup. Serve it chilled and top it with chopped dill and scallions for a pop of freshness.

Borscht

Ingredients serves 6
5 medium fresh beets (about 2 pounds without tops)
Kosher salt
2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
16 ounces sour cream, plus extra for serving
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup 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
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus extra for serving

Directions

Place the beets in a large pot of boiling salted water and cook uncovered until the beets are tender, 30 to 40 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.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1-1/2 cups of the beet cooking liquid, the chicken stock, sour cream, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, one tablespoon salt and the pepper. Peel the cooled beets with a small paring knife or rub the skins off with your hands. Cut the beets in small to medium dice. Add the beets, cucumber, scallions and dill to the soup.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least four hours or overnight.

Season to taste and serve cold with a dollop of sour cream and an extra sprig of fresh dill.


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