Borscht is such a refreshing and healthy summer soup that often gets overlooked. This recipe was taken from David Tanis’s A Platter of Figs (a great cookbook for those looking to buy another for your collection). I made this as a starter for 70 guests at my daughter’s end of the school year appreciation luncheon. The beets were just popping out of my garden, and I thought it would be so fun to use them in a non-traditional sort of a way. I prefer yellow beets for this soup instead of red ones, because I think the color makes the soup a more appetizing shade than the typical bright-pink borscht. To make the soup an even more vibrant golden color (because the beets lose some of their intensity after cooking) I added a dash of ground turmeric. Additionally, I used Greek yogurt thinned slightly with whole milk, and a nasturtium pesto (below) to garnish in lieu of the herb garnish David Tanis suggests.
Golden Beet Borscht
1 ½ pound beets
8 cups water
2 large shallots, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 or 3 cloves
½ teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons red wine, or to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup whole-milk yogurt
chopped dill or chives
Peel and slice the beets and put them in a large saucepan. Cover with the water and add the garlic, shallots, cayenne, sugar, vinegar and olive oil. In cheese-cloth, wrap up bay leaf, coriander, and cloves and place in with the beets. Add a good spoonful of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until the beets are tender. Check the seasoning of the broth – it should be distinctly sweet-sour, peppery, and flavorful. Correct the seasoning, adding salt and cayenne if necessary and freshly ground pepper.
Remove the cheese-cloth filled with spices and puree the soup well in a blender, then strain into a large bowl. Chill in the refrigerator or over ice. Just before serving, whisk in the yogurt. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a splash of vinegar if necessary. Thin with a little water to achieve the correct thickness – like a thin milk shake.
To serve, pour into small water glasses. Garnish with freshly ground pepper, and if desired, fresh dill or chives.
For the Nasturtium pesto: combine a few cloves of garlic, Parmesan Reggiano, olive oil, and salt and pepper with nasturtium blossoms in an electric mixer fitted with a steel blade.
Note: After the soup chilled, I adjusted the seasoning, added turmeric and lemon, then spooned the yogurt and pesto on top. It’s wonderful to use as a dip with your favorite raw veggies, too.