My entire family is obsessed with red borscht—the kind that looks almost radioactive in color and conjures up memories of Mother Russia.
That’s why I’m here to make a case for borscht this summer. Although it doesn’t get as much hype, this cold beet soup is just as refreshing as its hip Spanish cousin gazpacho and only slightly more time-consuming to make.
Not only is borscht refreshing and delicious, but it is also packed with healthy benefits. Beets are a superfood full of antioxidants, high in nitrites, which have been found to be helpful to burning calories, and rich in carotenoids, which are believed to fight both breast and uterine cancers.
In my family of Eastern European Jewish women, soups are taken very seriously. After all, soup is Jewish medicine. For some reason, making borscht always carries this dreamy quality, which brings me back to my ancestral Russian roots.
There are many different varieties of borscht: some with meat, others without; some served hot, others cold. This recipe is inspired by the Ukrainian borscht, but is, in fact, a culmination of not one, but many borscht recipes, including that of my very fit Eastern European cousin Gosia. Hers is vegan and is similar to the chilled beet soups popular in Israel. Light and fat-free, it is ideal for summer.
I once asked Gosia why she thought borscht became a Jewish soul food staple. She went on to tell me about how our Eastern European ancestors had tiny brick houses with small kitchens, close to where vegetables were grown. Beets were abundant all year round, so they became a staple in Eastern European Jewish cuisine.
With radiant beets making a comeback, cooling summer borscht seems like a natural choice. I say, move over, gazpacho.