Jazzier Beet Soup
Barszcz or beet soup is usually made with either vinegar or lemon juice, which adds an acidic dash to the sweetness of the beets. This soup, partly inspired by a recipe from Nigella Lawson, takes that basic notion one step further and uses balsamic vinegar instead of the more traditional red wine vinegar. The soup is, in fact, more like a very thin, drinkable beet purée than an actual soup; it doesn’t have a stock base like a traditional barszcz. But we can’t see that it matters, since this recipe veers radically away from the tradition any. (Balsamic vinegar has, after all, only been available in Poland in the past couple of decades.) This soup is incredibly light and invigorating—perfect served cold on a very hot summer day, with a garlicky green salad, or boiling hot in the winter as a light first course.
- About 4 quarts water
- 4 large or 6 small beets, peel left on, halved
- 1 onion, peeled and halved
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup plain kefir if eating cold or ½ cup sour cream if eating hot
- Fill a large stockpot with the water and add the beets, onion and garlic. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, uncovered, on low heat for a good hour, or longer if necessary, until the beets are soft. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and set the beet stock aside. Throw out the onion. Remove the skins from the beets by hand—they will slip off easily—and place the beets in a blender with the garlic. Pulse until smooth. Return the puréed beets and garlic to the pot with their stock, and add the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add water if too thick or boil down more if too runny.
- If eating cold, stir in the kefir just before serving, adding a spoonful to each bowl so that people can swish it around with their spoons. If eating hot, consider stirring in spoonful of sour cream instead.
- This, like other barszcz recipes, will keep for several days in the refrigerator and generally improve. Drink a glass of it, cold, for an abstemious lunch.
- Recipe reprinted with permission from From a Polish Country House Kitchen (Chronicle Books LLC 2012) by Danielle Crittenden Frum and Anne Applebaum. Photo by Bogdan and Dorota Bialy.