Traditional dairy borscht is often little more than boiled beets and their greens with a dollop of sour cream. This chilled soup is true to the spirit of the original but uses a ginger-infused steaming liquid and tangy buttermilk to create a refreshing bowl of sunshine. Look for fresh, juicy-looking beets, and try to find small-batch cultured buttermilk, or if you have access to a butter producer, the kind with flecks of butter in it.
- 1 ¾pounds (800 g) medium-to-large golden beets with leafy tops attached (about 1 1/4 pounds/570 g without tops)
- 3cups (720 ml) water
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 ½ounce (40-g) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 2tablespoons honey
- Kosher salt
- 1 ½to 2 cups (360 to 480 ml) buttermilk
Yield: 8 servings
- Step 1
Cut off the greens from the beets, reserve the tenderest, prettiest leaves, and set aside. Scrub beets and cut into halves or quarters so all the pieces are about the same size.
- Step 2
Put the water, juice of 1 lemon, and ginger in the bottom of a pot fitted with a steamer basket. Place beets in the steamer basket, cover pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to keep water simmering and steam until beets are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Step 3
While the beets are cooking, cut enough of the reserved stems and leaves crosswise into pieces 1/4 inch (6 mm) wide to equal about 1 cup (40 g). When beets are tender, transfer them to a tray to cool. Add the greens to the steamer basket, cover, and steam until tender but still bright, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer greens to a small bowl and reserve. Strain the steaming liquid and reserve ginger and liquid. You should have about 2 cups (480 ml) golden cooking liquid.
- Step 4
Trim off and discard any stem and root ends from the beets, then peel the beets. Using a food processor fitted with a grating disk, grate the beets. Transfer them to a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients. Fit processor with metal S blade, and with the motor running, drop in ginger slices to mince. Return roughly half the shredded beets to the work bowl, along with 1 cup (240 ml) cooking liquid, the honey, and 1 teaspoon salt, and puree until the mixture is smooth. Scrape mixture into the bowl of grated beets.
- Step 5
Stir in the remaining 1 cup (240 ml) cooking liquid, the juice of the second lemon, and 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) of the buttermilk. The soup should taste refreshingly tart, with a hint of sweetness and a warm glow from the ginger. Cover and refrigerate the soup and greens until well chilled.
- Step 6
Taste the soup and add salt and remaining buttermilk as desired. Stir greens into soup just before serving.