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Chilled Beet and Cucumber Soup

Eastern Europe has given rise to many versions of the peasant soup of beets known as borscht, commonly served with dark rye bread. This version makes a cool, festive and bright soup to cleanse the palate. For a party, garnish with tangy yogurt, a few feathers of dill and a dollop of caviar.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. beets, about 8 beets, trimmed
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 English cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into thin strips,
      plus thinly sliced cucumber rounds for serving
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt or low-fat sour cream (optional)

Directions:

In a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, combine the beets, onion, broth, water and sugar. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the beets are tender, 45 to 60 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beets to a colander. Reserve the cooking liquid. Peel the beets under cold running water. Cut 3 of the beets in half. Cut the remaining beets into strips 1 inch long and 1/4 inch wide. Cover and refrigerate the beet strips.

Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Remove and discard the onion. In a food processor, combine the 6 beet halves and 1 cup of the strained liquid and puree until smooth. Add the puree to the remaining strained liquid in the bowl. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

Add the beet strips, cucumber strips, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper and half of the dill to the chilled beet mixture. Stir to mix well.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the yogurt, cucumber slices and the remaining dill. Serves 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2011).