Written and photographed by Irene Kopitov
There is a reason Dwight Schrute has always been my favorite character on The Office. When he steps away from his day job as paper salesman, Dwight pursues his real passion as proprietor of the family-owned Schrute Farms and dedicated harvester of the best beets in Scranton, PA. Most laugh at his ridiculous pride in growing one of the world’s least sexy vegetables. Not me. Beets have a very special place in my heart.
So, when we made plans for yet another monthly gathering of the Glory Salon in the hot and humid thick of summer in New York, my friend Stela made the most brilliant suggestion: cold beet soup, or as the Russians call it—borscht.
This also fit in nicely with my long-standing mission of learning more Russian dishes. Growing up in a Russian family and having a mother who is an incredible cook, I often take the amazing meals she whips up (seemingly in an instant) for granted and have been wanting to spend more time with her in the kitchen actually paying attention. Beets often being a star ingredient in Russian cuisine, our Glory Salon borscht was the perfect place to start.
I should note that my mom has been known to skip a step or two in the past when giving me a recipe. Perfect roasted chicken? According to her, it’s simple: “Just salt, pepper, oven, you’re done!” These trivial in-between steps have become intuitive and she forgets her daughter is still very much a work in progress in the kitchen. When she told me cold borscht couldn’t be easier and emailed me the recipe, naturally I was skeptical. No, she assured me, it’s really that easy, just try it.
I did. She was right.
The incredible flavor and color of beets infuses the soup instantly and the whole process really only involves three ingredients: beets, potatoes, and water. Once your soup has simmered and cooled, a dollop of sour cream gives it a brilliant fuchsia color (committing Russian heresy, I used low fat—sorry, mom).
The real key is in the garnish, where you get to play and put in the things you love. Mine had dill (of course), chopped scallion, and diced cucumber. You can also add in delicate slices of hard-boiled egg for extra heft. Your kitchen may have purple splatter splashed everywhere when you’re done, but it will be well worth it.
Prep time:15 minutes
Cook time:30 minutes
Makes 4 servings
- 2 medium beets
- 2 potatoes
- juice of 1 lemon
- sour cream
- 1 cucumber, seeded and cubed
- 1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 bunch dill, chopped
- 1 hard-boiled egg, diced
- 2 radishes, thinly sliced
Peel the beets and potatoes and place, whole, into a medium saucepan. Fill with water just to cover the veg and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes (check beets and potatoes with a fork; you may need to extend the simmering time by a few minutes depending on the size of your veg). Remove the beets and potatoes and let cool for a few minutes, reserving the water.
Once the veg are cool enough to handle, grate the beets coarsely, either by hand or in a food processor, and dice the potatoes. When the water has cooled to room temperature, put the beets and potatoes back into the soup and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight (the longer the flavors can marry, the better).
When ready to serve, add salt and lemon juice to taste, sour cream, and desired garnishes.
Irene Kopitov is a transplanted New Yorker living in London who loves nothing more than a whole grilled fish and a Negroni on a sunny summer day. Since there aren’t too many of those in her new home, she is learning to love the sprawling farmers markets and afternoon pints. Born in the Ukraine and raised in Boston, Irene is a publicist specializing in design and the arts.