Monday, July 3, 2017

Summer Beet Soup (Svekolnik)

In America pretty much any soup with beets in it gets called borshcht, but in the Slavic traditions there are lots of different beet soups, and for that matter lots of different cold soups.  I wrote up my versions of khlodnik, a while ago.  Here is my svekolnik.  If you wanna call it a cold borshcht, go ahead, I've found several recipes from reputable websites online that do, but realize there's plenty of variety you can play with within the realm of soup with beets.

1 Onion
1 Carrot
1 Parsnip (if possible if not, another tough veggie, another carrot, or some zucchini or radish, or some rutabaga maybe.  Not potatoes or cucumbers though)
1/2 pound of Beets
2 cloves garlic
5 cups chicken stock
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Sour Cream
Parsley minced

1) Peel and julienne the veggies to taste.  I peel beets even though it is annoying, and usually peel parsnips, but often skip peeling carrots.  I often cut the veggies closer to batonnet, that is about as long as a matchstick, but a little thicker than one, more like 1/4th of an inch than 1/8th.  The odd shape of the veggie sticks is part of the delight of this soup.
2)  Boil the stock, veggies, garlic, salt and pepper for 10-15 minutes, stir in the tomato paste and sugar, then boil for 30 min more.  You want the veggies tender but not falling apart.
3) Let soup cool to room temperature or below.  Sitting overnight is traditional. You can refrigerate once it is cool enough that it's heat won't damage other things in the refrigerator.  Stir in the lemon juice once it is room temperature or below.  Soup should be served chilled, so if you let it cool put it in the fridge for a least a little bit before serving.
4) Serve chilled with generous dollop of sour cream and minced parsley.  Should have a lovely ruby color, so use bowls that show this off (clear bowls maybe or contrasting).

The goal of this soups is sweet, light, and beet flavored, with some side veggies.  Maybe a hint of richness from the tomato paste and chicken stock, but not more than a hint.  Enough sour to bring out the sweet lightness, but not enough to be a major note.  Don't let it be chicken forward, or too tomatoey or too sour.  This soup isn't usually hearty enough for a main dish, but is a fabulous starter or side.

If you make a light cold beet soup without meat or hardiness or greens that's sveloknik.  If you make a cold veggie soup with greens and a bit of effervescence, maybe some boiled egg, that's khlodnik.  If you make it with meat and potatoes as well as beets that's a borscht, (and many borshcht recipes are good cold as well as hot).  If you make it with chopped meat, fresh veggies, and a sour base (kefir, or yogurt or buttermilk or kvass) without ever boiling it, that's okroshka.  If you make it with fruit and puree it, that's kholodets.  All of these are sometimes made as chilled soups that include beets.