I’m back from the Durham Farmers’ Market–it was a great day, even though the market is not in full summer swing yet.  The Piedmont BioFarm’s booth, which was right next to mine, had absolutely gorgeous beets. Unfortunately, they  sold quickly so  I didn’t get any today, but I’m told that there will be more next week, so I’m planning to bring some home with me then.

beets with tops from Johnny's Select Seeds.The sunshine and warm weather made me think about beet soup.  This recipe was given to me years ago by a good friend, and it’s become one of my favorite summer things to have in the refrigerator for hot weather.  It’s cool and refreshing, yet very satisfying.

I first experienced this soup when Casey brought me some, just when it was most needed:  I was moving–in extremely hot, humid weather–from one apartment to another in the same building, so it was mostly carrying boxes and lugging furniture, all very hot sweaty work.  Air conditioning was out of the question with the constant coming and going, with the doors open.

Cooking was also out of the question–mostly for reasons of fatigue, sore muscles, disruption of the kitchen, and the heat, and maybe even a dollop of laziness thrown into the mix.   That soup was the most wonderful treat, particularly under those circumstances; I’ve made it many times since and it’s at least as good, if not even better, when had in much less dire straits.

It’s not a small recipe, but it holds very well in the refrigerator;  a “left-over” taste is not a problem–and I think that the flavors actually blend and grow with standing.  I suppose you could always halve the recipe, but it’s so good that I’ve never done that–I can easily enjoy  it several days in a row!

Šaltibaršciai (Casey’s Cold Beet Soup)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium-size onion, finely chopped (preferably Vidalia or Walla Walla sweet onions)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 6-10 (depending on size) boiled, peeled, and grated beetroot
  • 2 cups water in which the beets were boiled.
  • Chopped stems and greens from the beets, steamed 3-5 minutes
  • 2 large cucumbers peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 handfuls of fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of green onions, sliced thinly
  • 5-6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 1/2 gallon buttermilk
  • 2 cups water from cooking the beets (cooled)
  • red wine vinegar (0 -4 tablespoons) to taste.

Assembly

  1. In a large bowl, place the 1/2 medium onion and about 1 salt. With the back of a wooden spoon, grind together the onion and the salt to draw out the onion juice. (You really need to do this “muddling” process–you don’t get the same “blend” of the onion flavor if you simply add minced onions.)
  2. Add the remainder of the ingredients to onion in the bowl and stir well.  Adjust the flavor balance with additional salt if needed, and a wine vinegar to taste.  Add more liquid if needed for the consistency you prefer.
  3. Chill thoroughly.  Serve with boiled or steamed potatoes, chilled.  (You want boiling potatoes, not baking potatoes for this; red or Yukon gold work well.)

Wine suggestions, courtesy of Casey, were as follows:

  • Sauvignon Blanc is excellent.  The soup needs a wine with more fruit and not too herbal or grassy.
  • A white Corbières was too herbal–it accentuated the dill in the soup until it was just overwhelming.

I did not try the Corbières; overwhelming dill did not strike my fancy and I trust this recommendation.  I can attest that Sauvignon Blanc is excellent with the soup.  I’ve probably eaten this for breakfast, lunch, and supper, with wine, and without.  It’s well worth the effort of making and it may well improve with standing a few days.

I have to confess that is a spate of utter laziness, I have replaced the potatoes with cubed extra-firm tofu with a very satisfying result.  I have always thought that it’s the eggs and the potatoes that make this such a satisfying, but cool, meal.  And, it a marvelous color, too–definitely shocking pink.  I’ve not tried it with the orange beets, but that might be interesting, too.

Think it looks like a lot? Well, invite a friend. Friends are usually glad to help in cases of an excess food crisis!

A son goût!

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