Summer Borscht

Beets are available in abundance now, and this soup perfectly showcases their earthy richness and gentle sweetness. Serving a soup cold can be a challenge, since the low temperature can blunt flavors. My version pulls flavor cues from summer salads; all of the ingredients with exception of the beets and eggs are uncooked. This plus the earthy and floral bouquet of Ana N.36 brings everything nicely together.

Recipe by Christian Leue

Makes 4 servings


3 large beets
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 bunch radishes, coarsely grated
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 bunch dill, finely chopped (reserve some top fronds for garnish)
1 fuji apple, peeled cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 quart buttermilk, or kefir, or 50:50 yogurt:water with a bit of lemon juice
1 cup of water
1 1/2 teaspoons Ana n.36
1 cup of ice

4 tender-hard boiled eggs
sour cream
black pepper


1. Scrub the beets. Boil until soft, shock in cold water. When cooled, peel and then coarsely shred.

2. Bring the water to a boil, add the Ana N.36, steep for ten minutes, strain, add ice, and chill.

3. Mix the shredded beets with cucumber, radishes, scallion, dill, apple, and buttermilk.

4. Allow to sit for 30 minutes for the flavors to meld. Immediately before serving, add the Ana infused ice water. Salt to taste, shooting for a level that brings out the natural sweetness of the beets.

5. Serve with sour cream, a quartered or chopped egg, fresh black pepper, and dill fronds.

Great with buttered sourdough toast and a glass of Bandol rosé. Etna bianco, schiava, and reds from Jura are also great choices.

Tip: this is a fantastic accompaniment to a deli meal, pickled herring, whitefish salad, lox bagels, basically any of the fishy favorites.

Fun to Try

• Keep the classic beets, but play with the other ingredients in the soup, fun combinations to explore: golden beets, watermelon, mint, jicama, and tarragon and Isphahan spice; chioggia beets, asian pear, celeriac, cilantro, and chive and Shabazi spice.

• Omit the buttermilk, water, and ice, chop the beets into small cubes instead of shredding, add 2 tbsp of lemon juice and 2 tbsp of olive oil and toss to coat for a fresh summer salad. Great with feta and/or spiced croutons.

• From my brother Patrick: try a variant on Japanese nanban-zuke. Prepare all of the vegetables minus the dill, add 1/3 cup of rice wine vinegar, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp mirin, and 2 tsp Lula spice. Cut 1 pound of fish (salmon, grouper, and mackerel are all good), into 1 inch pieces, dust with flour, and deep fry until cooked through. Remove pieces to a glass container and add the vegetable and vinegar mix. Chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight. Great with rice.


Food image and recipe © Christian Leue

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