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Chilled Beet Soup with Buttermilk & Dill

Our friend Grazina brought us a container of this shockingly pink soup two weeks ago, on a particularly hot day. It looked like nothing I had ever eaten before, and at first my husband and I could not quite figure out what was in it, other than beets and dairy and dill.

This soup, known in Grazina’s Lithuanian family as “Pink Soup”, is a chilled borscht of sorts. I grew up eating borscht (my Romanian Jewish grandmother made it often) and never really liked it. This soup tasted nothing like the borscht I knew. It is brightly flavored, herbal, and so refreshing. While the ingredient list looks daunting, the actual process is quick and easy: roast some beets; boil some eggs and beet greens (though Grazina uses spinach, and you can too); crush scallions with dill and salt; toss all of the above with buttermilk, sour cream, lemon juice, cucumbers; and enjoy the next day, after the flavors have had a chance to mingle and develop fully.

Serves 4

For the beets:

  • ½ pound beets( 2 medium or 3 small), scrubbed
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 packed cups finely chopped fresh beet greens or spinach
  • 2 large or 3 medium scallions, white and green parts, very thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh dill leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons sea salt, plus extra to taste
  • 1 large or 2 small Kirby cucumbers, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice, plus extra to taste
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • ¾ cup light sour cream

beetsroasted

Make the beets: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the beets on a roasting pan and toss with the salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven until tender when pierced with a knife, about 2 hours. Larger beets may take longer. Cool to room temperature, then peel and cut into ¼-inch dice.

Make the soup: Place the eggs in a small pot. Add cool water to cover. Bring to a boil and shut off the heat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Let rest 13 minutes to cook through, then drain and cool. Shell and cut into ¼-inch dice.

Place 2 cups of water in the same (empty) pot. Return to a boil. Add the beet greens and boil 3 minutes, or until tender and silky. Drain and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking. Squeeze gently dry.

In a mortar, place the scallions, dill, and salt. Crush with a pestle until the scallions and dill release their juice; they will still be chunky, not pasty.

Place the scallion mixture in a large container. Add the cucumbers, lemon juice, buttermilk, sour cream, cooked beet greens, roasted beets, and hard-boiled eggs. Mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Cover the container and chill overnight.

Adjust the seasoning if needed and serve very cold. The flavor should be slightly tart and sweet, and quite savory; if the soup tastes flat, add a drop more lemon juice and some salt until the flavors brighten.

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