Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cold Summer Borscht: Chlodnik

Pot of Beet Soup topped with Yummy Extra Ingredients
When Stirred, It Gets Pinker

Recipe by The Art of Polish Cooking

Third in a trio of seasonal beet soups, this borscht features the summertime bounty of old world Poland, the country of my ancestors. Simple borscht, a wintery dish served hot, is made from shredded beets and seasoned beef broth. Spring borscht is served at room temperature. It contains young sliced beets with their greens, along with young dill and green onions, lemon, sour cream, and eggs. Summer borscht is served chilled. In addition to the ingredients in spring borscht it contains meat, shrimp, and cucumbers of the plentiful summer season.

Individual Bowl of Summer Borscht
Pink Eggs and Ham (Pork, Actually)
All three of these recipes are from Alina Zeranska’s fantastic cookbook, The Art of Polish Cooking, published in 1968. Alina is a native of Poland, having spent her childhood there. Her book contains recipes from her family and friends as well as discourses on Polish customs and favorite menus. A large number of classic recipes like pierogi, cabbage and apples, goulash, Easter baba, lemon vodka, and poppyseed torte are included, along with a few 1960s curiosities like frankfurter omelet. And where else can one find 9 recipes for borscht? This book is an indispensable tool in exploring my Polish roots, one of my cooking goals for the past two years.

Plate of Shrimp, Pork, Cucumber, Egg, Dill, and Green Onion
Prepared Ingredients to Add to Cooled Soup
This recipe originally contained veal, which I have not eaten for years because factory farms abuse veal calves. I naively substituted pork, unaware that even free range farmed pigs typically suffer. A better choice next time would be grass fed beef. Also, humanely raised free range veal is starting to become available. Let’s hope this becomes a farming trend. 

Bowl of Soup, Platter of Additional Ingredients, Sour Cream, and Lemon Juice
Before Mixing Parts Together
I also made a substitution for a “1960s style” ingredient: juice from canned beets. Since my husband says canned beets taste like dirt we never eat them. I simply substituted a additional cup of beef broth. And I used bouillon cubes to make the broth, also a nod to the ‘60s. There are plenty of other ingredients to add to the soup’s flavor, so no need to fuss over the broth. In a pinch you substitute could use chicken or veggie broth, though beef is traditional. I also used Lilly all-natural fat free sour cream.

The original recipe states that this serves 8 – 10, which it could if used as a first course or accompaniment to a meal. If used as a main dish, as we did, expect closer to 6 servings. Na zdrowie! (To your health!)

Basket of Beets with Greens, Cucumber, Green Onion, Dill, Eggs, Cooked Shrimp, and Roasted Pork
"Bounty of Summer" Borscht Fixin's
Cold Summer Borscht
serves about 8

1 bunch young beets with greens
1 cup water
1 tsp. white vinegar
5 cups beef broth
2 tbsp. flour
¼ cup cold water
2 hard boiled eggs
1 small cucumber
~½ lb. roast pork, beef, or veal
~½ lb. cooked shrimp
Pinch of garlic powder
Salt to taste
½ tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup sour cream
1 tbsp. finely chopped dill leaves
1 tbsp. finely chopped green onion
extra dill and green onion for garnish

Scrub beets and peel if any dirt remains. Slice ~1/4 inch thick and cut in half if necessary to make bite sized pieces. Boil beets with water (1 cup) and vinegar in a soup pot for 20 minutes. Meanwhile wash and chop beet greens.

Add beet greens and beef broth to soup pot. Bring to boil and simmer about 7 minutes. Meanwhile add ¼ cup water to flour a little at a time, stirring constantly and removing all lumps.

Stir flour mixture into soup. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool completely to room temperature.

Slice hard boiled eggs. Slice cucumber thinly. Slice roast pork into thin bite sized pieces. Dice shrimp and remove all shells. Prepare finely chopped dill and green onion. Mix together lemon juice, sugar, and garlic powder. Measure sour cream. Refrigerate all until soup is cooled to room temperature.

 Add sour cream and lemon juice mixture to soup and stir until smooth. Add salt to taste. Stir in cucumber, pork, shrimp, eggs, dill and green onions.

It’s traditional to chill the borscht in the refrigerator for two hours and serve on a hot summer day. It’s also delicious served right away at room temperature. Garnish with more dill and green onions if desired.

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