Beets are killer. They can easily be the star or play a supporting role in a dish, depending on how they are prepared. They’ve got friendly, fruity sweetness and earthy complexity, and, if treated the right way, they can even lend awesome acidity to a dish.
Chłodnik, chilled summer borscht, is the best thing you can do with beets in the summer. The chłodnik we make at Apteka is somewhat complicated and involves us making our own cultured yogurt from cashews and almonds, a fermented beet kvass that is the acidic building block of the soup, borscht, sour pickled beet tops and kohlrabi, along with fresh radish, cucumbers, and herbs that help finish the dish. But a simpler version built off one trip to the farmers’ market is also lovely. The recipe we’re sharing on tablemagazine.com is a version that can be done in an afternoon instead of the six days it takes for all parts of the Apteka version. —Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski, Apteka
8 to 10 medium beets + nice tops
1 + 1 tbsp fresh chopped garlic
1 to 2 lemons
Nice vegetable stock
1 cup beet kvass (at East End Food Co-op if you can’t find some elsewhere)
1 bunch radish
1 to 2 smaller cucumbers
1 qt of plain dairy-free yogurt or a mix of two you like (Kite Hill or Forager are fine)
1/2 cup chopped chive
1/2 cup chopped dill
- Find fresh young beets with nice green tops. Separate bulbs, wash and dry them whole and unpeeled, and dress with a little oil, salt, and pepper. Wrap them tightly in foil and roast them at 350 degrees until they’re tender, 2 to 3 hours. Peel and grate.
- While the beet bulbs are roasting, prepare the tops by washing and cutting them into 1-inch pieces – stems and leaves.
- Sauté the stems and leaves on high heat using just a little oil, seasoning as soon as the tops are in the pan. After the leaves start wilting after being tossed in the hot pan for a minute or so, add a little garlic and lemon juice, toss, and cover the pan for 1 minute. Uncover, cook for one more minute, and flood the pan with 2 cups of stock. Bring to a light simmer, (and if available) add 1 cup of beet kvass, and immediately take off the heat and let cool. Our aim is to cook the beets but preserve their bright color with a soup that will eventually be somewhere between a deep pink to magenta in color.
- Grate your trimmed radishes. Peel your cucumber, remove the seeds if it’s a large or mature cucumber and grate.
- In a bowl, add 1 quart of plain yogurt, 2 cups of your cooled grated beets (and any beet juice or roasting jus left in the foil), 2 cups of your chilled beet top stock, the radish, and cucumber, a small bunch of chopped chive and dill, 2 freshly minced garlic cloves, salt, pepper, sugar if it’s not yet slightly sweet, and lemon juice.
- Balance the soup so that it remains fairly thick, sweet, sour, and refreshing. Let it marry together in the fridge for at least an hour.
- Finish in small soup bowls with more chopped chives and dill on top. Serve chilled. Great for up to 3 to 5 days.
STORY BY MAGGIE WEAVER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVE BRYCE/ FOOD STYLING BY VEDA SANKARAN / PROP STYLING BY KEITH RECKER / RECIPE BY APTEKA / WALLPAPER: GUERMANTES BY MANUEL CANOVAS, COURTESY OF COWTAN & TOUT
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