This hot-weather soup is a summer cousin of borscht—clear, cool and refreshing even though its name sounds heavy. Most recipes for chlodnik purée cooked beets and broth with sour cream into an opaque magenta, but I prefer this sparkling jewel-like version. After the beets are cooked, the strained liquid is chilled, and then served with thinly sliced beets, scallions and cucumber. Just before serving, it’s topped with a chiffonade of young beet greens and perhaps little shrimp to dress it up a bit. It makes a perfect starter for a hot summer night.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
4 medium beets, scrubbed, leaves removed an inch above the roots, tender leaves reserved
2 cloves garlic
3 sprigs parsley
Lemon juice to taste, about ½ cup, strained
Salt to taste (it needs a fair amount)
1 young cucumber with thin skin (if the seeds are large, scoop them out), thinly sliced
2 scallions, trimmed and cut diagonally across in thin slices
A few small shrimp, cooked and shelled, if desired
Sour cream or plain yogurt for garnish
Put the beets, garlic and parsley in a medium pot. Add plenty of fresh water to cover by at least 2 inches. Cover, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook for about half an hour, depending on size, until the beets are knife-tender. Remove the beets with a slotted spoon, set aside and let them cool. When the broth has cooled, strain it through a fine sieve to remove the garlic, parsley and bits of debris. Cover and chill overnight.
Measure 6 cups of the cold beet broth for this recipe. Gradually stir in the strained lemon juice, tasting to give it zip but not too much acidity, to please your palate. Season with salt—it will need a fair amount.
Shortly before serving, lay 2 or 3 smaller reserved beet leaves atop each other. Roll them up like a cigar and then cut across into very thin slices to make a chiffonade. Set aside.
Peel 1 or 2 of the reserved beets and slice them very thinly (if they are large, cut them across in half). Divide them among white soup bowls. Add the cucumber and scallion slices similarly; the shrimp also, if using.
Ladle the broth into the bowls with a steady hand, wiping up any drips. Right before serving, scatter some of the leaf chiffonade on the surface. Add a small dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt and serve.